Shrewsbury civic centre proposals to be considered by councillors
Councillors will next week (25 February 2021) be asked to support proposals for a new civic centre within Shrewsbury’s Pride Hill Centre, and to approve further work to prepare detailed designs and costings for the plans.
The report to the meeting of full Council can be seen here.
The proposed civic centre would house Shropshire Council and some of its public sector partners from autumn 2023, once the council has vacated and sold its current Shirehall headquarters.
It would include office space, meeting rooms and hospitality areas that can be occupied and rented to partners and other parties to generate additional income for the council.
If councillors agree to the recommendations, a further report – asking for a final decision – will then be presented to full Council later this year, along with a recommended option for the disposal of Shirehall.
The new civic centre would be around four-fifths smaller than Shirehall in terms of floor space, and be created and funded entirely by the sale of the Shirehall site and a grant the council has already secured.
It would also provide a major boost to Shrewsbury’s town centre’s regeneration and generate income for the council from partners who would also have office space in the centre.
A travel plan would be developed to ensure that staff, councillors and visitors can access the venue using a range of options.
In July 2020 the council agreed to stop plans to refurbish Shirehall, which would have cost £24 million, and instead to seek to move to a Shrewsbury town centre location.
This followed the coronavirus pandemic showing how the council’s need for office space had dramatically changed, with many staff now successfully working away from Shirehall.
The Pride Hill Centre has emerged as the preferred location following an independent review of five town centre sites.
Developing a civic centre at the Pride Hill Centre would cost an estimated £12.5 million, £11.5 million less than staying at Shirehall. The redevelopment work would be funded by the sale of the Shirehall site, and a £5m grant from the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership would help support the repurposing of the building.
The annual running costs associated with Shirehall were £1.3m in 2019/20. It’s estimated that around £5million needs to be spent on the building to make it health and safety compliant for the longer term.
An animation outlining the proposals
Steve Charmley, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for assets, economic growth and regeneration, said:
“These are very exciting plans and this is a very important milestone for the council, for the future of Shrewsbury town centre, and for the county.
“Recent studies as part of the Shrewsbury Big Town Plan work recognise that the relocation of Shropshire Council’s HQ to the town centre will have a significant and positive impact on the local economy, increasing the vitality and vibrancy of the town.
“More importantly this can provide a huge boost for the regeneration of Shrewsbury town centre, bring a major employer right into the heart of the town centre
“A new civic centre included in the wider development plans for the town centre and used by the council and partners would generate additional footfall and business for Shrewsbury town centre, helping to boost the economy of Shrewsbury and Shropshire.”
Peter Nutting, Leader of Shropshire Council, said:
“Our staff are our most important asset, and we’ve shown over the last nine months that the need to occupy a large headquarters building has significantly reduced as staff – and councillors – work in a more flexible and agile way using digital tools and systems.
“Staff continue to work away from their office workbase in line with Government guidance. This has provided opportunity for the council to rethink the way it works, based on greater use of technology during the pandemic, and hence our future accommodation needs.
“As well as a smaller-scale HQ in Shrewsbury we’re looking at the more flexible use of assets across the county to enable staff to work in, and closer to, local communities. A number of buildings and venues have been identified around the county for staff, councillors and partners to use.”
If councillors agree to the report’s recommendations. officers will provide a further decision report for full Council to approve the capital expenditure required to tender for and undertake the work necessary to accommodate the council’s new civic base in the Pride Hill Centre.
This report will also confirm a recommended disposal plan for the Shirehall site, which will consider the decommissioning and demolition of Shirehall and associated buildings, relocation of the ICT and telecommunications infrastructure, access and parking associated with the recreational facilities and the adjacent courts, and access to and from the site from the adjoining roads.
(1) The independent review of possible town centre sites considered three buildings owned by Shropshire Council – Guildhall, Pride Hill Shopping Centre, and Riverside Shopping Centre – and two privately-owned buildings.
The review looked at criteria including suitability, build cost, site preparation, adaptability, maintenance requirements and cost, sustainability and climate impact.
The Pride Hill Centre was considered most suitable in size, commercial opportunity and support for the town centre’s wider regeneration.
(2) The Pride Hill Centre is due to close shortly as part of wider plans to redevelop it and make the Darwin Centre Shrewsbury’s main shopping centre.
Many tenants have already relocated to the Darwin Centre from Pride Hill and, alongside the work to develop the new civic centre, it is planned to transform Pride Hill’s top floor for leisure use.
(3) The options appraisal for the civic centre was considered by the council’s Performance Management Scrutiny Committee meeting on Wednesday 20 January 2021.