Proposal to move county council offices to new carbon-neutral offices set to progress

Proposals to move Oxfordshire County Council’s headquarters from the new part of County Hall on New Road to a refurbished net-zero, green Speedwell House campus on Speedwell Street in Oxford are progressing.  

After extensive and independent evaluation, and consideration by a cross-party cabinet advisory group on city centre accommodation, it’s proposed that the council moves its Oxford headquarters from County Hall to a reimagined Speedwell House campus. It is envisaged that the Speedwell Street offices would be an exemplar for carbon-neutral offices and providing exciting opportunities to deliver regeneration in Oxford.

The sale or lease of County Hall is expected to meet the refurbishment costs of Speedwell House’, which is already owned by Oxfordshire County Council. The old part of County Hall, which includes the council chamber and coroner’s court, would be included in engagement with the market to inform a final decision on its future.

The report to cabinet is clear that doing nothing is not an option – there would be significant investment required in County Hall to bring up to suitable use and even more for decarbonisation. It adds that by proposing to proceed with relocation to Speedwell House, not only would the council regenerate that part of Oxford but the release of County Hall would allow for better strategic planning in the West End of Oxford.  

A report will be presented to cabinet on Tuesday, 23 January.

Councillor Liz Leffman, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council, said: “A lot of rigorous analysis has been going on since the cabinet last considered this issue in May 2023. The results of that analysis will be presented to cabinet for debate at our 23 January meeting, including a list of reasons behind the proposal being made by our officers.

“The paper to be presented makes the case that such a move would present value for money for the taxpayer as well as keeping to our principle of putting climate change at the heart of everything we do. This would be in line with our overall property strategy, which focuses on continuing our ongoing rationalisation of the buildings we use. This has already seen us reduce the number of buildings we occupy.

“While the property market as a whole is not currently in its most buoyant phase, the city centre of Oxford has largely been unaffected by these wider trends. As such, the strategy suggests we take advantage of this on behalf of the taxpayer.

“It is said that creating carbon-neutral offices would align very effectively with the council’s overall climate change strategy and a modern new headquarters would help with our aim of becoming an employer of choice in what is a very competitive jobs market. We would ensure that the new building is designed to reflect modern ways of flexible working.

“The report also states that quite apart from compatibility with the council’s own property that there are wider benefits to consider. For instance, the council’s headquarters being on Speedwell Street would have the potential to be at the heart of economic and social regeneration in Oxford. There is certainly plenty for cabinet to debate and consider when we meet on 23 January.”