Surrey County Council is set to move operations from Kingston to Reigate, SurreyLive understands.
No official announcement has yet been made, but it is understood the council will keep the large, modern complex for its own use and many have already assumed it could serve no other purpose than a new head office.
It’s been hailed as great news for Reigate, the borough and the east of the county.
Spencer Copping, chairman of Reigate Business Guild, said: “It is tremendous. It would be absolutely fantastic to see that building taken up and not converted into flats.
“It would be fantastic to see a great employer move in to that building and to have Surrey County Council swinging away from Woking to Reigate is amazing for us. It would be revolutionary, great for the town as well as the borough to be the home of the county council and it may be we get more investment and it may be we see our area pick up.”
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Intent on moving out of its ageing headquarters in Kingston, and back inside the county’s borders by the end of this year, the authority had initially been set on a move to Guildford or Woking.
But it emerged in April that a planned move to Midas House in Woking had been called off. That was blamed on the impact of coronavirus, and the fact that the authority would no longer need so much space.
At the time a spokesman said that Woking was “still our choice as the location for our civic heart”, but less than three months later, on June 30, it had completed the purchase of the Cockshot Hill complex – for an undisclosed fee.
Canon moved its 450 staff out of the site last year after it became too big for the firm’s needs.
Rosie Robinson, owner of Chalk Hills Bakery down the hill in Bell Street, said it was good news, as businesses are concerned about the impact on trade of fewer people working in offices as a result of Covid-19.
“I think it is a really great thing for Reigate and it also makes it a bit more of a central place for Surrey, having the county council here,” she added.
A council spokesperson declined to comment on plans to move central operations, but said an announcement on plans for the Reigate site would be made “in the coming days”.
The buildings designed for Canon and constructed in the late 1990s amount to more than 11,000 square metres of floor space. They sit within green parkland along with locally listed Woodhatch Lodge, built in the 18th Century, and hundreds of parking spaces.
While not in the green belt, the site is designated as one of the borough’s “historic parks and gardens” because it is “an 18th Century park with good Victorian shrubbery along Cockshot Hill”.