Estate Strategy

North Somerset Council

“The PLACEmaking team have been exceptional in terms of knowledge of their subject matter, their creativity and level of support given to this council from defining the ‘vision’, through developing the business case, testing and trialing, phased implementation and occupation and transitioning over to normal operational services.” Lyndon Watkins

Head of Property & Asset Management, North Somerset Council

Introduction

northsomersetlogoThe Council’s office estate had expanded over time with key service areas dispersed in poorly performing buildings.

Ambitious targets for reduction in accommodation and carbon footprint impact, supported by the organisational commitment to business improvement and a desire to collocate with strategic partners, formed the basis of an outline business case for changes to the estate.

An ‘Invest to Save’ business plan focused on significant estate reduction – from 22 buildings down to 2 key hubs, increasing utilisation in the 2 hubs (up from 1450 to over 2050 people), therefore reducing the associated asset-based running costs and generating sustainable income from potential subletting. The Council was keen to attract its strategic partners (including the PCT and Avon & Somerset Police) with the opportunity to exploit lease breaks, reduce their own property costs and achieve more flexible terms from the Council ‘landlord’ at a time of economic change. North Somerset Council is delivering the ambitions of the Government and the GPU by maximising its property assets and reducing costs across the public sector in North Somerset.

Before…

Poor quality working environment

Ineffective workspaces

Inefficient buildings

Outdated services

Outcomes

annual savings in rent and maintenance

annual partner-generated income

%

reduction in office accommodation

Our changes led to :

  • £700k annual savings in rent and maintenance
  • £600k annual partner-generated income
  • huge overall savings to the public purse for the district of North Somerset
  • a 50% reduction in office accommodation
  • a more flexible estate that was responsive to challenges
  • a shift of approach meaning the council and partners were ‘users’ and not ‘owners’ of assets
  • property being seen as an asset rather than an overhead

PLACEmaking services

PLACEmaking provided interim management support to the Head of Property over an initial 10 month period.

We focused on a detailed business plan and initiated the programme, joining the Programme Board to navigate and gain buy-in from the Council’s leadership team and executive adopting a strategic governance process to establish and gain buy-in for the ‘vision’ of the rationalised estate.

PLACEmaking developed the workplace change strategies including PEOPLE, PLACE, technology PLATFORM and Operational Service PROVIDER side change solutions. The spatial workplace design solutions included the interior design, space planning and furniture specifications for contractor side design team detailing and construction. PLACEmaking remained ‘client side’ throughout the construction period, working closely with the design and build contractor team to ensure the council’s vision and efficiency improvement targets were delivered.

An experimental office space was built in the Town Hall, to test key spatial elements and support the significant communications activities required throughout the project implementation stages. PLACEmaking worked closely with internal staff and other external architectural, engineering and construction experts during the detailed design and implementation stages.

Experimental office space in the Town Hall

Original estate portfolio

Our solution

The estate had grown inconsistently through rapid acquisition, and accommodation was widely dispersed and of varying quality. It was costly to run and manage whilst maintenance and compliance was complex. Duplication of facilities and resources let to inefficient operation.

We proposed amalgamating the estate into two ‘hub’ locations to facilitate significant improvements and benefits. These were the Town Hall in Weston Super Mare and Castlewood in Clevedon.

INEFFICIENT ESTATE

Carbon and space footprints

INEFFECTIVE ESTATE

Service delivery and partner co-location

POOR CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE

A negative perception of the council

IMPROVED SERVICE DELIVERY

– Speed of transactions by collocating teams
– Reduced resource duplication through partnership working

SIGNIFICANT FINANCIAL SAVINGS

– Capital receipts from released freeholds
– Reduction in revenue running costs for reduced freeholds and exited leaseholds

OPERATIONAL BENEFITS

– Reduction in running costs of a more efficient estate
– Increased efficiency from streamlined operational services

Phase 1: Castlewood, Clevedon

Castlewood in Clevedon, formerly the Clerical & Medicals HQ (designed by Alec French Architects and built in the late 1980’s) has been refitted by North Somerset Council into a modern high performing working environment – adaptable enough to integrate Council staff and significant numbers of the Council’s strategic partners, all working in a shared public sector ‘Serviced Office’ platform including space, ICT and facilities. As well as workplaces for a minimum of 1150 people, the building includes a café, public access conference rooms, a business lounge/emergency planning room, a range of meeting rooms, project areas, quiet working zones and new facilities supporting staff cycling and fitness activities. Each of the three zones on the floors have hubs supporting breakout, vending and resource facilities. Analysis of existing workstyles and space utilisation illustrated that desks allocated on a 1:1 ratio were occupied less than 40% of time and further introduction of mobile technology will continue to increase the proportion of Council staff from desk based administrative roles to more mobile, frontline service focused staff. By decoupling individuals from ownership of desks and ICT the Council will monitor and adjust the building user base enabling it to drive the accommodation harder and generate a sustainable income.

Phase 2: Town Hall, Weston Super Mare

Democratic services continue to be based in the Town Hall in Weston-Super-Mare, with an enhanced public access Gateway including the Town’s main library. The Old Town Hall accommodates training, conference and meeting facilities with increased accessible public access for ceremonial and leisure use.

The poor environmentally-performing extension building has been upgraded, significantly reducing energy costs and creating more adaptable workspace which in turn accommodates 50% more people, all working flexibility with no one owning space and all desk sharing. A broad range of strategic partners co-locate with the Council, servicing the primary Gateway for all key public services.

  • North Somerset Council
    Castlewood
  • North Somerset Council
    Town Hall

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