THE \u00A323million replacement of Huntingdonshire District Council's headquarters and operations centre started last week with a planning application for a new depot. Operations staff will move from Godmanchester - along with the remainder of the HDC fleet from depots in St Ives and St Neots - to a new site off Latham Road, on an industrial estate off the A141 in the north of Huntingdon, if the \u00A36.1million plans are approved. In addition to the operations activity, which includes refuse collection, recycling and street cleaning, the new building is expected to house the district's closed circuit television control room and the council's mailroom and printing and training facilities. When it opens, it will free the narrow streets in Godmanchester's conservation area of the daily stream of refuse vehicles travelling to and from the riverside depot. Relocating the Godmanchester depot is key to HDC's plans for rebuilding its Pathfinder House headquarters in St Mary's Street. The depot will be used as a temporary home for around one third of the council's HQ staff during work to construct four replacement office buildings over the next three years. Because HDC is the planning authority, consent will be needed from the Government Office for the East of England, if the headquarters project is to go ahead. However, HDC's own development control panel will determine the application for the depot. The St Mary's Street buildings will cost \u00A316.2million, net of the proceeds of the sale of the Grade II listed Castle Hill House next door. The \u00A31.1million balance represents the direct costs to HDC outside the contract with Alfred McAlpine Capital Projects for the HQ and depot. In a lengthy statement this week, HDC leader Councillor Ian Bates said: "The Government is currently considering a possible reorganisation of local authorities, but every indication is that there will not be any significant alteration to the structure of councils in Cambridgeshire. "In any event, the new headquarters buildings have been designed to offer a good deal of flexibility, which would enable one or more of the new office blocks to be let or sold, if requirements were to change in the coming years. "The reality is that to do nothing with Pathfinder House is not an option. Repairs to the existing structure would be expensive and disruptive and would not deliver the modern, flexible, accommodation that is needed. "The three-year project will enable the council to greatly improve the delivery of and access to services. It will deliver long-term cost savings and significantly contribute to the redevelopment of Huntingdon, providing buildings for our communities of which the district can be proud. "Both the headquarters and operations buildings are being designed to provide high levels of energy efficiency and incorporate the principles of sustainable development. "I am convinced that the project offers value for money and, when completed, will offer the people significantly better access to council services in an environment fit for the 21st century.