Bids for the Shropshire Council HQ in Abbey Foregate, Shrewsbury, to be granted listed building status are set to be rejected after Historic England judged in a report that it does not hold the required architectural or historical interest to warrant being added to the National Heritage List.
It means there will be less red tape and more freedom for whoever purchases the site, after the council made clear its intention to vacate the site and find a smaller base in the town centre.
But campaign group Save Our Shirehall believes the decision has not been adequately discussed, and virus concerns have been seized upon as an opportunity to avoid a proper and full debate.
Martina Chamberlain, from Save Our Shirehall, said: "It only just fell short of being considered a building of national significance, which is actually quite an accolade. It's almost up there with the big boys. There are lots of positive things in that report.
"Historic England is interested in buildings of national significance, not local. I think we have a duty to look after our local townscape and history.
"We should be reusing buildings, not just leaving them for the bulldozers.
"We want the whole town to start thinking and talking about this, not just a few councillors in a dark room. It should be everyone who loves our town and its history.
"There are so many staff who are upset about this. They've been told to clear their desks from departments they've worked in for years. It all adds to the stress of lockdown."
The group sent a letter to councillors addressing concerns about public access to services, environmental issues relating to the demolition, council staff being left isolated due to working from home, and what it perceives as a lack of transparency over the decision making process.
Historic England recommended that the council's request for a certificate of immunity from listing (COI) be granted, and two rival applications for listing be rejected.
A final decision will now be made by the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, after a 28-day period in which interested parties can make their final representations.
In its advisory report, Historic England acknowledged Shirehall is “undeniably a striking building” and “is the county’s major monument to postwar Modernism”.
But added: “While the Shirehall has elements that are well-composed, distinctive, and richly detailed, these make up a limited proportion of the extensive complex.”
Historic England received 24 objections to the application.
Council leader Peter Nutting welcomed the recommendation and said: “I think it will allow the council and whoever purchases the site a degree of freedom to consider all possible options for the buildings.”