Conwy leader wants £58 million new council office block filled with workers again
Richard Evans, local democracy reporter
A council boss wants to see a near-empty £58 million office block, which only opened in 2018, filled with workers again.
Conwy County Council leader Charlie McCoubrey outlined his ambition to bring life back into Colwyn Bay’s empty Coed Pella office.
He also believes the council’s Bodlondeb headquarters, is still viable, despite more staff working from home. The council moved staff into its flagship, purpose-built £58m Coed Pella building four years ago.
It pays just under £1.5m in rent a year for the building and is locked into a 40-year lease. The hope was that the increased footfall created by the council office would boost trade and help regenerate Colwyn Bay’s town centre.
But the pandemic meant council staff have worked from home, and Conwy has since moved to ‘hybrid working’ in which staff alternate between home working and the office.
“My ambition is to see Coed Pella back to capacity as soon as we can,” said Cllr McCoubrey.
“We have a hybrid working system, but I’m really clear that the hybrid working system is about bringing the best results for our residents. So people need to be in the office doing their job. That’s where they should be.
“Reception (at Coed Pella) needs to be fully open. People need to contact our staff, exactly how they used to before. But the hybrid system does have some advantages. It depends on the job. Every job is very different.
“Sometimes you are better to write a report for four or five hours at home where you are not being bothered, but Cord Pella is a key building for us in terms of the regeneration of Colwyn Bay. So we need that to be as busy as possible as far as I’m concerned.”
But the leader said he thought the future of the council’s Bodlondeb headquarters was safe, despite a reduction in the number of staff based at the building.
“We have a duty to look at our estate and how we run efficiently. I’m keen not to make any knee-jerk decisions because we might find a year down the line that the hybrid working is people being in the office the majority of the time,” said Cllr McCoubrey.
“So what we don’t want to do is go down a path where we decide to close something down and then realise it was a wrong move because we are all adapting to this post-pandemic world.
“Ultimately it is an ongoing process of looking at what works best. Then at some stage, we are looking to find what works properly and make some decisions, but there is certainly nothing going to be decided in the next 12 months until we see what works best for our staff.
“But (closing Bodlondeb) it’s not being discussed. We’ve got the environment, roads and facilities department in Mochdre. We have here (Bodlondeb), and we have Coed Pella. The original plan is to keep the three. I don’t think that will change. My gut feeling is people will spend a lot more time in the office than they do at home, and therefore, we will need these offices.
He added: “It (Bodlondeb closing) would be very controversial if it ever happens. I’d be surprised.
“There are no plans on the table. You could close Bodlondeb, but I just don’t see it happening.
“I think we need the actual space. There is nothing imminent, and I personally don’t think it will ever happen.
“It’s not been discussed formerly. It’s not something we are planning to do. I think in a year’s time, once we are settled in, then we will have the opportunity to ask, ‘do we need all these buildings?’ And my gut feeling is we will.”
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