Revealed: How much derelict North Quay building is costing taxpayers

Taxpayers are having to foot the bill for Weymouth's North Quay building to stand empty <i>(Image: Ellie Maslin, Newsquest)</i>
Taxpayers are having to foot the bill for Weymouth's North Quay building to stand empty (Image: Ellie Maslin, Newsquest)

WEYMOUTH'S derelict North Quay office building has cost Dorset taxpayers more than £700,000 to stand empty.

New figures reveal the yearly cost of the site since the site was vacated by the former Weymouth & Portland Borough Council (WPBC) - as well as one-off legal fees.

Since 2017, ongoing charges have cost the public a total of £536,856.65.

A further £240,812.12 was paid to a developer by WPBC in an out-of-court settlement after an agreed sale of the site fell through – bringing the total to £777,669.

 

Itemised bill for Weymouth's North Quay site

During the last financial year (2021/2022) North Quay cost taxpayers a total of £104,383.

  • £3,863 was spent on utility bills

  • £347 on maintenance and security

  • £97,280 on business rates (which go into a central government funding pot)

  • £2893 was paid out as a ‘BID levy'

This financial year (2022/23) the council has already had to fork out £579 in maintenance and security costs. The building has been vandalised and is falling into further disrepair.

Dorset Echo: The former council offices have been vandalised
Dorset Echo: The former council offices have been vandalised

The former council offices have been vandalised (Image: Ellie Maslin, Newsquest)

On a more positive note, Dorset Council has been able to generate car park income from the site – last year to the tune of £135,460.12 - however this revenue is ringfenced for parking services.

Why won't the council demolish Weymouth's North Quay site?

Last week the council vowed to press ahead with a new planning application to demolish the ‘eyesore’ North Quay building.

However in 2019 the council's own planning committee rejected a similar demolition proposal. Current best practice is to repurpose buildings due to the significant carbon footprint of demolishing and rebuilding from scratch.

Concerns were also raised that the site could end up as a car park for years to come - with demolition and site clearance costs estimated at around £3million.

Not all members of the planning committee agreed, however, and the future of the building has become politicised.

In 2021 Dorset Council unveiled fresh plans to knock it down and build luxury apartments and commercial space at the site, designed to look like the old High Street.

Dorset Echo: How the site could look
Dorset Echo: How the site could look

How the site could look (Image: Dorset Council)

'Throwing money away'

Weymouth resident and founder of the WeyPortCCOS Facebook group, Danny Whyte, also submitted an FOI request for the North Quay costs.

Mr Whyte said: "The building could have been made available for use by the community - especially during lockdown - instead of (the council) throwing away taxpayers’ money on an empty building.

“Dorset Council took a gamble on its future when it finally closed North Quay’s doors and that gamble failed, as the FOI proves."

Dorset Echo: The old borough council offices is in a sorry state
Dorset Echo: The old borough council offices is in a sorry state

The old borough council offices is in a sorry state (Image: Ellie Maslin, Newsquest)

Dorset Council's response

Councillor Tony Ferrari, Dorset Council's portfolio holder for economic growth, assets and property, said: "We intend to submit an updated planning application for demolition of North Quay in the new year.

"In preparation for this we are undertaking technical appraisal work with our consultants and the application is being drawn up. It is still the council's aim to bring this key regeneration site back in to use and we must follow the same planning process as everyone else.

“As Dorset Council is both the landowner and the planning authority, we cannot comment any further on the application so as not to pre-determine the outcome. Once an application has been submitted, local people will have a chance to comment."

He added that security for North Quay is sub-contracted to a local firm which regularly monitors the building and has secured it since a recent break-in.