LETTER: ‘Be careful what you wish for’

I note from Lee Cowen’s comments (letters, last week) that he thinks demolishing the old Civic Centre was a waste of public money, and that the council should have kept it. He also says that there is now a rush to sell the site to access large capital receipts.

Frankly, this just shows a lack of grasp of the situation that existed with the old Civic Centre, and the substantial care and consideration that went before any decision.

Sadly, the old building was not fit for purpose, and had not been signed off by the Liberal administration in power when it was built. It was also built across the main sewer for Shoreham which has also caused problems, and any developer taking on the site will have to ameliorate that problem as part of any development.

What Lee Cowen doesn’t seem to understand is that to remedy the faults of the building would be a very expensive business, in fact running into millions of pounds, the equivalent of a 12 per cent rise in council tax.

Would he and his party wish to support such a measure? I doubt that very much. As for the cost of demolition, this was paid for by the Local Economic Partnership at no cost to local people.

The savings in council tax which would have to continue to be paid if the building were to be retained, provide an additional annual saving which can be used to support local services.

So, having decided that such a financial penalty was not acceptable to either the council or the people of Adur, it was agreed to build a civic presence on the end of Shoreham Community Centre, a building also owned by the council. As part of a prudent financial package we agreed to use money from the future receipts of the Civic Centre site to invest in and improve another of our properties, and to continue to provide a civic presence in the heart of Shoreham, and also to work in partnership to develop an income stream for the council from developments in part of the old Civic Centre site.

This is now well advanced, and a lease has been signed with an impending occupier who will move in once the building is completed. Development of the main site will undoubtedly have some housing included, but as the gateway to Shoreham, it is essential that it looks the part.

Lee Cowan is aware that we have already completed a survey of other available sites where more affordable housing can be built, so when and if the cap of borrowing is lifted by central government, we are able to take advantage of any opportunities that arise.

All of this is a sign of good financial management by your council, and not, as Lee Cowan says, simply a rush to gather cash receipts.

The sale of this site has been on the cards for several years to remove a financial risk which would have, in the short and longer term, cost our communities dear and been a millstone.

As a council, the needs of our community are always uppermost in our minds, and we weigh up carefully all such decisions. Clearly others do not see the financial consequences of their headline grabbing pronouncements. Be careful what you wish for!

CLLR David Simmons

Adur District Council executive member for health and wellbeing,

Greenways Crescent, Shoreham

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