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Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Shrewsbury’s Pride Hill Shopping Centre preferred option for new civic centre

Shrewsbury’s Pride Hill Shopping Centre has emerged as the preferred option for a new civic centre to house Shropshire Council and some of its public sector partners from 2023, once the council has vacated and sold its current Shirehall headquarters.

Shropshire Council’s Shirehall headquarters in Shrewsbury. Photo: Shropshire Council
Shropshire Council’s Shirehall headquarters in Shrewsbury. Photo: Shropshire Council

The new civic centre would be around four-fifths smaller than Shirehall in terms of floor space, and be created and funded entirely by the sale of the Shirehall site and a grant the Council has already secured.

It would also provide a major boost to Shrewsbury’s town centre’s regeneration and generate income for the council from partners who would also have office space in the centre.

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The Pride Hill Centre is due to close shortly as part of wider plans to redevelop it and make the Darwin Centre Shrewsbury’s main shopping centre.

Many tenants have already relocated to the Darwin Centre from Pride Hill and, alongside the work to develop the new civic centre, it is planned to transform Pride Hill’s top floor for leisure use.

In July 2020 the council agreed to stop plans to refurbish its ageing Shirehall, which would have cost £24 million, and instead to seek to move to a Shrewsbury town centre location.

This followed the coronavirus pandemic showing how the council’s need for office space had dramatically changed, with many staff now successful working away from the Shirehall.

An independent review of possible town centre sites was carried out to see which best meets the council’s requirements, including cutting carbon emissions, allowing the council to spend less on buildings and invest more in its staff, and completing a move by 31 March 2023.

Among the sites considered, three are owned by Shropshire Council – Guildhall; Pride Hill Shopping Centre, and Riverside Shopping Centre – and two are privately-owned buildings.

The review looked at criteria including suitability, build cost, site preparation, adaptability, maintenance requirements and cost, sustainability and climate impact.

The Pride Hill Centre was considered most suitable in size, commercial opportunity and support for the town centre’s wider regeneration.

Developing a civic centre at the Pride Hill Centre would cost an estimated £12.5 million, £11.5 million less than staying at Shirehall. The redevelopment work would be funded by the sale of the Shirehall site, and a £5m grant from the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership would help support the repurposing of the building.

The council would also have an income earning asset, through rents from five public sector partners who would also use this new civic centre and other tenants.

Under the plans it would house 437 desks for staff from Shropshire Council and partners.

The options appraisal will be considered by the council’s Performance Management Scrutiny Committee meeting this Wednesday 20 January.

A report will then go to the full Council on 25 February 2021. The report to council will also consider the proposals for the sale and disposal of Shirehall and its site. The adjacent Unison club, sports field or bowling green are deemed to be important community assets and local space and would not be affected by the sale.

Steve Charmley, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for assets, economic growth and regeneration, said:

“This is a very important milestone for the council and the future of Shrewsbury town centre. It’s shows how we can create a new civic centre in a way that would be entirely self-funding.

“More importantly this can provide a huge boost for the regeneration of Shrewsbury town centre, bring a major employer right into the heart of the town centre and create the right conditions to help the town thrive as a place that’s great to be in – whether for shopping, leisure, business or as a resident.

“A new civic centre included in the wider development plans for the town centre will be used by the council and partners who seek similar benefits in terms of location, cost, carbon efficiency and more modern working environments. This in turn generates additional footfall and business for Shrewsbury town centre, helping to boost the economy of Shrewsbury and Shropshire.

“As we recover from the pandemic this will be more vital than ever.”

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