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Deeper and Deeper into the Slough of Despond

January 23, 2012

Introduction

At the time of writing this there has been some movement in the position of some of the local political parties. According to a letter and an article in the Halifax Courier, the local Labour Party have stated that they are in favour of a full consultation on the Central Library. This came from a meeting on the same night as the Cabinet Meeting I mentioned in my earlier blog “I’ll Huff and I’ll Puff and I’ll blow Northgate House down”. It appears to me that if this was always the case and the Cabinet intended to ask the public the important question to either refurb or demolish The Central Library then it would have saved a lot of hassle at the cabinet meeting if they had said that instead of attempting to waffle an answer that did not adequatley answer the question posed.

However we are now in a position where seemingly the Labour part of the cabinet support asking the right questions – it’s now apparently up to the Lib Dem’s to show they do actually believe in democracy.

I originally opposed the demolition of the Central Library because of a petition of 15,000 + signatures presented to the previous administration of CMBC.  As I said in my ealrier blog, it was reply to questions posed regarding the costing of the refurbishment that prompted me to read the documents provided. In this blog I aim to continue commenting on the supporting documents for the initial consultation regarding the Central Library. The first two documents focus on Northgate House though – not the Library.

Much of this second documents echos the first but in much more detail. Again the issue of the boilers is mentioned which have now been replaced. No mention is being made of this in CMBC’s claim that the refurbishment of Northgate House will cost £15m.

Northgate House:
In the Feasibility Study and Options Appraisal 2005 by White Young Green, a survey of the condition of Northgate House was undertaken. The findings included particular concerns about:

·       the roof (which “would normally only be expected to last 15 years”) and its deficient thermal qualities,
·       the basic nature of the mechanical and electrical installations (“at the end of their serviceable life”),
·       boilers, (See my blog “I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow Northgate House Down for why this isn’t currently a valid concern)

·       lighting (“in very poor condition”),
·       emergency lighting system (“in danger of becoming obsolete”),
·       IT system (“requires replacement”)
·       and windows (“considered necessary to replace”). Again it has not been mentioned by CMBC that some of the windows have already been replaced.
·       The report also commented that the lifts and associated control equipment will need to be completely renewed.

A Maintenance Review Survey and Report 2010 by Summers Inman included a review of the condition of both Northgate House and the Central Library and Archive. This concluded:

·       “Occupation of both Northgate House and the Central Library and Archive for a further three years would require maintenance budgets of £507,000.” So £507k for 3 years or £169k a year seems a bargain when compared with £300k a year to lease space in BroadStreet!

·       “Occupation for a further five years would require a maintenance budget of £915,000.”  Or £183k a year – still a saving and at the end of this 5 years we still have the asset.

In 2011 the Council produced a document called “Northgate House – estimate of budget for full refurbishment” which updated the cost estimate for refurbishing Northgate House from £14.5m to £15.5m.

White Young Green Feasibility Study and Option Appraisal

In this document we read that 1.2     Refers to 25 Year life of Northgate House, 1.3 states it is “structurally sound”.

In 1.4    We read the roof has a 15 year lifespan, then we have done really well with it to last 29 years.
1.8     Refers tio the replacement of the boilers. Boilers already replaced within last 5 years and so is not a concern – except that the costs need to be removed from the bottom line

1.9     This is interesting as Service interdependencis are known of between the library and Northgate House but what is the nature of these between Northgate House and Princess Buildings? It is of interest as, as far as we know there is no plan (disclosed) to demolish Princess Buildings and so there must be some plans to cover this discrepancy, could this also include Central Library were it to remain? Northgate House is, later in the document mentioned as bing for disposal – is this the same building? If so then why haven’t officers or members flagged this up? Have they read this document?

1.12.1  Bears repeating “Option 1, to refurbish NH is most financially advanteageous option at a cost of £9,377,713…” This goes on to talk about £2.414m to provide a temporary decanting building for staff – not needed as CMBC have extra capacity at other sites that they aim to use if Northgate House is demolished.

1.14    Refurbishment of NH will re-vitalise and maintain an important part of Halifax town centre. One thing that is not mentioned is that if Northgate House is demolished then the impact on retailers in Halifax will be a factor. Each day staff use the town’s cafe’s and sandwich shops. They use the newsagents and chemists. The use the Post office and so on – all this trade will be lost.
1.15    Key advantages
1.15.1  Improved image for CMBC -goodness knows they need one!
1.15.2  Most sustainable option
1.15.3  Lowest cost option
1.15.4  Minimises staff re-location costs and disturbance
1.15.5  Dependent buildings un-affected
1.16    Disposal of Northgate House could result in the site being empty for a considerable period of time.
3.6.5   Mention of windows not lasting another 25 years – but they might last 10 then? Windows are one of the major expenses being used to justify demolition.

4.18.1Note that IT and telecommunications systems serve not just Northgate House but also “other” CMBC buildings(not identified).

4.18.3 Besides Power Supplies to the Library emenating from Northgate House there are also Power Supplies for Princess Buildings.

4.19.3 “In terms of disposal of Northgate House we would comment that the external works required inclusive of services modifications withing interdependant buildings would make the option to dispose of Northgate House more expensive that the simple option”.

6.3 If the disposal of Northgate House is be considered viable the following interdependencies will need to be addressed;

  • Power Supplies derived form the YE substation within the Northgate Building Serving the Library and Princess Buildings.
  • Standby power Supply from Princess Building via Northgate House and the Library
  • Formation of a new telephone exchange which is presently located within Northgate House
  • Formation of a new WAN hub within the council property portfolio (eg Mulcture House) on the assumption that the Princess Building will not be retained in the Conucil’s tenure along with Associated WAN equipment

7.3.7 Interesting comment that solar panels will not be cost effective. Perhaps now with newer technologies this might not be such an issue?

7.3.9 “Comfort cooling only provided to process rooms – Telecommunications/IT rooms. From comments I have read elsewhere including facebook the staff seem to think that the costing includes Air condiditioning for the whole building!

8.0 Onwards is to do with re-building NH and is not a realistic proposition. This being the case i have not commented on any of the other options mentioned in the report.

9.0 onwards covers re-building as 5 separate buildigs – not viable as above

10.0Budget Costs

These are interesting

As per earlier we no longer require temporary buildings, this knocks (2005 figures)  £1.443,440 off the bottom line plus another £716,720 as groundworks are also not required. As described, planning fees and building regs are “in-house” functions and therefore not really money leaving the organisation so a further £22,000 off the bottom line. Further, professional fees,  planning fee and building regulations for temporary building not required so another £264,838 to come off the bottom line.

A total of £2,446,998!

Obviously there will be costs to remove staff to other buildings whilst refurbishment is done – these are not included in the costs contained in the document.

Conclusion

Reading through this document has further proved to me that we cannot afford to demolish Northgate House. It is ironic that these documents are provided in an attempt to justify demolition of the library when the first 2 documents do no such thing. Perhaps the third one will?

Also to be borne in mind is what CMBC intend to do should Northgate House be demolished. they intend to lease space in the new Broad Street Development at £300,000 pa for a minimum 20 years. This equates to £6m and this again should be taken into account when assessing the validity of demolishing Northgate House.

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