Taunton's unused fire control centre among Government buildings listed for rent
For sale – one unused catastrophically expensive white elephant, a handful of old court buildings, a prison’s exercise area and a former barracks.
The sales particulars listed on a new real-estate website are far removed from those first-time buyers might encounter on the likes of Zoopla or Rightmove.
But with the Government deficit soaring by £15 billion in December alone, it is little wonder it is looking to sell off some of the family silver.
And for the first time ever, all the Government’s surplus land and buildings are listed in the same place.
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It has inevitably built up over the years quite a portfolio of assets that it no longer needs or is willing to let.
Desperate for cash to balance the books, the Government has put together the website in the hope that by listing all of the assets together – some of which have been on the market for several years – it may actually be able to sell them.
Among the plots for rent is the never used Regional Fire Control Centre in Taunton. The ill-fated project to create one regional fire service to cover the entire South West was the brainchild of former deputy prime minister John Prescott, but opposition from firefighters across the country scuppered it.
Not alas before a hugely expensive network of nine “super” fire control centres were built around the country, including in Taunton, at a total eventual cost of at least £469 million.
Built to the exacting standards of Lord Prescott, the centre at the Blackbrook Business Park near the M5 is so plush it famously had a £6,000 coffee machine installed.
It will cost taxpayers an estimated £13 million to continue paying the rent on the empty building over the period of the ruinously expensive contract – so it is understandable why ministers want to sub-let it.
If however, any potential purchasers want to buy some land outright, then the 13 hectare Erskine Barracks near Sailsbury is among the sites listed. As is two hectares of playing fields used by generations of prisoners at HMP Usk in Monmouthshire.
More than three hectares of land that housed a former engineers depot near Bristol City’s Ashton Gate home is also listed for sale. It is being marketed on behalf of the Department for Transport, which inherited the disused assets of British Rail.
In total, some 900 sites around the country are listed.
Minister for political and constitutional reform, Chloe Smith said: “We’re making the civil service more efficient and cutting waste, as a result we will have a number of properties both owned and rented that we need to do more with.
“Not only will this website help to save government money but we will see new opportunities, jobs and growth as new life is brought into empty properties.”