East Devon celebrates ‘topping out’ ceremony at new council HQ

Councillors Paul Diviani and Ian Thomas with Paul Gale of Interserve at the 'topping out' ceremony at East Devon's new headquarters in Honiton

THE new, purpose-built home of East Devon District Council be open by January 2019.

Another milestone has been reached in East Devon District Council’s development as a “modern, innovative and efficient local authority”.  Blackdown House, the authority’s new headquarters in Honiton, held a topping out ceremony on Thursday, June  14 to celebrate the completion of the building’s exterior, which is now wind and watertight.

The internal fitting out process is now well underway. This will include the installation of new furniture, together with the associated IT and AV equipment before the district council moves from its current home at Knowle, Sidmouth, by January 2019.

Blackdown House is an innovative highly-individual design; a three-storey brick structure incorporating two off-set wings, each with open plan offices. The building features an interconnecting central link block within which, on the ground floor, there is a reception area and public zone, while on the first floor there is a double height council chamber. A modest roof terrace has also been added.

The new offices offer full disabled access and good parking provision.

Construction of the new HQ is to BREEAM ‘Very Good’ standards and it will be significantly more energy efficient than the old offices at Knowle, an ageing former hotel in Sidmouth, where the council has been in residence for well over 40 years. Remaining at Knowle with essential and basic repairs undertaken would have cost the council £ 4.5million over 20 years. In contrast, moving to the new HQ in Honiton will provide a cash saving of £ 1.4million over the same period.

Staff will find themselves working in modern, well-lit open plan facilities with use of the latest technology, enabling them to deliver a high quality service. Visitors to council meetings and meeting rooms in particular will experience a superb audio visual system with excellent sound and recording.

A spokesperson from East Devon said: “The construction of Blackdown House began on July 24 2017. Since that date, Interserve Construction Ltd, the council’s contractor, has progressed well with the building works. Internally, mechanical and electrical services are in place and in recent weeks the construction of internal partitioning has commenced.

“The construction has faced tough times with the winter snows and freezing temperatures so there is a bit of catching up to do, but in spite of this the programme is pretty much on track. Interserve has confirmed that they are confident completion will be achieved by October 2018.”

Interserve has made a special point of using local building contractors and services to construct and fit out Blackdown House.

The ‘topping out’ ceremony was completed by Councillor Andrew Moulding, chairman of East Devon District Council, and Councillor Ian Thomas, the new leader of East Devon District Council, who represents Uplyme.

Also present was former leader Councillor Paul Diviani, under whose leadership the relocation was conceived.

Councillor Thomas commented: “To put in motion the relocation of the council at a time of austerity and public-sector funding cuts was a brave and decisive, yet essential step led by Cllr Diviani.

“A modern working environment for our valued team is a key element of our drive to further develop our delivery of mandatory services and those discretionary services our residents and businesses value most.

“We are a strong council that delivers outstanding services. Blackdown House will enable us to serve our residents and businesses in the most efficient and effective way.”

Cllr Diviani added: “I am proud to see a further step toward the completion of Blackdown House and, as a member of our new leadership team, help ensure the project I started comes to fruition.”

Paul Gale, divisional director for Interserve southern region, said: “We are delighted to be celebrating the topping out of this important building for East Devon District Council. This marks a major milestone in the project and this age-old tradition of topping out is said to bestow good luck.

“We have celebrated by laying a brick and attaching a yew tree branch to the highest point of the building, the yew tree is said to keep evil spirits away. Our team looks forward to the next stages of the project and delivering a building that all parties will proud of.”

Woodmead Halls
About Francesca Evans 757 Articles
Francesca grew up in Lyme Regis and has worked in community journalism in the area since 2011, having gained a First Class Honours degree in journalism and her NCTJ qualifications at Southampton Solent University.

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