Hucknall councillors slam 'spiralling £22m cost' of council's new Top Wighay offices

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Hucknall’s three Nottinghamshire Council members have been scathing in their criticism of proposals to move the authority to new offices at Top Wighay Farm.

Opposition Independent Alliance councillors say council papers have revealed the bill for the project has rocketed to £22.8 million.

The Ashfield Independents have long claimed the costs of the new offices were ‘spiralling out of control’ – but have been branded political opportunists who are “trying to mislead people over the figures”.

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Since the plans to move the Conservative-controlled council were first mooted in March 2020, Hucknall councillors have repeatedly warned of rising costs and the impact on Hucknall’s infrastructure.

Ashfield Independent councillors have critcised the escalating costs of the council's new offices at Top Wighay Farm. Photo: SubmittedAshfield Independent councillors have critcised the escalating costs of the council's new offices at Top Wighay Farm. Photo: Submitted
Ashfield Independent councillors have critcised the escalating costs of the council's new offices at Top Wighay Farm. Photo: Submitted

As far back as June 2021, they called plans to move from County Hall “the worst kept secret in Nottinghamshire”.

As well as the council offices, the Top Wighay plans include a £4.3m access road and paves the way for a minimum of 1,400 houses and a new school to be built.

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Coun Dave Shaw, Ashfield Independents member for Hucknall West, has been an outspoken critic of the plan and its impact on Hucknall.

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He said: “Independent councillors were accused of scaremongering when we said the cost of this new office would spiral out of control.

"Now, we have it in black and white, we were right all along.

"This will have a huge impact on the infrastructure of Hucknall.

"We are not against progress and positive change but the reality is that the council was never entirely honest about moving from its home of 79 years and this package doesn’t come with any promises about improving Hucknall which will get 1,400 more houses dumped on its doorstep.”

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At a full council meeting today (Thursday), councillors will debate and vote on the proposals, with Independendent Alliance councillors expected to vote against the scheme.

Coun Lee Waters, Ashfield Independents member for Hucknall South, said: "The people of Hucknall have been let down yet again by the Tories.

"Staff will be driving to their new office on broken roads and walking there on broken pavements.

Coun John Wilmott, Ashfield Independents member for Hucknall North, said: “At a time when Nottinghamshire Council should be concentrating on the cost-of-living crisis and their failure to fix our roads and pavements, they are busy preparing for a new office.

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"Residents want their county council to do the basics right and they can’t even do that.”

Coun Ben Bradley, Mansfield MP and council leader, said: “Due to inflation, rising costs in the construction industry and additional design costs to potentially incorporate the civic and democratic function, the office building near Hucknall is now estimated to cost £18.3m.

“This is not £23m and not ‘nearly £30m’ as Independent councillors have said – it's £18.3m.

“They are trying to mislead people over the figures.

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“This £18.3m investment in Hucknall is both good news for Hucknall residents who will get better access to public services, and also good value for money because we will save significant sums on running costs in the new building compared with County Hall.

“By agreeing to vacate County Hall we will save more than £50m in maintenance and refurbishment costs, which obviously puts the £18m cost in perspective.

“The Ashfield Independents are opposing an £18m investment in Hucknall's public services, and instead voting to spend £50m on maintaining old buildings in West Bridgford.

“Having once walked from Ashfield to County Hall to demonstrate how remote it was from Ashfield residents, they're now opposing moving our democratic functions right on to their doorstep.

“This is the worst kind of political opportunism, and makes no financial sense whatsoever.”