The council’s decision to put the landmark Park House on the market without consulting members has caused ‘dismay’ in the opposition group.
The Horsham District Council-owned Grade II listed building in North Street is currently advertised as ‘to let/for sale’ on Crickmay Chartered Surveyors’ website.
This follows a County Times campaign in 2007 for a decision on the building’s future.
Christian Mitchell (Con, Holbrook West) welcomed the possibility of leasing the building, but argued that as a public asset it had to be handled sensitively.
He said: “Having called publicly in 2007 – some seven years ago - for Park House to be leased, this announcement is very much long overdue.
“Park House, a public asset, is a grade II building surrounded by Horsham Park and its future must be handled sensitively and with the utmost transparency.
“I am delighted it is going to cease to be a ‘bauble’ of political ego and instead generate much needed income for the benefit of council tax payers.”
But Frances Haigh (LDem, Horsham Park), leader of the Lib Dem Group, said her party was ‘dismayed’ at the news that Park House was being marketed by HDC without approval from Full Council.
“Park House is a Grade II listed building owned by HDC on behalf of the community and it should be kept for the community,” she added.
“It is typical of the current Conservative Cabinet that they only see pound signs.
“Having already tried to destroy Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre and the Indoor Bowls Club, and leased out the Old Town Hall, you have to wonder if they have any sense of civic values or pride at all.”
She hoped it could be used as an extension to Horsham Museum, and if any plans were put forward they should not include any parkland.
A spokesperson for HDC said that because of reductions in staff numbers it had more accommodation than it needed, and is exploring moving its operations to County Hall North with West Sussex County Council.
The spokesperson added: “In order to develop a full business case for such a move, we shall need to have further detailed discussions with the county council and establish what external interest there could be in our existing buildings and their potential value.”
But Mr Mitchell questioned why the council were using Crickmay, who are involved in proposals for 2,500 homes north of Horsham.
He explained: “The council needs to explain why they chose Crickmay and what thought, if any, was given to due diligence and the public reaction to their choice.”
Crickmay’s advert says the Register Office has a lease on part of the ground floor up to September 2019.