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City council set to move into art gallery after multi-million pound University deal

Worcester Editorial 4th Aug, 2014 Updated: 19th Oct, 2016

STAFF at Worcester City Council are set to move into a museum and art gallery after selling its headquarters in a multi-million pound deal.

The Orchard House complex, which has been home to the city council since the early 1990s, has been sold to the University of Worcester for £2.9million.

The deal was completed at a cabinet meeting last Tuesday (July 29) where councillors also agreed to go ahead with plans to move into the ground floor of the Worcester Museum and Art Gallery.

Although the university has now taken ownership of the complex, which includes Graveney House and Wyatt House, Orchard House will be leased back to the council until March 31 while renovation work takes place on the building on Foregate Street.

The move is also expected to end the Museum and Art Gallery’s hopes of creating a dedicated children’s area on the ground floor.

However, Coun David Wilkinson, cabinet member for Safer and Stronger Communities, who is also a member of the council’s joint museums committee, said the news will not come as a surprise.

“This is not entirely unexpected although at our last meeting we did progress to a point where the children’s museum was all ready to go,” he said. “At the next meeting we will have to face up to what has happened and we will deal with it.”

Coun Andy Roberts, cabinet member for Cleaner and Greener City, believed the move would breathe new life into the building.

“This is an extremely important and underestimated building in Worcester,” he said. “I don’t think people notice the importance of this structure, so that is why I am keen on this.

“I think this is a very good way of sustaining the life of a very important building in the city.”

A 20-year lease on The Moors car park has also been agreed as part of the deal, for which the university will pay a premium of £260,000. The terms of the lease mean the public will still be able to use it to park at weekends.

Speaking after the meeting, Prof David Green, chief executive of the University of Worcester, said he was delighted to secure the deal as he revealed the complex would create more teaching space.

“The city centre location of the complex will help the university further develop its extensive educational work for professionals and business people,” Prof Green added.

“The location of Orchard House, so close to The Hive and the university’s city campus makes it an excellent centre for further educational development.”

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