Published Thursday, 10 September 2020
The Council’s offices at Friargate are set to reopen from next week.
The 11-storey building has been unused since lockdown began, with staff working from home or other locations to obey social distancing guidelines.
Now, with lockdown easing and the city continuing its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, staff are to return on a phased basis.
In the first week, only one in five will be able to return, but by the end of the month the building should be at 50% occupancy. That will allow social distancing in offices and special measures such as one-way systems, hand-sanitiser stations and restrictions on lifts.
The return has been welcomed by Cllr Jim O’Boyle, Cabinet Member for Jobs and Regeneration, who said: “We are delighted to see staff return to city centre offices.
“Like all companies and organisations, the Council has been working very differently over recent months as we protect staff and the public and work to stop the spread of coronavirus.
“Our first priority is always the health and safety of staff and residents, and this return is only possible after a lot of work and after full consultation.
“I know many people are keen for a return to a more normal way of life, and they want to get back to the city centre and everything that offers. We have a great city, with some wonderful shops, restaurants and attractions, and, although we need to be safe and obey guidelines, we can still enjoy them.
“This is the next step in our city’s reset and recovery following COVID-19, and, as other companies and businesses return as well, including the Financial Ombudsman Service and Homes England at Friargate I look forward to seeing our city centre a little more like its old self very soon. Restarting the economy is important and although the Council House has remained open throughout the pandemic it’s now the right time to get Friargate open too.”
Leader of the Council, Cllr George Duggins said, “I’m pleased that our Friargate building is set to re-open. Council officers have done an amazing job delivering services from home, but it will be great to welcome them back to the city centre. Lots of work has been done to ensure people can return safely but I would urge everyone to continue to follow all health advice, including social distancing to stay safe and protect others.”
The Council has also this week approved funding worth £17m that will support the development of a second office building at Friargate, with work set to begin soon.
This second building will contain 134,000 sq ft of state-of-the-art office space, along with a ground floor café or restaurant. It is expected to create 700 jobs during the construction phase, with many more when the building is operational.
The second office building is part of the wider plans to expand the Friargate development and to make it and the city an even more attractive place for businesses to invest in.