Published: 06:00, 21 July 2019
| Updated: 09:53, 21 July 2019
A rooftop Champagne bar could be one of the options for an empty office block — but one councillor has warned the plan could be "extraordinarily expensive” for taxpayers.
Mountbatten House, Chatham, which has had all of its services disconnected bar emergency lighting, sits above the Pentagon Centre and the sub-lease is owned by Mapeley Gamma Acquisition Co 2 (Ltd) for another 81 years.
Medway Council now wants to acquire the building for a residential scheme, having already bought the shopping centre for nearly £35 million in April.
And although the authority is currently discussing a joint-venture scheme with Mapeley Gamma, cabinet agreed on Tuesday last week July 9) to launch compulsory purchase order (CPO) proceedings if those discussions prove unfruitful.
Despite voting in support of the item, portfolio holder for economic growth, Cllr Jane Chitty (Con), told colleagues more investigatory work needed to be carried out before the council committed to any proposal.
She said: “Work on Mountbatten House, for whatever purpose, would be extraordinarily expensive. The cost of bringing that building back into operational use had a very real financial pressure on it.
“In principle, I’m totally in favour of moving Mountbatten House on, but I do think the financial implications are very severe and need challenging.
“A lot of work has to be done.
“I do have concerns about some of the assumptions that have been made – it needs to be looked at in a much more comprehensive way.”
CPO proceedings would cost in the region of £250,000, while full council will be asked to approve the transfer of up to £3 million from the Pentagon Centre budget to help fund any purchase.
If approved, it is proposed Mountbatten House will be added to the list of apartment schemes brought forward by the council’s Medway Development Company.
Deputy leader Cllr Howard Doe (Con) responded to Cllr Chitty’s comments by stating any development scheme would have to go through council procurement and examination processes.
He added: “If you leave Mountbatten House as it is now, it seems to me that it’s a blight on your city centre.
“But because of its sheer size, it could actually be a really iconic part – but it has to stack up financially.”
Cllr Adrian Gulvin (Con) said converting the block into residential units would boost Chatham High Street – before repeating suggestions a rooftop bar could open at the building’s highest point.
He added: “We may even have the chance of getting the champagne bar on the top of it.
“We could explore the possibility of having glass-floor lifts on the outside of the building too.
“This would enhance the look of the building, and also give a fantastic view to those travelling up and down.”
More by this authorDean Kilpatrick, local democracy reporter