Mansfield District Councillors are set to consider a report regarding moving the council’s operational headquarters to the planned Mansfield Connect hub.
Details of the scheme are due to be presented to the council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 7 November to give members a chance to reflect on and comment on the project ahead of an expected delegated decision by the Executive Mayor, Andy Abrahams, later in November.
A report by the council's Strategic Director, Mike Robinson, to the committee says the plan to redevelop the former Beales department store into a multi-agency civic hub forms a key part of the council’s adopted town centre Masterplan.
The council was last year awarded £20m from the government’s Levelling Up Fund (LUF) in ring-fenced funding to enable the redundant landmark 1930s building to be extended and modernised.
It would house a variety of public, enterprise, and health and wellbeing services, alongside spaces for private sector investment.
By bringing together a variety of public services under one roof in the heart of the town centre, the development is expected to have a number of benefits.
As well as improving the co-ordination and delivery of public services, it is expected to generate extra footfall in the town centre from the people who will work in the hub and from people who visit it. This should act as a catalyst for wider development, stimulating both the local day and night time economy.
Deputy Mayor Craig Whitby, who is also the council’s Portfolio Holder for Corporate and Finance, said: "Everyone knows our town centre needs a kick-start and new vision.
“In an age of internet shopping, the high street now needs to be a place where people live and work, as well as shop.
“Revitalising a building that had no longer had a commercial purpose or future, and represents the decay of the past for as long as it remains empty, demonstrates considerable civic leadership after decades of decline.
“Mansfield Connect represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to initiate a renaissance of our town centre as well as helping us improve the delivery of our services by being able to work more closely with our partners in a purpose-built one-stop shop.
“This is a key component of a comprehensive approach towards the regeneration for the town centre, steered through the Masterplan.
“These are exciting times for Mansfield town centre. Private plans have already come forward for redevelopment of the Rosemary Centre site; the former bus station site is already partly redeveloped and the White Hart Street area has been acquired for residential redevelopment.
“We are thrilled to see this flagship scheme taking shape from a wish-list to a reality. We believe we have proven there is a business case for this scheme and that it is affordable, but there is still a way to go.”
Mike Robinson, added: “The council has been working with Partnering Regeneration Ltd to develop the business case for the project. This demonstrates that from an operational position, the council will be no worse off than the current operational position at the Civic Centre. Indeed, it is expected to achieve a saving year on year.
“The scheme also sits side by side with the council’s four key corporate priorities of Growth, Wellbeing, Aspiration and Place, with educational opportunities for local people to upskill and improve their life chances.”
The current plan would see the space requirement met from refurbishment and rebuild. This would see the retention of the former Co-op building, with the remaining parts of the former Beale’s store building being demolished and a new-build being incorporated. Two existing shopping link footbridges over Stockwell Gate would be removed.
The submission for LUF funding costed the project at just under £26m. Inflationary pressure impacting on construction costs since the award of this funding means the costs are now estimated at £30m.
Negotiations are under way with the government to secure an additional £5m to enable the project to become a beacon of green, low carbon, energy efficient regeneration. Any formal decision to relocate the council from the Civic Centre would be conditional on a full funding package being in place and being able to present an affordable scheme.
The Department for Work and Pensions, Nottinghamshire County Council, NHS health partners, and volunteering co-ordinator Mansfield CVS have all expressed interest in taking offices at the new hub.
Nottinghamshire County Council is a vital partner in the project and is expected to locate its administrative centre within the hub and be a co-funding partner of it.
Vision West Notts College could potentially use the hub to locate students on its catering courses, including a dining facility and possibly a fitness suite.
NHS health partners are expected to occupy a multi-function suite providing a vaccination hub, plus women and children’s support and men’s health unit. Retail space in the building is expected to be suitable for a small scale convenience store. There could also be scope for a small scale enterprise hub, focused on creative and digital businesses and start-ups.