Nottingham councillors have agreed to sell part of the historic Council House complex in Old Market Square.
The sale relates to offices above the Exchange Buildings to the rear of the Council House, and does not affect the shops on the ground floor, or the main Council House itself, which the council still uses for ceremonial reasons.
Opposition councillors challenged the decision, saying it amounted to ‘selling off the family silver, without even telling the family first’.
But the leader of Nottingham City Council said the buildings had been vacant for several years, and that it was in the best interests of the city that it be sold.
He said the buildings were in need of significant renovation, and were costing £90,000 a year to keep empty.
The Labour-run council made the decision to sell the building last month, but this was opposed by Clifton Independent and Conservative councillors – a process known as ‘calling in’ – meaning a special meeting was held today (Friday, September 18) to give a final verdict.
During the meeting, the leader of the Clifton Independents Kevin Clarke, who represents Clifton East, called for a full public consultation to be held before the sale was agreed.
He said: “Let’s learn from the lessons of the past month.
“I think it would be a mistake to underestimate the strength of public feeling in this matter. This council has been widely accused of a lack of clarity and a lack of accountability of late, accusations which the council has accepted and promised to remedy.
“This is an opportunity to demonstrate that we’ve learned the lessons of the Robin Hood Energy debacle, and we are now an open and honest council which cares about the wishes of the voter and is willing to take their wishes on board in our decision making.”
“It’s time to demonstrate more scrutiny and transparency, not less. I urge you to consider the merits and consequences of this political sale, and not make a hasty and irreversible decision, based on a rash reaction to the current situation.
“Once the Exchange Building is sold, that is permanent, and no amount of regret will be able to reverse it.”
Councillor David Mellen is the leader of the council, and represents the Dales ward.
He said: “The status of this building as a listed building will preserve the heritage for anyone who wants to buy the building and convert it in some way, they won’t be able to do it in any way they want to, they will have to preserve the culture of it.
“I love this city as much as anybody else, and I would do nothing to hurt its heritage.
“I believe these buildings, which are part of the Council House complex but not including the Council House, are absolutely legitimate to be going forward and offered for sale.
“This is about underpinning our ambitious capital programme, and attracting further investment into our city.”