Nottinghamshire Council to consider moving out of County Hall to save money

Nottinghamshire Council could move out of County Hall in West Bridgford because its maintenance and improvement costs are expected to reach ‘tens of millions of pounds’ over the next few years.

By Andrew Topping
Friday, 15th July 2022, 5:11 pm
Updated Friday, 15th July 2022, 5:11 pm

The landmark headquarters, built on the banks of the River Trent in the 1930s and opened in 1946, house the council’s chamber for meetings alongside services and support offices.

However, the authority is planning a new £15.7 million centre at Top Wighay Farm, on the Ashfield border at Linby, and has been assessing all its existing buildings to see if it can save money.

And opposition councillors have long suggested the new offices will lead to the Conservative-led authority selling County Hall, describing it as the ‘worst-kept secret’ in Nottinghamshire.

Coun Ben Bradley, Nottinghamshire Council leader, outside County Hall in West Bridgford.

Coun Ben Bradley, council leader and Mansfield MP, has now confirmed for the first time the authority is considering a full or partial move out of County Hall, which could then be sold.

However, he said it is ‘too early’ to say what will happen for certain and added the proposals will be included in an ongoing asset management scrutiny review.

The assessments, part of the Investing in Nottinghamshire programme, have already seen the authority’s office portfolio reduced from 17 buildings to nine and brought savings of more than £1m per year.

It comes alongside the plans to bring the new Top Wighay office to fruition in what will be the authority’s first completely carbon-neutral office space.

The asset review will see a new place committee assessing the wider building portfolio, before deciding for certain what to do with County Hall.

Staff working at the building will also be consulted on their views.

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Coun Bradley said: “County Hall is our biggest, oldest and most expensive building so it’s logical we include it in the conversation.

“A lot of figures suggest that in order to maintain it, given the nature of it, to keep it at the standard it needs to be, it’s going to cost us tens of millions of pounds over the next few years.

“It’s logical to suggest, given the costs and the inefficiencies of the building, we would either change the way we use it, or vacate it.

“There’s obviously a question of where we go, Top Wighay would be one of the options and we’ve also got Trent Bridge House, but these are questions and not answers.

“We’re looking at it, is the honest answer and it’s important to be careful managing that process, so any decision we make will be subject to cross-party scrutiny, consultation with staff and we will go through that.

“Things will inevitably change, but we can’t yet be clear on what that will be.”

It comes after opposition Independent Alliance councillors raised concerns over a County Hall sale and suggested this was the authority’s plan ‘all along’.

Coun Francis Purdue-Horan said: “The fact the Conservatives want to sell County Hall is Nottinghamshire’s worst-kept secret.

“Everyone knows County Hall is prime real estate.

“We’ve always felt the real reason they are building the new £15.7m office block at Top Wighay is they are considering selling County Hall to the highest bidder.

“They should have been more honest about this from the start.”