Debate - Civic Centre Project
To debate key developments affecting the Borough. The development to be discussed at this meeting is the building of the new civic centre. Representatives of the contractor, Skanska, will make a presentation.
The Mayor welcomed representatives of Skanska to the meeting. Representing the Skanska civic centre project team were John Crawley (Operations Director), Bill Brock (Project Director), James McKenzie-Boyle (Community Liaison) and David Selby (Hopkins Architects).
John Crawley opened the presentation by outlining the aspirations for the civic centre project. The aim was to provide a new civic headquarters that would be at the centre of the community and a beacon of sustainability. It was intended that it would be the first public building to achieve an outstanding BREEAM rating. It was explained later in the discussion that BREEAM stood for Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method and was the leading and most widely used environmental assessment method used to measure the sustainability of new non-domestic buildings in the UK. The project would also seek to promote the diversity of the borough and blur the boundaries between the public and private space. John Crawley gave a brief introduction to Skanska the company, including reference to its vision to be the leading green project developer and contractor. Bill Brock named the rest of the civic centre project team. He then provided an overview of the scheme. The building would comprise nine storeys, set over 2.5 hectares. The project had a planned duration of 108 weeks with handover due in December 2012. Occupation was planned for mid 2013 and would accommodate up to 2000 staff and councillors. The public area functions of the building would include a multipurpose foyer with exhibition space, meeting and conference rooms, a state of the art library and resource centre and the registrar’s service. The democratic function would be served by mayoral and members’ accommodation, a multi functional civic hall and committee rooms. The Council’s administrative functions would be served by providing flexible office space, meeting rooms, a training suite and breakout space. Bill Brock outlined the key stages of the project, beginning with the ground breaking ceremony to be held on 26 January 2011. James McKenzie-Boyle presented the company’s community action plan which included opportunities for local business and local employment, training initiatives and engagement with schools and voluntary projects. This activity would be undertaken working with the Council’s Regeneration and Major Projects Department. There was a Brent business event planned for 15 February to which over 400 local companies had been invited. Members then viewed a computer generated presentation of how the construction of the civic centre might look.
Councillor John responded to the presentation on behalf of the Executive and the Council. She thanked the representatives from Skanska for their presentation and particularly the presentation of the construction. She stated that there were many buildings of special interest in the borough and it was certain that the new civic centre would be another one. Councillor John reported that she had attended most of the area consultative forums at which the Council's budget was discussed and the same question was asked at all of them regarding how the Council could afford to build a new civic centre when it was having to find savings on such a large scale. However the question was easy to answer because it was a cost saving project. Councillor John was pleased that the project had all party support but expressed surprise that the Green Party did not support it given the environmental credentials associated with it.
The Mayor invited members to comment or ask questions. He explained that any questions that were not answered at the meeting would be answered in writing after the meeting. Councillor Allie asked what the difference was between a library and a resource centre. Councillor HB Patel referred to the budgetary savings of £36M being sought and wondered what efficiencies were being made on the project. Councillor Thomas referred to apprenticeship schemes associated with many large projects and hoped the civic centre project would provide the scope to work with the Council to give young people opportunities. Councillor Al-Ebadi added that special skills were needed to contribute to the project and the borough had a high level of unemployment. He wondered how local people could be trained in the short timescale available to be able to take up some of these jobs. Councillor Lorber stated that the project had spanned three administrations and that when he was Leader of the Council he had set the challenge of making it the most environmentally friendly building possible and he felt this would be achieved. He also agreed that the building would be cost effective. The new civic centre was an important element in improving the way the Council conducted business and was key to the One Council programme. He added that it was a challenge to convince people of the business case behind building the civic centre.
James McKenzie-Boyle explained that there had already been meetings with the Council, Brent in2 Work and the College of North West London in order to ensure the project would offer opportunities for locally trained people. Aktar Choudhury (Assistant Director - Civic Centre programme) responded that the business case for the civic centre had got stronger with the procurement of the building coming in at less than budgeted for. He stated there would be £2.6m in efficiency savings and £2.4m savings achieved by moving out of inefficient existing properties. An explanation had been given by the Skanska team of how the project would provide local jobs and further details could be sent to any members who wanted it. He was pleased to say that the project remained ahead of schedule.
The Mayor thanked the representatives of Skanska for their presentation and Aktar Choudhury for his contribution.