Council set to abandon plan to convert shopping centre into new Shirehall

Plans to create a new Shirehall in one of Shrewsbury's council-owned shopping centres look set to be abandoned, throwing its future into doubt.

The plans to move Shropshire Council's Shirehall to the former Pride Hill Shopping Centre look to have been abandoned
The plans to move Shropshire Council's Shirehall to the former Pride Hill Shopping Centre look to have been abandoned

Shropshire Council says that surveys have "created concern" that the former Pride Hill Shopping Centre would provide a suitable location for a new 'Shirehall'.

The council closed the shopping centre earlier this year after deciding it wanted to sell Shirehall and move to a new base in the shopping centre.

As part of the closure a number of shops have moved to The Darwin Centre – also owned by Shropshire Council.

A report detailing the council's future plans for the Pride Hill centre will be discussed at a meeting of the authority next week – although officials have decided that the contents of the report will remain secret and the discussion will take place behind closed doors.

Ahead of the meeting on Thursday, September 23, a statement has been released outlining the authority's position on the site.

The decision to abandon plans to move Shirehall to Pride Hill would throw the future of the site into further doubt, with no confirmation of any plan for its future use.

It is the latest development in the council's ownership of the shopping centres – bought in a much-criticised £51m deal in 2018.

The valuation of the sites has plummeted since the purchase and stood at just £12,350,000 earlier this year.

The council has consistently argued the purchase of the sites – Pride Hill, Darwin, and Riverside – will give it control over the redevelopment of Shrewsbury's town centre, and will pay long-term dividends.

But the prospect of abandoning the idea of moving Shirehall into Pride Hill would mark a significant turnaround from February, when the council voted to proceed with the plan.

At that point the council gave authority to senior officer Mark Barrow to commission 'detailed design costings for the proposed refurbishment plan for the Pride Hill shopping centre'.

It is unclear how much has been spent on the work.

It also appears the council is set to commission a fresh report looking at plans for the redevelopment of Pride Hill, the Raven Meadows surface car park and the Riverside area – work it expects to complete by Spring next year.

In a statement on the future Councillor Dean Carroll, Portfolio Holder for Assets, said examinations had shown issues with making Pride Hill the new 'civic centre'.

He added that the focus would now be on an overall plan for the area.

He said: “By bringing together the former Pride Hill centre site, the Raven Meadows surface car park and the Riverside area, the council is in control of the major development site which will shape the future of the town centre.

“Previous reports identified potential uses in keeping with the national changing retail and leisure landscape together with feedback through the Big Town Plan channels. In keeping with earlier recommendations, this Gateway Review focused on Pride Hill as one of the potential sites suitable for the council’s future civic accommodation requirements.

“However, further surveys have created concern that the Pride Hill site will not provide the high quality, sustainable or cost-effective office environment sought for the future.”

Councillor Ed Potter, portfolio holder for economic growth, regeneration and planning, added: “The pandemic has impacted the role of town centres across the UK, forcing Councils to look closely at changes in lifestyle, work and shopping patterns.

"With Darwin now established as the premier covered shopping destination, the adjacent development site can be considered for civic, cultural and commercial use including offices, residential, leisure and hospitality. The new civic hub is to be considered within these proposals.”

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