1. ITV Report

Government in talks to sublet empty Taunton fire control centre

Photo: ITV West Country

The Government says it is talking to a private company with a view to subletting an empty fire control centre in Taunton.

The centre, built as part of a money-saving operation in 2004, has been empty since it was built.

The project was scrapped in 2010 and there have been attempts since to find an occupier.

Costs for rent, bills and management soared to more than £16 million by the end of 2016.

Of taxpayers' money was spent on the centre by the end of 2016
The centre has been empty since the project was scrapped in 2010. Credit: ITV West Country

The project was intended to save money by providing a central call centre for the whole West Country.

Similar centres across the UK were hoped to reduce the number of fire control rooms across the country from 46 to just nine.

Some of the other nine buildings have been occupied since the scheme was scrapped.

Durham, Warrington and London which are now being used by local fire services. The building in Fareham is being used by the Maritime and Coastal Agency and a private company occupies the centre in Wolverhampton.

The Department for Communities and Local Government has now told ITV West Country it is in talks about the centre.

We are in discussions with a private company with a view to subletting the site. As this process is not yet complete any further details remain commercially sensitive.

– Department for Communities and Local Government

The company marketing the site has listed it as ‘under offer’ for some time with no further details emerging until now.

Credit: ITV West Country

Rebecca Pow, MP for Taunton Deane, says the Government and council have worked hard to find interested parties for the site.

I think over the years DCLG together with the council have worked really hard to see if anybody is interested in taking the building so there was no 'is it going to be private, is it going to be public?' it's just would anybody be interested in renting it? So I don't think it matters as long as the building eventually gets used and we stop paying a million pounds a year for nothing.

– Rebecca Pow MP

Estimated costs for rent, bills and management rose to more than £16 million by the end of 2016.

Devon & Somerset Fire Brigades Union says it is giving the news "a cautious welcome".

Once again the government's getting involved with a private company - let's not forget this building has cost twice as much in rent that it cost to build all that public money has gone to a private company. So, yes that has to be brought to an end, but we want to make sure this is a good deal for the taxpayer as well.

– Tam McFarlane, Devon & Somerset Fire Brigades Union

The government is tied into a contract for the site until 2028, meaning subletting is the most obvious option to cover the cost of the building going forward.