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RIP Dorcan House

This week they are clearing the site where Dorcan House stood, the last part of it having been pulled down last week. As most of you reading this will not of heard of the building you probably are thinking “So what?” Well read on.

Dorcan House featured large in my professional career between 1983 and 2000, with it being part of the property portfolio that I managed for the last four of those years. Events at and around the building mark some high and low points in my life.

It’s an odd name isn’t it? Dorcan is a suburb of Swindon, but Dorcan House was actually in the neighbouring suburb of Eldene. It was built in the early 70s as part of the eastern expansion of the town and under the policy of mixing commercial and residential development to encourage people to walk to work. It was built in three wings, attached in a staggered line and was not unattractive from the outside. Overall there was about 100,000 sq feet of floor space and the business I worked for rented two of the three wings with the other rented by an oil company.

I first came across it in my IT days when one of the London groups I was working on software for moved there. The following year I relocated to a site round the corner and would often pass DH on the ‘bus to and from work as well as walking over for the odd meeting.

My first emotional tie came when I went over for a promotion interview. A sudden shower caught me half way and I arrived soaked, made a mess of the interview and didn’t get the job. Some years later it was the venue for a series of disciplinary interviews where I sacked five people, the process for which meant that I heard their cases the week before Christmas and delivered the outcomes the week after. The law is sometimes an ass, and the process to stay within it can be a real donkey, but that’s HR for you.

DH was the scene of a triumph though, when we put a business unit in there working a the principle that less that 40% of them were ever in on the same day so they only got that amount of workstations. We took advantage of a lease break on another building along the road and got our quart into a pint pot (appropriate really as it was the catering people). The project was dreamt up by their MD and I over lunch with the key objectives written on a paper napkin. We pulled off a double move with significant remodelling in just under ten weeks and saved the company overall over a million a year.

There was a sting in the tail on this project as when we sent the paperwork through to the corporate real estate team to have the redundant building, which was in Dorcan, removed from the register they deleted Dorcan House by mistake. It took me almost a year, and having to have a quiet word with the group MD, to get that sorted out. The stupidity of rigid process again.

So an admin person in Leeds, and some slack management on that team, fifteen years or so ago have finally been proved right now and Dorcan House really has ceased to exist. The last property strategy that I wrote for that organisation had proposed that we would vacate ten years ago. I had moved on by then and it took my successors an extra two years, but I wasn’t far off in the end.

Next year I will pop into the supermarket that is being built there for groceries. It will seem odd to begin with, but things change as time moves on. Dorcan House was a modern building when it went up and an operating life of forty years was not too bad. It is a reminder thar nothing is permanent; we have to move on.


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