WEST Dorset District Council’s new offices in Dorchester are now open to the public.

Staff have begun the move to the controversial new offices in Charles Street and the reception and public areas of South Walks House have been opened.

The move will take place in several stages and is expected to be completed by January 21.

Council leader Robert Gould said: “We are very pleased we are here on time as we said we would open before the end of the year.

“The main thing is we are open to the public in a way we never have been before with the accessibility and ease of access both for the public and for our members of staff.”

Councillor Gould said the new offices would also make it easier for different departments to work together, as the old offices at Stratton House were spread over a number of buildings.

He said this was particularly important in light of the move to joint partnership working with Weymouth and Portland Borough Council.

The council aims to save £200,000 a year through the move to the new offices, which are more efficient and environmentally friendly as they have been built to modern design standards and have solar panels in the roof.

The new democratic area also offers a flexible space that can be separated into several smaller rooms or opened up as a space capable of accommodating around 250 people.

Coun Gould said this would be particularly valuable for council meetings where there is strong public interest.

He said the space would also be very much a community asset that various groups could use when it is not in use by the council.

Coun Gould said: “It can be used any time of the day by outside organisations and we have already had quite a bit of interest from other bodies wanting to use it.

“It’s a public building for public use and that’s what we want.”

He added that the first phase of the move had gone smoothly and staff who had relocated so far appeared to be happy in their new surroundings.

As well as the reception staff and duty officers, democratic services and the management team have also relocated to the new building.

Coun Gould said: “All the general queries the public are likely to have can be dealt with if they come to see us in reception, even if not all the staff are in the building.”

Jubilee Tree Takes Pride Of Place

A TREE celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee year will take pride of place at West Dorset District Council’s new offices.

A plaque beside the lime tree has been commemorated by council chairman Gillian Summers.

She said: “I thought it was appropriate that we should mark 2012, the Queen’s wonderful Diamond Jubilee year.

“Now seemed a good opportunity to have the ceremony as the council offices are open to the public, and the landscaping work, which includes lots of new green space, is being completed.”

The new offices will bring 1,500 square metres of new green space to the county town.