News

20/07/2020 - Lindfield Rural Parish Council - Office Relocation

At Lindfield Rural Parish Council (LRPC), we have been changing and improving our working practices to support the delivery of our 20/21 business plan. We have been looking for accommodation that better suits our needs therefore we have taken the decision to move the Parish Office from the Scaynes Hill Millennium Centre to the Walstead Chapel from the 1st November 2020.

 

Walstead Chapel

Walstead Chapel is already converted to office space and is already owned and managed by LRPC.

 

The specific reasons for this move are as follows: -

 

• In our business plan we committed to represent LRPC at groups that already exist e.g. residents’ groups, coffee mornings etc. in future it is our intention to be more visible in Scaynes Hill (and the rest of the parish) not less – in this context the location of the Parish Office is less important. Community involvement is one of our main objectives.

 

• The vast amount of interaction with residents is via email, telephone and visits made by us to residents’ groups the number of callers to office is very low.

 

• To deliver the business plan we have adopted a team working strategy, teams comprising of Councillors, Parish Staff and other interested parties. The Chapel provides us with desperately needed meeting space which the Millennium Centre is unable to provide. We cannot continually expect Councillors to meet in their homes etc. which currently is the case.

 

• The move to the chapel we give us more office space, new meeting room space and space for Councillors to work - for very little extra money per year. The new Planning Committee will need meeting rooms soon which will increase our room hire costs still further if we stay at the Millennium Centre.

 

• Having a presence at the chapel will enhance our management of two of our biggest assets (the burial ground and the lodge).

 

• The Chapel provides a location that is central for the whole of the LRPC area

 

We hope that all residents can support the advantages for LRPC to relocate and we can assure you that we will look to engage and communicate with you more in the future as the business plan unfolds.

 

 

 

 

 

THE REASONS WHY LINDFIELD PARISH COUNCIL IS MOVING TO A NEW OFFICE

Lindfield Rural Parish Council (LRPC)has decided that there is need to move to a new office and leave the offices that they rent at the Millennium Centre and move to existing office accommodation at Walstead Chapel Offices in East Mascalls, Lane which is owned by the Council. This document aims to explain the rationale for the move

 

Q1 Why is the Council making this change?

Answer: Since the beginning of this year the Council has been reviewing how it organises itself and how it provides services to the Community and has produced a business plan that covered the role of Councillors and how we can do things differently and work more closely with the Community.

 

Q2: What changes came out of that review?

Answer: Part of that exercise included reviewing how Councillors could become more involved in the day to day business of the Council and this lead has to the creation of workstreams based on Teams of Councillors overseeing different policies, procedures and activities who make recommendations to the Full Council for decision. This more flexible approach meant that the constraints of the current office arrangements were unacceptable and highlighted the urgent need for additional office space.

 

Q3 What impact has review on the current office accommodation?

Answer: A close examination of the current our office accommodation highlighted a number of deficiencies such as a lack of meeting room facilities, the constant disturbance and noise from adult exercise classes and children’s club as background to an office environment was unacceptable and the inability to hold confidential meetings without hiring rooms elsewhere or having to hold meetings in one of the Councillor’s home, was an unsatisfactory arrangement.

 

Q4: In deciding to move Office did you look at different options?

Answer: Yes. After concluding that we could not remain in our current accommodation we looked at 3 options

• Develop and build a new Parish Office on existing council land or look to purchase new land.

• Move to another office within the Parish

• Move the Parish Office to the Chapel Offices at the Walstead Burial Ground

 

Q5: How did you decide on the move to Walstead Chapel Offices?

Answer: We analysed each option as follows

Develop and build a new Parish Office on existing council land or look to purchase new land.

This is an attractive option to have a custom-built facility however finding a location in the Parish and then securing planning permission is not viable and not achievable in the short term.

It would also commit the Parish Council with a long-term debt, even taking into consideration the low interest rate available at the present time. For these reasons we do not believe that this is a viable option.

Move to another office within the Parish

The Parish staff have devoted time and resources to finding another location within the Parish, however being a rural location there is a limited amount of locations and those that are available are well beyond our budget.

Move the Parish Office to the Chapel Offices at the Walstead Burial Ground.

LRPC currently receives income of £6600pa from the letting of the Chapel to an Investment company.

The chapel offices comprise of two larger rooms one of which could be used as the Parish Office the other could be used for meetings and a workplace for councillors.

The Walstead Chapel offices have adequate car parking facilities, would provide better working conditions for the Parish staff and is central within the LRPC area.

The chapel also has a LRPC identity which the Millennium Centre does not. To move to the Chapel Offices would incur moving, additional furniture and IT costs estimated at around £2000.

The other benefit from the move meant that LRPC would be close to Walstead Burial Ground, thereby improving the day to day management of the burial ground in providing closer supervision of activities and resolving issues quickly that regularly occur

 

Q6 What comparative cost analysis has been undertaken on the move the Walstead Chapel Offices?

Answer: The Council currently pays £5750pa rent and £835pa Council Tax for the use of the Millennium Centre. We also pay approx. £250pa on the hire of external meeting facilities.

A total of £6835 is therefore spent on office and meeting room facilities each year.

It is expected that meeting room hire costs will increase due to the requirement to hold separate planning committee meetings in public, along with the existing diary of public Parish Council meetings. This is compared with the £6600 rent received for renting out the Walstead Chapel Offices making the slight difference between income and expenditure acceptable, given the benefits of the new office.

 

Q7 What impact will the move have public access to the Parish Office

Answer: The analysis of public calling at the Parish shows that this rarely happens and often weeks go by without any member of the public visiting the office. The overwhelming contact is via the telephone or e mail. This means that the current usage of this facility to call into the office is negligible and is not a demand led facility.

However, the Council believes that public face to face contact is important feature of its role. Therefore, in future, it intends to be more proactive in making itself available to attend events and meetings and respond to queries by visits. The Clerk and Responsible Financial Officer already attend the coffee mornings at St. Augustines Church, Scaynes Hill, on a regular basis to engage with residents. The new office will also have the facility for the members of public to visit where confidential conversations can also place take. This proactive approach means that the Council would welcome invitations to local meetings to explain the role of the Council including participation in a Q&A session.

 

Q8 Links to Scaynes Hill

Answer: Historically the Lindfield Rural Council Offices have been linked to Scaynes Hill with old offices being based in the Women’s Institute building before it moved into the Millennium Centre, but as the population has grown across the Parish with Scaynes Hill no longer being the dominant population centre, means that keeping an office in Scaynes Hill for historic reason cannot be justifiable. It is also clear from events over the last few months, with the Clerk, RFO and Councillors all working from home, they have been able to deal with range of issues in Scaynes Hill, highlighting the level mobility that now exists.

 

Q9 What is the timetable for the move?

Answer: There are number of lease arrangements that have to be complied with in terms of different periods pf notice, but the aim is to have the Lindfield Rural Parish Council New Council Offices at Walstead Chapel Offices in East Mascalls Lane operating by 1 November 2020.