Campaigners say voters would prefer Shirehall revamp over 'waste of money' new council HQ

Campaigners believe demolishing an iconic council HQ in favour of a multi-million pound civic hub would be unpopular with voters and a "waste of money".

The Save Our Shirehall group has carried out a survey among county residents, asking whether they thought Shropshire Council should spend the money on a new Shrewsbury town centre office as planned or invest £4 to £5 million in refurbishing its Abbey Foregate building.

The group says 96.8 per cent backed refurbishing Shirehall. The campaigners' architects and engineers assessment, they say, forecasts a refurbishment to cost up to £5 million. However, the council abandoned plans in 2019 to revamp Shirehall - work which the authority predicted would cost more than £24 million.

On the Save Our Shirehall survey, group member Martina Chamberlain said: “We approached a couple of hundred people at random on the streets of Ludlow and Shrewsbury and found very little support for the idea of a new Shirehall. Many people expressed anger that 'more of our money is being wasted again like on the shopping centres' and it was ‘a no-brainer’ that they should refurbish the current building which also serves the county better on the present site.

"This new build will be a very unpopular move with voters, especially in financially difficult times and when continued use of a refurbished Shirehall is the only financial and environmental responsible option."

Fellow member Sally Stote added: "It is clear what Shropshire people want. Had we asked people in every Shropshire town, village and hamlet we think the results would be very similar."

The campaigners have been calling for Shirehall to be saved for many years. They say the large grey building, which was officially opened by the late Queen Elizabeth II in 1967, is of important historical significance. However an attempt to get English Heritage to give it a certificate of immunity was rejected in October 2020 as it did not meet the criteria.

The council is expected to remain at Shirehall until new offices are built. The authority wants to build a 'multi-agency hub' as part of plans for a major re-development of the Riverside area in Shrewsbury.

The site would have space for around 200 workers, and the council said it wanted to occupy the offices by 2026 – although as yet there is no firm date over when any of the Riverside project will be completed.

A spokesman said recently: "As we’ve previously stated, we are planning to leave Shirehall and move to a new council office and multi-agency hub as part of the Shrewsbury town centre regeneration scheme.

"Office hubs will also continue to be available for staff and councillors to use in other areas of the county, providing desks/office space outside of Shrewsbury for staff who require it.

"This autumn we will make some small improvements to our office accommodation to better meet the needs of staff who use the buildings occasionally for specific purposes and for those who are more frequent users – as well as the needs of councillors.

"With fewer staff using Shirehall, less space is required and only the ground, first and second floors are now available to use. This will also lead to significant savings in the cost of heating and lighting the building."

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