Plans have been revealed for Sellafield staff to move into a town centre building in west Cumbria.

Copeland council has been working on plans to break free from a Private Finance Initiative (PFI) deal for the Copeland Centre in Whitehaven.

The final stages were completed in March and the authority now owns the building outright.

It means it now has the ability to bring more tenants in, potentially increasing income for the council.

Sellafield Ltd has revealed it is in discussions with Copeland council regarding refurbishment of the building, with some of its staff due to move into the property.

A Sellafield Ltd spokesman said: “We’re pleased to confirm agreement in principle for the long-term lease of space within the Copeland Centre. Discussions are ongoing regarding refurbishment of the building and the relocation of Sellafield Ltd employees.

“Moving employees off the Sellafield site and into neighbouring towns is part of our long term accommodation strategy. This allows us to free up space for decommissioning, reduce the pressure on the local transport network, and generate economic activity in town centres.”

The firm said it did not have a timescale for the move to be completed, due to aspects including social distancing measures.

Copeland council has become one of the first local authorities in the UK to free itself of a PFI deal, which was costing the taxpayer £1.7 million a year.

The contract, agreed with a private company and the Government in 2004, meant that, due to a later legislative change, the authority would not even have owned its headquarters at the end of the 25-year-old deal in 2029.

Copeland paid £1.7 million a year for the PFI, and received an £837,000 annual grant towards this from the Government.

Cancelling the contract allows the council to take ownership of its headquarters and begin a £1m programme of work to bring the building up to scratch.

On the Copeland Centre, a spokesman for Copeland Council said: “In March 2020, we were delighted to complete the final stages of terminating the PFI agreement on the Copeland Centre and now own the building outright.

“We are now in a position to begin work on a refurbishment of the building that will run from mid-June until October, and some Copeland council staff will relocate from the Copeland Centre while this work is taking place.”