THE Mill Hall in Rayleigh and Rochford’s council offices could become homes or businesses under ambitious development plans revealed today.

Rochford District Council has selected a developer to spearhead regeneration schemes for major properties which could become a drain to the taxpayer as they fall into disrepair.

The developer, who has not been named, is set to transform the Mill Arts and Events Centre in Bellingham Lane, Rayleigh, and the civic suite in Hockley Road, Rayleigh, into homes or businesses.

The council’s headquarters in South Street Rochford would be converted into homes and the Freight House in Bradley Way, Rochford, is set to become a community centre.

The council plans to move into the Freight House once the overhaul is completed in 2023.

The council has appointed the preferred development partner who will help redevelop sites across the district into homes and community centres.

Sources close to the deal have claimed the preferred bidder has not been subject to any risk assessments since the coronavirus pandemic began.

The council is pressing ahead with the project, with cost savings at the forefront of the plans.

Simon Wooton, Tory councillor for enterprise, is set to continue talks with the developer.

He said: “We don’t press ahead with such programmes lightly, but a thorough analysis has found these buildings to be ageing, with many in a poor state of repair, and they will become more costly to maintain as the years go on.

“In addition, we are likely to need much less space for our council offices in future, as we move to new and increasingly efficient ways of working.”

Mike Wilkinson, Independent councillor for Wheatley ward, added: “The process should have been paused during the pandemic.

“A lot of concern has been raised among residents about what they might lose out on. It’s an element of nostalgia, plus a lot of groups use the various facilities.

“The council need to come out and listen to concerns, then ease them. The public consultation should have been done months ago. Minds need to be put at risk.”

The decision to appoint the developer was taken at a council meeting last week.