The Diocese of Bath and Wells is seeking to move its offices from The Old Deanery on Cathedral Green in Wells to a new-build site elsewhere in the city.
The recommendation to relocate over 50 members of staff and all operations was agreed at a meeting of Bishop’s Council (the Bishop of Bath and Wells’ advisory body and Standing Committee of Diocesan Synod) on 20 June and shared at the latest session of Diocesan Synod on 12 July.
The decision in principle follows investigations by a small working group consisting of representatives from each diocesan function plus user groups. Members looked into whether it would be preferable to stay and invest in the Old Deanery buildings for the next 10 to 20 years or to move and locate elsewhere within two years.
Poor access for disabled visitors; lack of environmentally-friendly credentials; limited number and size of meeting rooms and high repair, maintenance and running costs of The Old Deanery buildings were all cited as major reasons for recommending a new-build option.
Nick May, Diocesan Secretary, chaired the working group and is ultimately responsible for the office buildings and facilities. Nick says, “The Old Deanery is a wonderful building, in a beautiful location with a rich history. I along with many of my colleagues feel a huge fondness for it.
“However, It is becoming increasingly clear that an 800 year-old, Grade 1 listed building, originally built as a home for the Dean of Wells does not function effectively as a modern, welcoming, office and meeting space. Nor will it meet the day-to-day needs of the people who work here into the future.
“We calculate that to bring The Old Deanery up to the standard required would cost £3m, plus months of disruption. The cost of moving to a purpose-built development is estimated at £3.25m. We strongly feel that relocation is a more responsible and sustainable use of diocesan funds and will help us better serve our 500 parishes.”
The decision to relocate is currently a decision in principle. More detailed work will now be undertaken by a new working group in terms of locating and negotiating a site and planning the move. Based on a progress report due in September 2017, Bishop’s Council will then either confirm the decision to proceed or revisit its recommendation.
Upon relocation, the existing building and Rib Car Park in St Andrews Street would be sold. Proceeds from sale will help to offset the costs of the new-build site.
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