AN HISTORIC former school in the town centre, which for many years was the base for Swindon Council’s children’s services department, is now boarded up after all 140 staff were moved out.
Sanford House, in Sanford Street, was an office for the department’s central planning and senior officers, but the staff have now moved to Wat Tyler West, on the main civic campus, with the final staff members leaving on December 14 after a three-week rolling relocation programme.
Swindon Council says the children services department has become smaller over the years, particularly as schools gain independence as academies, so the building had become increasingly empty. The relocation aims to save costs and encourage more joined-up working across departments as part of the Stronger Together reorganisation.
An estimated 900 people – about half of Swindon Council’s workforce – are expected to be relocated to the civic campus from Wat Tyler House, Sanford House and the Civic Annex by the end of February in a scheme estimated to cost £521,000, but expected to save £93,000 annually, including £50,000 through consolidating business administration support functions.
Coun David Renard, cabinet member for children services, said: “The downstairs windows are boarded up and the car park has been locked up.
“It’s now with the property department and the property officers and the cabinet member [Coun Mark Edwards] will be having a look at options for what happens to that building in the future.
“It’s a positive move, because all staff now from all the different departments are in the same place, so with things such as safe routes to schools for example, the officers from the schools side and the highways side are both in the same place.
“So working across some of these issues is going to be much improved. And also when we had officers across to the civic and vice versa it was wasting a lot of time. Across a lot of officers, across a lot of days, that’s quite a lot of time taken up.”
The former school, which is about 130 years old, was the creation of architect Brightwen Binyon, who designed, among other things, the town hall in Regent Circus, and the 1892 additions to the Mechanics’ Institute in the Railway Village.
Coun Renard, who is also deputy council leader, said all the options for the building’s future use were still on the table, but he did not want to see it empty for a long period and his personal preference would be to convert it into a central office for the charity and voluntary sector.
He said: “It’s trying to bring a lot of small groups together, that’s quite a difficult thing to do. At one time The Platform was going to be used as a multi-agency hub and it was difficult to get all the funding and agreement in place from parties to make it happen.
“So we’ll just have to explore it and hopefully it comes off. If not, then other options will have to be explored.”