New South National Park headquarters takes shape in Midhurst

IT will be almost another year before members of the public get to go inside, but the new South Downs National Park authority home is taking shape behind the hoarding at Midhurst’s Capron House.

With a price tag of almost £3m which will come from government grant funding chief executive Trevor Beattie says it will not only be a home for some 60 officers putting them together finally under one roof, but a valuable community hub and bring a derelict building back to life.

Capron House''Picture by Louise Adams C130279-9 Mid New Park HQ

Capron House''Picture by Louise Adams C130279-9 Mid New Park HQ

Mr Beattie took time out to give the Observer a guided tour of the emerging new headquarters starting in the car park where there is to be an impressive canopied porch entrance

It was he said, a development complicated by the fact it comprised three buildings linked together at different levels.

“The reason for the porch is not just the entrance point,” he said, “it also locks into the gap between the buildings and links them all together.”

Among the many different facilities is the community hub to be housed in a light, airy room at the front of the building. It will be organised by the Citizen’s Advice Bureau and provide space for community organisations such as Shelter and Macmillan.

The old sixth form common room is preparing to become a South Downs library and common room for national park staff, volunteers and members and those using the hub.

“It will be accessible to the public, but not open to them,” said Mr Beattie, “so anyone who wants to use the library can do so by making an appointment. But the idea is to provide a place where people can get together and have informal meetings.

Architects have worked closely with English Heritage and reached agreement to take some walls down to make open plan areas.

Upstairs three rooms will be turned into an open plan space for offices.

And in the old attic dormitories a huge amount of work will be undertaken to provide more office space.

The 30 strong planning team will have their home in the back of the building on two floors.

But said Mr Beattie the work programme had slipped. “We had hoped to get the staff in over the summer and have it open to the community in late autumn.

“It is going to take a lot longer than we thought because of the complexity of the work, because we want to reuse as much of the materials as we can and because we are looking at the possibility of increasing the sustainability of the project.”

Now it is hoped to bring the staff in before Christmas and open to the community in the New Year 2014.

Full story in next week’s Midhurst and Petworth Observer