Lowestoft campaigner’s petition to scupper shared office plans

A PETITION has been launched to keep Lowestoft Town Hall as the headquarters of Waveney District Council.

Frank Joyce, of the campaign group Lowestoft Coalition Against the Cuts, has set up the petition to try to force Waveney and Suffolk County Council to ditch controversial plans for a new �13m shared office complex.

As previously reported in The Journal, the councils have each set aside �6.8m for the proposed move to Riverside Road which would see new the new offices built to replace the Town Hall in High Street.

However, Mr Joyce claims the business case for the shared office block has been grossly exaggerated and says there appear to be no plans for the long-term future of the Town Hall if the move goes ahead.

He has been canvassing support for his petition in the town centre and it can also be signed online.

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Mr Joyce, 77, a retired Lowestoft College lecturer, said: 'Lowestoft's historic Town Hall is to be vacated with councillors admitting that they have no idea what is to become of the empty building.

'The business case for the new Riverside Road project is grossly exaggerated. The economic impact of taking away jobs from the struggling High Street and abandoning the Town Hall is simply ignored. Surely Waveney cannot afford to spend �7m on the new office accommodation when all sorts of services are being got rid of and cut?'

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The online version of Mr Joyce's petition – which calls on the council to 'Retain Lowestoft's historic Town Hall as the main centre for Lowestoft's and Waveney's local government and civic life' – is being hosted by the authority's own website and could lead to councillors having to discuss the issue at a future meeting.

The two councils say the creation of the shared site on Riverside Road would save �3m in running and maintenance costs over 10 years as their current buildings are not fit for purpose for the 21st century.

In response to Mr Joyce's petition, Waveney said it was wrong to claim the Town Hall had no viable future and the business case demonstrated the financial benefits of the new building and that it could meet the costs.

A council spokesman said: 'It is entirely wrong of him to suggest that the Town Hall has no viable future other than as a town hall. There is a preservation order on the fabric of the building which will, of course, be respected. However there are very many ways the Town Hall could be utilised and transformed in future to benefit generations to come.

'He is also wrong to assert that Waveney cannot afford the cost of new office accommodation given that a widely publicised business case details how any borrowed outlay would be recouped through long-term efficiency savings that come with occupying a new, energy-efficient building which does not require expensive repair and maintenance.

'Indeed, it is because the council has to consider its resources very carefully that such a move away from the Town Hall is planned.'

The spokesman also insisted the council was not abandoning the High Street, and that an ongoing project to build 23 flats and houses on the site of former offices near the Town Hall proved this.

Waveney already owns the land at Riverside Road and the new office space, which was at one point earmarked for the ill-fated �53m Waveney Campus project.

The Riverside Road accommodation project would also see the council's Marina Service Centre retained.

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