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A modern approach for a traditional council

Mole Valley District Council Logo

Mole Valley District Council is nestled in the North Downs in Dorking, Surrey. A typical local authority dealing with a variety of administrative and social needs of their local community, they had been homed in the 1980’s building, designed to complement the local heritage of Oust Houses, for over 30 years when it became apparent that a change was needed.

What was the challenge?

The building was becoming unfit for purpose. A lack of natural light, struggling HVAC facilities and furniture that was designed for 80’s CRT screens and now redundant technology were all showing their age. The council decided to undertake an options appraisal – whether to build somewhere new, move to a better site or refurbish their existing site.

Realising the financial and strategic benefits of staying in-situ, the council looked to find ways to improve their offices, introduce new ways of working and create a more contemporary interior that would attract and retain the skilled staff required to run a modern local authority.

What we did

Kinnarps had supplied odd pieces of furniture in the past on a needs basis, as small top-ups were required to simply keep the office working. So we were invited to propose and pilot some new ideas for desking and meeting spaces. Clusters of 6 desks were trialled with staff, including the allowance to make personal choices on local storage and different specifications of workstation. The idea was to be as flexible as possible and to embrace new technology, such as flat screens on straight desks.

“A major refurbishment is a complex challenge and I wanted to ensure we used a furniture supplier who could deliver a large project on time and to budget,” says Jason Hughes, Facilities Manager. “Kinnarps had been one of the suppliers providing small amounts of furniture over the previous 5 years or so and had proven to be a safe pair of hands I could trust.”

Once the final specification had been decided and budgets approved, Kinnarps were tasked with delivering a wide variety of furniture over a period of time in phases. Jason planned a system of decant space for teams to move to temporarily, while each section of the building was refurbished and the new furniture was installed by the Kinnarps team.

He also wanted to break the traditional silo mentality that the old layouts supported and develop a more flexible workspace. So, although team areas were each given their own colour theme to give a sense of belonging, the new common meeting and project areas were identified with an orange colour scheme that communicated that no one ‘owned the space’.


The result is a bright, attractive and flexible space that brings the council into a more modern way of thinking, without losing the conventional standards of a local authority.

Jason is pleased with the result: “Before we began the journey we had just over 250 workstations in a layout that was dark and uninspiring, with disjointed team structures plus light and air flow issues,” he says. “The new layouts are fresh, inviting and more purposeful for today’s council. We are losing the silo mentality and working more in linked teams. The building now houses over 320 workplaces with some built-in flexibility and a clear structured colour scheme. It has transformed the way we work.”