Part of former Somerset council HQ to be rented out to generate income

Deane House, former home of Taunton Deane Borough Council
-Credit: (Image: Google Maps)


Part of a former Somerset council's headquarters will be rented out to commercial tenants to generate income for front-line services. Deane House, on Belvedere Road in Taunton, served as the headquarters first for Taunton Deane Borough Council and then Somerset West and Taunton Council, hosting the majority of each local authority's public meetings and housing large numbers of its officers.

Somerset Council (which replaced the district council in April 2023) has been reviewing its property portfolio, with surplus assets being either sold off to generate one-off funds or rented out to provide regular income. The council has now indicated that the first and second floors of Deane House could soon be rented out to organisations in the private and voluntary sectors, with all existing staff moving down the road to County Hall.

The proposals came before the council's corporate and resources scrutiny committee when it met at Deane House on May 29. Under the proposals, all staff currently based on the first and second floors would relocate to County Hall on The Crescent from August 1.

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The ground floor, which includes the council's customer services reception and Taunton's police station, will remain open as usual. The committee rooms on the first floor - including the council chamber - are currently still used for council committee meetings, including the monthly meetings of its planning committee west (which handles major applications within the former Somerset West and Taunton area).

Under the proposals, these meetings would remain available for council use for two-and-a-half days per week, allowing these meetings to still be held on site. Council staff will initially be relocated to A Block of County Hall, which will allow for collaborative working while a "more careful re-modelling" of B Block is undertaken.

The council has not divulged which organisations could potentially rent the available space or how much money these tenancies will generate, citing commercial sensitivity. Sara Kelly, the council's property rationalisation programme manager, said: "Both County Hall and Deane House have an oversupply of accommodation based on the numbers of staff that have been attending.

"We've been meeting with trade unions weekly to make sure that we flush out any issues concerns quickly and can act suitably. We had another positive meeting with them earlier this morning [May 29]."

The council confirmed in March that it would be looking to sell off C Block within County Hall as soon as possible, with a view to the building being converted for "key worker accommodation." These property rationalisation decisions - which also includes the disposal of Petters House in Yeovil - is expected to save the council around £450,000 a year, based on figures published at the time its annual budget was agreed in February.

Councillor Dawn Johnson (whose Comeytrowe and Trull division borders County Hall) said that space within B Block should be provided to allow relevant committee meetings to be held there instead of using Deane House. She said: "It just feels like if you're trying to build a team with one sense of place, keeping the meetings here [at Deane House] doesn't seem to fit."

Ms Kelly replied: "We would like to review meeting space moving forward. The meeting rooms at B Block aren't ground floor meeting rooms and would require access through staff areas.

"There is the possibility of remodelling the ground floor of B Block, but that will require additional investment." Councillor Tony Lock (Yeovil East) added: "I think it's a sensible move to move everyone back into one place to start with.

"Once the transformation programme is done, you're going to have a better picture and see what space you do have. You've got to do these things stage by stage."