Kingswood’s Labour councillors are today welcoming confirmation of a partial reprieve for the town’s Civic Centre – and say that political and public pressure have helped to save the building.
Back in February South Gloucestershire Council’s ruling Conservatives voted to consolidate and rationalise accommodation at Badminton Road, a building on the outskirts of Yate. This decision was made in spite of a 1,675 name petition opposing the move out of Kingswood.
Labour councillors opposed the proposal ever since it was first announced just weeks after the Tories won overall control of the Council last year. They were supported by local people, who saw the closure as a further downgrading of Kingswood’s status.
In June, council officials recommended a partial U-turn, with the Council leasing out part of the building to tenants, but retaining the council chamber and committee rooms and existing training facilities at Kingswood. The library could then move across to the Civic Centre at a later date to provide a community hub. This revised plan was dependent on finding a suitable tenant.
At the council’s Resources Committee this morning, Labour Group Leader Councillor Pat Rooney asked for a progress report on this plan, and was told that verbal agreement had been reached with a tenant, and that the Council will now share the building rather than vacate it.
Speaking after the meeting, Councillor Pat Rooney said:
“I welcome this partial reprieve for Kingswood Civic Centre. Labour councillors have consistently opposed its closure and have outlined clear reasons why we think it would be a terrible decision. Closure would have affected trade in the town centre and the ability of local residents to attend decision-making meetings. Withdrawing from this flagship presence would also signify a downgrading of the town’s status.
Local residents were clearly shocked that the council was considering disposing of the building when it spent £6 million refurbishing it as recently as 2013. Clearly the political and public pressure has paid off, because the Conservatives have abandoned their original proposal.
The plan will still result in hundreds of council jobs being shipped out of Kingswood, and I am disappointed that this will force local workers to commute further, increasing congestion and traffic pollution.”