The proposed new civic centre in Harrow is likely to be smaller and less expensive following changes to working habits in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

A report presented to Harrow Council’s overview and scrutiny committee on Monday (May 17) suggested new proposals will see the building – earmarked for Wealdstone town centre – be around a third of the size in terms of floorspace.

Developer Wates had initially proposed a six-storey building incorporating around 73,000sq ft of floorspace and 40 basement parking spaces, which was expected to cost at least £42 million.

The new scheme – estimated to cost around £20 million less – is set to have approximately 20,000sq ft of floorspace, though the full car parking provision, described by Wates as the maximum feasible, would be maintained.

Cllr Graham Henson (Lab, Roxbourne), leader of Harrow Council, explained there is no longer a need for such a large civic centre as the approach to services has changed following the pandemic.

It is likely fewer people will be working there at any one time as more staff operate remotely or on a hybrid basis.

“There’s no point having a whacking great civic centre if it’s not going to be used,” Cllr Henson said.

The committee report explained there will be office space for around 100 staff, while the civic centre will still act as the key hub for council activity.

This includes the mayor’s parlour, a main council meeting room, smaller rooms for council and community activities, a café, and public space on the ground floor.

The move to a new civic centre has been a contentious issue, with opposition councillors criticising the administration’s approach prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

Cllr Paul Osborn (Pinner), leader of Harrow Conservatives, previously described the move as “the biggest mistake in a generation” and suggested it could leave the council facing serious financial problems in the future.

He subsequently called for the scheme to be paused – given its scale and cost – to give the council the best opportunity to combat the impact of the pandemic and then assess how to proceed.

And Cllr Stephen Greek (Con, Harrow Weald) pointed out there are still potential issues attached to the revised plans, such as the limited amount of parking on offer, especially compared to the current site.