Friday 21 June 2024
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County Council could leave County Hall

Nottinghamshire County Council could move out of County Hall in West Bridgford because its maintenance and improvement costs are expected to reach “tens of millions of pounds” over the next few years.

The landmark headquarters, built on the banks of the River Trent in the 1930s and opened in 1946, house the council’s chamber for meetings alongside services and support offices.

However, the authority is planning a new £15.7 million centre at Top Wighay Farm in Linby and has been assessing all its existing buildings to see if it can save money.

And opposition councillors have long suggested the new offices will lead to the Conservative-led authority selling off its County Hall home, describing it as the “worst-kept secret” in Nottinghamshire.

Council Leader Ben Bradley (Con) has confirmed for the first time the authority is considering a full or partial move out of County Hall, which could then be sold.

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He also said it is “too early” to say what will happen for certain, and added the proposals will be included in an ongoing asset management scrutiny review.

The assessments, which come as part of the Investing in Nottinghamshire programme, have already seen the authority’s office portfolio reduced from 17 buildings to nine and brought savings of more than £1m per year.

It comes alongside the plans to bring the new Top Wighay office to fruition in what will be the authority’s first completely carbon-neutral office space.

The asset review, confirmed by cabinet member Cllr Keith Girling last week, will see a new place committee assessing the wider building portfolio before deciding for certain what to do with County Hall.

Staff working at the building, which sits within the Rushcliffe area boundary, will also be consulted on their views.

“County Hall is our biggest, oldest and most expensive building so it’s logical that we include it in the conversation,” Cllr Bradley said.

“A lot of the figures suggest that in order to maintain it given the nature of it, to keep it at the standard it needs to be, it’s going to cost us tens of millions of pounds over the next few years.

“I think it’s logical to suggest, given the costs and the inefficiencies of the building, that we would either change the way we use it or vacate it.

“There’s obviously a question of where we go, Top Wighay would be one of the options and we’ve also got Trent Bridge House just over the road here, but these are questions and not answers.

“We’re certainly looking at it, is the honest answer, and it’s important to be careful managing that process so any decision we do make will be subject to cross-party scrutiny, consultation with staff and we will go through that.

“Things will inevitably change, but we can’t yet be clear on what that will be.”

It comes after opposition Independent Alliance councillors raised concerns over a County Hall sale and suggested this was the authority’s plan “all along”.

Cllr Francis Purdue-Horan (Ind), who represents Bingham East, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “The fact that the Conservatives want to sell County Hall is Nottinghamshire’s worst kept secret.

“Everyone knows County Hall is prime real estate.

“We’ve always felt the real reason they are building the new £15.7million office block at Top Wighay near Hucknall is that they are considering selling County Hall to the highest bidder.

“They should have been more honest about this from the start.”

Cllr Bradley said he could not comment what would happen to County Hall if the authority did decide to sell it, or how much the building would be worth.

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