Move from Shirehall to new £12.5 million council HQ edges a step closer

A move from Shirehall to a new £12.5m Pride Hill Centre HQ in Shrewsbury has moved a step closer for Shropshire Council.

Shropshire Council's Shirehall HQ
Shropshire Council's Shirehall HQ

Councillors voted in favour of progressing to the next phase of the process, which will involve compiling a detailed design for the new civic centre and providing in-depth costings.

A heated debate took place at a virtual full council meeting today, before 47 councillors voted in favour of the plan and 10 against. Three members abstained.

Councillor Steve Charmley, portfolio holder for assets, economic growth and regeneration, said: "The move into Pride Hill will reduce our carbon footprint, have a positive impact on the town centre economy, reduce our running costs, be an important step in delivering the Big Town Plan in Shrewsbury and create a better working environment."

Councillor Pam Moseley raised concerns over whether the tennis courts, the Unison club and other sports facilities next to Shirehall may be lost as part of the sale of the building. Peter Nutting, leader of the council, said he felt confident to "pretty much guarantee forever" that the sports fields would remain, but said the courts were rarely used and most of the tennis is played at Town Walls and The Shrewsbury Club.

Cleobury Mortimer independent councillor Madge Shineton said she had concerns over the "iconic" Shirehall being demolished, and said keeping examples of 60s architecture was as important as retaining Tudor and Georgian properties elsewhere in Shrewsbury. Councillor Nutting disagreed, saying the building is "a big, ugly lump of concrete", and it's an "embarrassing" example of architecture from the decade.

Income

Longden councillor Roger Evans said if offices move into the Pride Hill Centre, people will only be there 9-5 from Monday to Friday, and that area of town "will be dead" during evenings and weekends.

"I will not be supporting this," he said. "It goes too far, too fast."

Councillor Nutting argued that office workers with disposable income would spend money in their lunch breaks and in the evenings after work if they were in the town centre, and pointed out that leisure facilities would occupy the upper floor, attracting money to the town.

Oswestry councillor Joyce Barrow said she saw a social media post from a friend who worked at Shirehall which said: "It's hot in the summer and freezing in the winter. I've had good times there but hope I never have to work there again."

Councillor David Vasmer, who represents Underdale in Shrewsbury, criticised the council's decision to spend £51m on the shopping centres, which according to their latest valuation are now worth £17m.

Castlefields and Ditherington councillor Alan Mosley, who has been heavily involved with the Shrewsbury Big Town Plan, said he was against spending the money on the centres, but added: "Nevertheless, we are where we are. This (proposed move) seems to have positive things all over the place."

He criticised Councillor Evans for "not listening to the discussions in the Big Town Festival", in which experts described the way retail is changing in town centres and how they believe Shrewsbury should evolve to thrive in the future.

Councillor Charmley added that this is a "cost neutral" venture, not like some councils which have spent money on "shiny new buildings they can't afford" before selling them and leasing them back.

The Shirehall was built to the designs of the County Architects’ Department and structural engineers Ove Arup and Partners – who have a significant role in architectural history, having worked on a host of major projects including the Sydney Opera House.

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