A decision by Nottingham City Council to sell part of Nottingham’s most famous building has been strongly condemned by opposition councillors.
The council plans to sell Grade II former council offices above the Exchange Arcade to developers, as they have been unused for five years
But this plan has now been formally challenged and the case to keep them in the council’s possession will now be heard at a specially-convened meeting next week.
There are no plans to sell the shop, or the part of the building which faces Old Market Square, which is still used for ceremonial uses and can be hired.
Opposition councillors say there has been no consultation with the public about ‘selling off the family jewellery’, and one claimed other prominent buildings could be next if sales were allowed to go through without the public being involved.
Councillor Roger Steel represents Clifton North for the Conservatives, and said: “While I appreciate there is a need to balance the books after the extraordinary losses at Robin Hood Energy, this is not a suitable way forward.
“The Council House is one of the city’s prime assets and architecturally outstanding.
“We demand there are no more fire sales like Robin Hood Energy.
“I object to selling the family silver. Have not the lessons been learned from the demolition of the Black Boy Hotel opposite, one of Watson Fothergill’s magnificent creations lost forever, now a Primark.
“Labour needs to think again, and most importantly, we must have a city-wide consultation with all of our residents.”
A report on the issue for Nottingham City Council says “The Exchange Buildings is a Grade II listed building of 30,000 square feet in the centre of Nottingham.
“It has previously been used by the council as office accommodation, but it has been vacant for the past five years as no other use has been found.
“The premises would require considerable refurbishment and upgrading prior to re-occupation, and remains costly to maintain despite being vacant, so it is proposed to sell the surplus building.”
Councillor Kevin Clarke is the leader of the Clifton Independents, and represents the Clifton East ward.
He said the public hadn’t been asked what they want to happen to a building they own, and that not enough detail had been provided by the city council about its plan.
“There has been no consultation with Nottingham Civic Society on the history and preservation of the historical buildings and certainly no consultation with members of the public to the selling-off of the family jewellery.
“I ask the question what is next? The castle perhaps?
“There is no detail on how the annual maintenance cost is comprised to see if savings are possible.
“No breakdown has been provided evidencing how the refurbishment costs have been calculated.
“There is also no detail on alternative options considered, across different sectors, for example residential, retail and office.
“The council also hasn’t provided any evidence that they’ve looked into alternative methods of renovating the site while keeping it under council control.”
The decision by the city council to sell part of the building has been officially challenged – known as ‘called in’, by three councillors: Councillor Roger Steel, Conservative, Clifton North; Councillor Maria Watson, Clifton Independents, Clifton East; and Councillor Kevin Clarke; Clifton Independents, Clifton East.
It means a special hearing will be heard on Friday, September 18 when the council will decide whether to uphold the decision.
Councillor David Mellen, Leader of Nottingham City Council, said: “The Exchange Buildings are one of a number of council-owned properties which were identified for possible sale as part of the wider workplace strategy programme.
“This aimed to consolidate services, where appropriate, into a single headquarters base, so as to improve efficiency and avoid having small numbers of staff occupying individual buildings.
“Before a property is deemed surplus, we look at every option available for an alternative council use.
“This has been the case with Exchange Buildings but no viable proposition has emerged and the upstairs office space has laid empty for a number of years since community protection colleagues moved into Byron House.
“Clearly an empty building in a prime city-centre location is not a productive use, and does not provide an economic return for the council.
“By offering the site for sale, we hope to secure a strong capital receipt at the same time as facilitating a new and beneficial use of this property.”