100,000 of TAXPAYERS' money blown on empty NHS advice centre and we'll pay for it for a further EIGHT years unless a new tenant is found
The building has been empty since 2003 – no new tenants have yet been found
NHS bosses have wasted more than 100,000 of taxpayers’ money renting an empty dilapidated building for five years, it has been revealed.
The Department of Health has been paying for the three-storey building in Colchester, Essex, and will continue to do so for another eight years unless a new tenant can be found.
The property was used as an NHS advice centre which shut in 2003 before being sub-let as a shop which closed five years ago and has fallen into a state of disrepair.
Boarded up: The empty building leased by the Department of Health is an eyesore in Colchester, Essex
The run-down shop is in the heart of the town’s so-called Cultural Quarter – which is undergoing a regeneration project led by Colchester Borough Council and Essex County Council.
The 5,000sq ft premises have stood empty at a cost of at least 21,000 per year.
The rate of 21,000 dates back to 1995 and it is feared that the current rent could be as high as 50,000.
Steve Miller, spokesman for the shop owners in the area, fumed: 'It is disgusting. How many operations could that have paid for
'I would support it being knocked down and the area being opened up so the nearby priory and church can be seen.'
The Department of Health has another eight years left on the 25-year lease.
Ron Levy, secretary of Colchester Retail Business Association, said: 'It is public money.
'If it was a private individual then we couldn’t dictate to them, but we are talking about public money and they have a powerful responsibility not to waste public money.
'We are concerned it does rather blight the area and make it look very run-down.'
Fed-up: Local shop owners Laurence Franklin, Steve Miller and Ron Levy outside the empty store. They say it is a blight in the area
Laurence Franklin, owner of nearby Franklins sewing shop, said: 'The advice centre was only open for a short time and they had it all refurbished and spent a lot of money on it.
'I don’t want to think about the amount of money that was wasted.'
The building has room for two shops on the ground floor and office space on the first and second floors.
The site has recently been taken on by property consultants Whybrow, which has been asked by the building’s owner to find a new tenant.
Ewan Dodds, managing director, said: 'Essentially taxpayers’ money is going right down the drain.
'I am hopeful something might come out of the marketing campaign that may be productive and useful – it is in quite a vibrant area.
'We will have to watch this space and see if we can generate something.'
A Department of Health spokesman said: 'The lease for this property transferred to the Department of Health after the North East Essex Community health council vacated it in 2003.
'It was then leased to a business until 2008, when the business ceased trading.
'Since then it has not been occupied, but surrendering the lease would have cost the Department more than continuing to market it.
'We are in negotiations with an interested party on the lease of this property.'