County Hall could house 350 residential units and commercial space after Nottinghamshire Council moves out

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Early assessments on the future use of County Hall after Nottinghamshire Council moves out suggest the building could accommodate 350 residential units and major commercial space.

The Conservative-led authority will instead relocate its primary civic functions – including its democratic services and debating chamber – to a new building at Top Wighay, on the Ashfield border near Linby and Hucknall.

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The move has been on the horizon for several months because, the Tories claim, of the soaring cost of modernising and and maintaining County Hall, including £1.7 million in annual running costs, a repairs backlog of £30m and £28m to bring it up to modern environmental standards.

County Hall In West Bridgford is set to be vacated by Nottinghamshire Council. (Photo by: Local Democracy Reporting Service)County Hall In West Bridgford is set to be vacated by Nottinghamshire Council. (Photo by: Local Democracy Reporting Service)
County Hall In West Bridgford is set to be vacated by Nottinghamshire Council. (Photo by: Local Democracy Reporting Service)

The new Top Wighay building, which is forecast to cost £18.3m, will be all-electric and low-carbon and is predicted to cost significantly less to run.

The decision to relocate was backed despite concerns from both main opposition groups at the latest full council meeting.

The council has said no decisions have been made on the future use of County Hall and residents, developers, community and heritage groups will now be asked for their views on the best uses for the historic building.

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However, a council report has revealed discussions on the future use of the building took place last year.

A “cross-section” of regeneration specialists had been approached by the authority’s in-house developer Arc Partnership at the time of the report’s publication in November.

The document, which was discussed by a behind-closed-doors group of councillors in the same month, outlines how the building could be redeveloped, suggesting it would “suit a mix of residential tenures” as well as commercial units like restaurants, working spaces, a crèche and gym.

“Initial thinking” included about 350 residential units and 2,500 sq metres of commercial use, with developers believing it could accommodate private, for sale, build-to-rent and senior living housing.

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Coun Ben Bradley, Mansfield MP and council leader, insisted no decisions on the building’s future use have been made and the report only outlines the viability of County Hall.

He said: “It’s still an open book and we’re going to have conversations about its best uses and about whether this building is viable or not.

“To do this, we have to consider what potential other uses there are.

“Arc has done work on the condition of the building, what it is and what its potential other uses are. This doesn’t mean we’ve decided anything.”

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During the debate, opposition councillors called for the authority to publish the report and outline a business case for the future plans at County Hall.

Cllr Kate Foale, Labour group leader, said it was “disingenuous at best” asking councillors to vote for the relocation without a long-term plan for County Hall.

A Labour spokesman said: “This demonstrates the lack of transparency and accountability regarding how decisions under the Conservatives are made.”

The Independent Alliance group raised concerns about the cost of the new building and the impact on Hucknall’s infrastructure.

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Coun Lee Waters, Ashfield Independents member for Hucknall South, said: “We always said the council wants to flog County Hall to the highest bidder. We always said the costs would spiral out of control and they have increased significantly and will continue to increase.”