Public sector’s Blue Light Hub snub prompts new plan to lease Milton Keynes space commercially

Artist's impression of the Blue Light Hub
Artist's impression of the Blue Light Hub

Space at the new Blue Light Hub being built for the emergency services in Milton Keynes is set to be offered to private sector companies after other organisations failed to snap up the opportunity.

A report being presented to a meeting of Buckinghamshire & Milton Keynes Fire Authority on Wednesday (Sept 18) says a “misconception” has stopped some public sector interest in the top floor space.

Mark Hemming, director of finance and assets, says in his report that: “There does appear to be a misconception by some public service providers that the fire authority will subsidise the use of the second floor.

“Given the investment the fire authority has made in the project, plus the fact that the fire authority itself has had to pay full commercial rate for publicly owned land and other easements, it is not clear why such a rationale would exist.

“Nevertheless, with a few exceptions, that fact appears to have stopped some public sector interest.”

He added: “There has been some interest expressed by other public service providers over the past few years, but for various reasons this has not turned into any concrete proposals.

“There is one exception, which is the NHS Blood and Transplant Service, however, their relatively light needs are being accommodated on the first floor, subject to a formal licence agreement.”

Members of the fire authority are due ban members of the public and the press when they discuss the financial implications at the meeting at Milton Keynes Council’s offices.

Mr Hemming is also going to tell committee members that the planned completion of the project this year has slipped back to “probable occupation during the first quarter of 2020.”

The financial implications of the delay and the lack of public sector interest in taking space at the three-storey project have been kept in hush-hush private papers.

In deciding to have ground, first and second floors at the hub, the fire service was making sure that it would have space for future growth and to “avoiding potential regret in future years at not having done so.”

But a spokesman for the authority said: “This item is to inform members of the risk of increased costs as a result of delays to the project. We are unable to say any more at the moment.”

But he added that any budget changes to the £14million project would not have an impact on front-line firefighter services.

Mr Hemming adds that there is a risk that the authority commits to a significant investment but that lack of interest prevents any return on that

investment.

But he adds: “Given the continued growth within Milton Keynes coupled with a need for affordable office space this seems unlikely and there has been strong interest from at least one commercial operation for office space with parking at the West Ashland location.”

The fire service will be closing its stations at Bletchley and Great Holm sites and taking fire-fighters to the new hub.

The spokesman said: “Milton Keynes Development Partnership have first option on the Bletchley site. The plan is to sell the Great Holm site once vacated, but no sale has yet been agreed.”