Kent County Council has a new home for some of its key services.
The authority has moved four services into a Victorian mansion, which was most recently used as a hotel.
Oakwood House at Oakwood Park in Maidstone has undergone a major renovation over the past three years and has been adapted to provide head office accommodation for the county’s registration service, coroner’s courts, adult education and adoption services.
The former chairman of the Kent Messenger Group and Deputy Lieutenant of Kent, Geraldine Allinson, cut a ribbon to mark the completion of the project at the main entrance to the building, which is just off Tonbridge Road.
Mrs Allinson was welcomed by KCC vice chairman Bryan Sweetland.
Deputy leader Peter Oakford, whose role includes responsibility for the council’s finances and property, said the project had solved the problem of making the best use of the building, while also enabling the council to centralise the four services.
Previously they had been split between the Archbishop’s Palace, County Hall and the former Adult Education Centre in St Faith’s Street.
He said: “Oakwood House dates back to 1869 and is a grand Victorian mansion full of character and history that looks stunning inside and out. KCC has owned Oakwood House for many years.
“It has previously been a training facility, a hotel and conference centre and a reception centre for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.
“Before covid, the council was looking at alternative uses for Oakwood as it had not met its income targets as a hotel and training centre for many years.
“With adult education housed in a building that was not fit for purpose, registrations services being based in leased premises at the Archbishop’s Palace and a requirement for suitable accommodation for the coroner’s service, their consolidation, together with the adoption service, into one location provided better value at a reduced cost.”
The change of use from a hotel was granted in July 2020, but due to the pandemic construction did not actually begin until July 2021.
Work was fully completed in July.
Mrs Allinson said she looked forward to conducting citizenship ceremonies in “these magnificent premises.”
The building will house marriage ceremonies and it has three newly decorated ceremony rooms – the Kentish Suite, which caters for up to 80 people, the Garden Room, a medium-sized ceremony room with a terrace for up to 40 people, and the Study, an intimate panelled ceremony room for up to 15 people.
The venue is wheelchair accessible with free parking for wedding parties.
KCC said bookings for adult education classes had already increased by 20% since the move from the town centre.
The coroner's service has been provided with four courts, all equipped with the latest audio-visual equipment, and inquests will begin there later this month.