Saturday 24 February 2024
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County Hall: Riverside apartments and restaurants could be good use of building

Early assessments on the future use of County Hall after Nottinghamshire County Council moves out suggest the building could accommodate 350 residential units and major commercial space.

Nottinghamshire County Council has approved plans to leave the West Bridgford building after more than 75 years.

It will instead relocate its primary civic functions – including its democratic services and debating chamber – to a new building at Top Wighay, near Hucknall.

The move has been on the horizon for several months because of the soaring cost of modernising and and maintaining the Loughborough Road building.

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County Hall West Bridgford

This includes £1.7m in annual running costs, a repairs backlog of £30m and £28m to bring it up to modern environmental standards.

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The new Top Wighay building, which is forecast to cost £18.3m, will be all-electric and low-carbon and is expected to cost significantly less to run.

The decision to relocate was backed despite concerns from both main opposition groups during the full council meeting on Thursday (July 13).

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Prior to approving the relocation, the Conservative administration said no decisions have been made on the future use of County Hall.

Residents, developers, community and heritage groups will now be asked for their views on the best uses for the historic building.

A council report has revealed discussions on the future use of the building took place last year.

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A “cross-section” of regeneration specialists had been approached by the authority’s in-house developer Arc Partnership at the time of the report’s publication in November last year.

The report says some parties “felt the [re]development has the potential to set new benchmarks for values in Nottingham”.

The document, which was discussed by a behind-closed-doors ‘task and finish’ group of councillors in the same month, then outlines how the building could be redeveloped.

It says the building would “suit a mix of residential tenures” as well as commercial units like restaurants, working spaces, a creche and a gym.

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The “initial thinking” included about 350 residential units and about 2,500 square metres of commercial use across the existing ‘H block’.

It adds developers believe the site could accommodate private, for sale, build-to-rent and senior living housing on the riverside.

New buildings could also be built to the north and south of the existing building to “open up views through the site” near the banks of the River Trent.

The long-term plan is to protect and gain listed status for the existing building – including its iconic green roof and statues.

Councillor Ben Bradley MP (Con), the council’s leader, presented the relocation plans to the meeting on Thursday.

Speaking on the report, he insisted no decisions on the future use of the building have been made and said this only outlines the viability of County Hall.

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He said: “It’s still an open book and we’re going to have conversations about its best uses and about whether this building is viable or not.”

“In order to do this, we have to consider what potential other uses there are.

“Arc has done the work on the condition study of the building, what it is and what its potential other uses are.

“This doesn’t mean we’ve decided anything.

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“We haven’t been out to any commercial developers on this because Arc is a developer and a wholly-owned company of the council.”

During the debate on Thursday, Labour councillors called for the authority to publish the report and outline a business case for the future plans at County Hall.

Cllr Kate Foale, the group’s leader, said it is “disingenuous at best” asking councillors to vote for the relocation without a long-term plan for County Hall.

Commenting on the report, a Labour spokesperson added: “This demonstrates the lack of transparency and accountability regarding how decisions under the Conservatives are made.

“Our members are concerned about reported council documents making reference to the views of developers and the future of County Hall, as these could indicate that discussions have taken place.

“Any detail relating to so-called market testing activity should have been made public to prior to today’s vote and now needs to be released immediately.”

The Independent Alliance group raised concerns in the debate about both the cost of the new building and the impact on Hucknall’s infrastructure.

Cllr Lee Waters (Ash Ind), who represents Hucknall South, said: “We always said [the council] wants to flog County Hall to the highest bidder.

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“We always said the costs would spiral out of control and they have increased significantly and will continue to increase.”

However, the relocation was approved with 32 votes for and 26 against.

It means the authority will officially leave County Hall and move to Top Wighay once construction concludes on the new building in winter 2024/25.

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