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Regional publisher to stay in current HQ despite sale of property

A regional publisher is set to stay in its current city centre headquarters despite agreeing a deal to sell the property.

Archant has sold its Prospect House base to the Alan Boswell Group, a Norfolk-based insurance company.

The move will see Archant titles including the Eastern Daily Press and the Norwich Evening News remain in the city centre building, with the exterior signage also retained.

Both companies will occupy the site from 2020, with Archant being based on the first floor following renovation work.

Archant's Norwich headquarters

Archant’s Norwich headquarters

In an announcement to staff, which has been seen by HTFP, Archant chairman Simon Bax said: “We have always said our intention was to remain in the city centre within the heart of our communities and close to the amenities and transport links many of our staff depend on.

“This view was overwhelmingly supported by staff and therefore I’m delighted to tell you that we shall be staying in the building.

“Something we can all agree on is that Prospect House is not filled to the rafters and has too much space for our needs. We have conducted a number of studies as to how much space we require so that all current staff can be accommodated. Therefore, we will be leasing back the first floor from the new owners.

“Furthermore we are going to take the opportunity to create a workspace for Archant that reflects a modern day media company An environment that when coupled with our new IT kit will be up to date, flexible and comfortable.”

Archant first announced its intention to sell Prospect House, where it has been based since the late 1960s, in 2017.

7 comments

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  • November 7, 2019 at 1:13 pm
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    You are left with the feeling that a sale of the whole site for redevelopment would have earned Archant far more than this seemingly desperate, quick measure of having to offload the existing (overpriced) building for someone else to be able to make a profit from one day. This is the last piece of family silver left; what now?

    Three other initial points spring to mind…

    When Prospect House was designed in 1969 it was never envisaged as ever needing to be split up. The lifts and stairs especially are in awkward positions when it comes to reconfiguring the building for two different companies. There’s going to be a lot of new swipe cards needed.

    As Archant has continually cut back on staff levels it is true that it doesn’t require three-and-a-half floors. However, it needs more than one. There are going to have to be a few people made to work remotely, and cuts to the army of middle managers are surely now on the way – there simply won’t be office space for them all. And what about the basement – will the canteen facilities now be for Alan Boswell instead of or as well as Archant? And the editorial library and bound-volume storage area? If they move to the first floor that’s a few more staff members who might have to make way.

    Car parking: as someone on Twitter noted I’ll bet Archant don’t get many spaces. At the moment the vast majority of them are allocated to individuals or departments; there are going to be quite a few people who have to make alternative arrangements and in the centre of Norwich that won’t be cheap.

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  • November 7, 2019 at 1:44 pm
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    Q: is Simon Bax is able to reassure staff that not only will there will be “no moving out” but that no more staff will be forced to work mobile and no more jobs will be cut as a result of this sale of the building? (as opposed to selling the site to a developer their preferred choice but with no takers due to being overpriced they’ve had to compromise and sell it as office space)
    It will be difficult to give those assurance as the only way there will be enough space for essential office based workers is if the company thins out it’s non productive staff via a cull or continues with its mobile working policy.

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  • November 7, 2019 at 3:08 pm
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    It’s a good idea to stay in the city centre – it retains the physical link with the people/readers with all the shared community benefits that follow.
    However, unless there is a reception desk on the ground floor with welcoming and knowledgeable staff, reporters on the first floor may just as well be based on some remote industrial estate.

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  • November 7, 2019 at 3:17 pm
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    The U turn in selling Prospect House as a going concern rather than for development has been forced upon them by lack of interest so it’s all very well trying to put a happy clappy spin on things but they’ll be smarting at losing money by going this quick sale route and with limited space available to them clearly further cuts will need to be made……but where?

    The only options appear to be reducing FTEs, something they’ll be wary of in light of the county wide outrage and fall out following last months Thorpe Print Centre closure and redundancies announcement.
    They’ve already declared an ongoing policy of branch office closures and downgrades with district staff working from home and believe businesses prefer an online advertising option rather than seeing face to face ad reps so it doesn’t bode well for field reps based in Norwich, and with no more offices left to close the most likely route would appear to be more mobile working for those in non office based roles, it’s that or job cuts over the coming weeks. the traditional pre Christmas culling season.

    One floor of the head office building isn’t enough to accommodate those currently based there so something needs to give and, in my view, cutting out the non productive managerial deadwood seems to be the most obvious and less damaging choice.

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  • November 7, 2019 at 3:42 pm
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    Re your second point @onetimesub
    the communication from Simon Bax clearly states they have conducted studies as to how much space they will need so that all current staff can be accommodated which must mean no staff will be made redundant or moved out.
    I can read it no other way so anything other than retaining all existing Norwich based staff within the building will be seen as the chairman going back on his word and I’m sure he wouldn’t do that.

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  • November 8, 2019 at 5:22 pm
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    It all smells a bit fishy to me.
    Why not lease the floor to Boswell Group and let them support the cost of staying in the building? Presumably Archant prefers a short-term one-off hike to its finances rather than cushion and protect the long-term future of its newspapers.
    The first rent review will be the excuse for an exit…

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  • November 8, 2019 at 7:35 pm
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    Whoever’s responsible for issuing company statements these days needs to go.

    Why didn’t they just come out and say we couldn’t sell the building for development as hoped for due to the price we were asking being prohibitive, therefore we have sold it to Boswell’s and will be leasing one floor of the building for our own usage. As a result of this we are unable to open a city centre office as planned and whilst we aim to accommodate all current head office staff it may involve some changes to working practices or possible remote working for some of the sales staff whose roles are customer. We will update you all further once we are able to do so.

    Surely that’s better than the unprofessional and gushing ‘wow! It’s great!’ provincial radio presenter way this company message has been communicated.

    This type of corporate BS fools no one and simply serves to alienate the board and senior managers from the general workers, people they should be bending over backwards to get on their side.

    Being open and honest used to be two of Archants core principles and watchwords but sadly no longer. It’s gone from a highly regarded ultra professional well run and managed regional publishing group to little more than a sweat shop where the staff are spoken down to and treated with contempt, and that doesn’t bode well for the future

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