The centre, left largely empty since opening in October last year, will be partially converted into office space at a cost of £1.5m under plans due to be approved by Trafford’s Clinical Commissioning Group next week.
The 88,000 sq ft centre opposite the town’s market completed last year but has remained vacant after the CCG announced it was “revisiting its long-term strategy” for the building; three GP surgeries, a paediatric service provider, and an NHS service centre were originally lined up to move in.
Documents showed the centre was facing a £1.9m funding gap before any of the proposed tenants could move in, with all six occupiers declining to move unless a “cost neutral position” was met.
Following the decision, the CCG has been exploring options for the building, and last year considered converting the health centre into office space at a potential cost of £7.2m.
Now, the CCG is set to make its decision on the future of the centre at a meeting next week.
The body’s preferred option is to move the GP surgeries into the first floor, with community services provided on the ground and second floors; The surgeries due to move are St John’s Medical Centre and Barrington Road Surgery; Altrincham Medical Practice was originally also lined up to move in, but has subsequently withdrawn its interest.
Under the preferred plans, the top floor, originally set aside for an NHS service provider, will be converted to commercial office space.
This conversion is expected to cost around £1.49m, but the CCG said “at the time of writing no funding source for these costs had been identified”. Funding options are likely to be explored with the Greater Manchester Health & Social Care Partnership.
Other options considered were to proceed as planned with moving all the original tenants in; however, the CCG papers said there was “no support for many existing community services to be moved from their current locations and delivered from the [centre],” and added it was “not financially viable to proceed with the occupation of the [centre] as originally intended”.
Leaving the building vacant was also considered but the CCG said: “Financially this is the least preferable option as it would incur an annual cost for no value. Notwithstanding the financial constraints this would bring, it would also attract a significant amount of continued negative publicity.”
Finally, the full conversion of the building was also examined, but with “no capital funding readily available” from the NHS to fund the works, likely to cost £7.2m, the proposals were deemed too “high risk” with no tenant lined up to take the space if converted.
The CCG concluded this would be “undeliverable” without funding, and market rents would “not cover” the building’s rent, even if full occupancy was achieved.
Ranking the options from one to five, the CCG papers show the conversion of the third floor was ranked as number one, with the original business case including the original ocucupiers ranked as second, followed by letting the whole building out commercially as number three.
A partial adoption of the original business case, but leaving half of the second floor empty, was ranked fourth, followed by leaving the building empty at five.
NHS Property Services is paying £1.6m in rent on the building per year, along with £750,000 in rates, insurance, and facilities management. Along with a £111,000 facilities management contingency budget, this amounts to £2.4m a year.
Altrincham Library, which relocated from its existing site at Clarendon House, has moved as planned and opened in the building’s ground floor last year.
Cushman & Wakefield, Knight Frank, and Avison Young have all advised the CCG and Trafford Council on the deal.
The CCG is due to discuss the proposals and sign off the next steps for the building at a meeting on 5 March.
Martyn Pritchard, Trafford CCG’s accountable officer said: “The CCG is committed to making the best use of the Altrincham Health and Wellbeing Hub for people living in Trafford.
“The report, which is going before the CCG Governing Body, has outlined several options for the future use of the building. The recommendation is that it has a mainly health and social care focus which will meet the needs of local people and be the best use of the resources we have.
“The Governing Body will make its final decision based on what is best for the healthcare of people in Trafford.”