Demolition work begins at Knapping Mount ahead of £9million council move

David Morland of architects Farrell and Clark, site engineer Glen Wrigley (Harry Fairclough construction), council leader Richard Cooper, Graham Swift (cabinet member for tourism, economic development and enterprise) and project manager Julian Crane of Harry Fairclough construction on the Knapping Mount site.(1512082AM)
David Morland of architects Farrell and Clark, site engineer Glen Wrigley (Harry Fairclough construction), council leader Richard Cooper, Graham Swift (cabinet member for tourism, economic development and enterprise) and project manager Julian Crane of Harry Fairclough construction on the Knapping Mount site.(1512082AM)
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Demolition work has begun this week on Harrogate Borough Council’s old Knapping Mount site ahead of construction of its new £9million headquarters.

The council voted in July in favour of building the new purpose built offices on the prefabricated annexe site and selling off the town centre’s landmark Crescent Gardens offices.

Yorkshire-based Harry Fairclough Construction have been working on the site since October to prepare it for the demolition which began this week and will continue to the end of the year.

Construction of the new energy efficient offices will start early in 2016 with a scheduled completion date of spring 2017.

Coun Graham Swift, cabinet member for economic development and enterprise, said he is excited to see the results of work taking place on the site.

He said: “The new council headquarters will enable us to be more efficient, making it possible for us to improve the service we offer our customers as well as providing long term savings for council tax payers.”

The new offices will see council services operating from a single site rather than five separate locations.

Council bosses have stressed the authority will reduce its running costs by operating from fewer sites and will result in annual efficiency savings of around £1million.

However, the plans have attracted criticism from Liberal Democrat councillors who have claimed building the new officers is a waste of public money.

Lib Dem leader Coun Pat Marsh admitted she was saddened to see demolition work begin on the Knapping Mount site and that it could be better used for other purposes.

She said: “The site is now going to be developed and unfortunately we can’t unravel time back to July this year where we had our opportunity to retain our heritage.

“We are in one of those awful positions, we have tried and tried and tried to change the council’s minds but we have lost valuable housing land.

“It’s a great sadness, the sadness is not that it’s being cleared but for what it’s being cleared for. If it was for housing then that would be ok but not for an office block.”

The council are still hoping to sell Crescent Gardens for an undisclosed sum, thought to be around £2-5million, despite a deal with the preferred bidder falling through last month.

Coun Marsh believes the failure of the sale presents a good opportunity for the council to rethink their plans for Crescent Gardens.

She said: “They are hell bent on making this new office block when the old one is still fit for purpose. It just needs to be brought up to 21st century standards,”