Decision - New Historical Records Office and Resource Centre (The Keep) – Project update, funding arrangements and future delivery

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Decision details

New Historical Records Office and Resource Centre (The Keep) – Project update, funding arrangements and future delivery

Decision Maker: Cabinet (pre 2012)

Decision status: Recommendations Approved

Is Key decision?: Yes

Is subject to call in?: Yes


To advise Cabinet of developments since the report to Policy & Resources in April 2008, and seeking agreement to continued partnership working with ESCC to enable continued development of a preferred scheme option.


1.      That Cabinet notes that whilst the bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund was unsuccessful, the partners’ subsequent exploration of reduced scheme options suggests a financially viable scheme is still achievable; a scheme considered capable of satisfying the original vision and objectives.


2.      That Cabinet notes the joint Project Board’s selection of a preferred scheme option and the work now underway to complete a revised RIBA Stage C report (outline design).


3.      That Cabinet confirms the city council’s commitment to ‘The Keep’ and supports continued partnership working with ESCC and the University of Sussex to further develop the project.


4.      That Cabinet notes the current funding profile and approves the city council’s revised financial contribution of up to £508,000 (a sum within the originally agreed ‘in principle’ figure) towards the continued development of the scheme up to RIBA Stage D (detailed design).


5.      That Cabinet grants authority for the preparation of appropriate legal documents to enable the project’s progression to Stage D (such documents to allow for proceeding further to Stage H but only subject to the city council’s agreement at the conclusion of Stage D.


6.      That Cabinet delegates authority to enter into those legal documents to the Director of Culture & Enterprise in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Culture, Recreation & Tourism.


7.      That Cabinet reconfirms ‘in principle’ agreement to the council’s longer-term funding commitment, to a maximum of £5.345m (inclusive of development funding shown in 2.4 above), to support the capital cost of delivering The Keep, with the final decision returning to Members at the conclusion of Stage D; currently anticipated in April 2010.

Reasons for the decision:

1.  The Keep is an innovative project that will address the long term storage and preservation of the city’s historic records and archives.  The current facilities are completely inadequate and unsustainable, even in the short to medium term.  Action is now required, without which it is possible that The National Archives could remove the licence and seek to place the collections elsewhere.  The new centre will overcome these problems and will represent the next generation of archive buildings in the UK, in line with the new Government Archive Policy, ‘Archives for the 21st Century’, which is currently out to consultation and  makes specific reference to the need for “fewer, bigger, better” archive facilities.


2.      Despite the obvious set-back of not attracting HLF grant funding, the partners’ subsequent exploration of reduced scheme options suggests that a financially viable scheme is still achievable; a scheme considered capable of satisfying the original vision and objectives.  While it has been a challenging period, the project has continued to develop during the past 18 months.


3.      The city council has already made a considerable financial investment in supporting the project to this point, and has previously indicated its commitment to the longer-term, subject to it being financially viable. Continuing to work in partnership with ESCC and the University of Sussex, with agreement to financial support to enable the project’s progression through RIBA Stages C and D requires relatively limited further funding, and remains within the originally agreed in principle total of £5.345m.


4.      Completion of the next phases of design work will advance the scheme to a point where there will be far greater certainty about both the capital build costs and longer-term revenue implications of operating the new facility.  Both of these areas are vitally important to the project’s future and are central to informing decisions at the next stage, when a further report will come to Members prior to final confirmation of capital funding.

Alternative options considered:

1.      The evaluation of alternative options has been a fundamental consideration since the project’s inception, and has continued at each stage of its development.  The original Feasibility Study from 2004 looked at six possible scenarios, from which the preferred option for a new record office and resource centre was first identified.  Subsequent work has considered the possible inclusion of modern records and museums collections, partnership and delivery arrangements, and a detailed appraisal of potential sites, with Woollards Field identified as the preferred location in 2007.


2.      In addition to which, the 2008 report to Policy & Resources set out alterative options that were open to the city council.  Assessment of those options confirmed that the most appropriate way to improve public access and the future management of the city council’s historic records and archives was through partnering with ESCC.  It was on that basis that the city council agreed to become a full partner, with agreement to meet a one-third share of the development costs to support its progression.


3.      Failure to attract HLF funding at the end of last year necessitated a further review of options; work that is summarised in this report and which suggests a financially viable scheme is achievable.  The review also included the ‘do nothing’ option, which effectively means remaining in the existing premises, but this was again confirmed as unacceptable.


4.      As set out in the report to Policy & Resources, the only real alternative option open to the city council would be to withdraw from the partnership and seek to provide a stand alone records office for the city.  As the earlier report confirmed, this is likely to require a greater level of capital funding, there are precious few appropriate sites available, it would be extremely difficult to separate the records / archives and to operate independent services would be contrary to national trends and it would have a negative effect on service users.

Report author: Janita Bagshawe, Mark Jago

Publication date: 21/09/2009

Date of decision: 17/09/2009

Decided at meeting: 17/09/2009 - Cabinet (pre 2012)

Effective from: 25/09/2009

Accompanying Documents:


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