Hucknall: Likely departure date revealed amid county council plans to leave County Hall

By Andrew Topping - Local Democracy Reporter

5th Jul 2023 | Local News

Nottinghamshire County Council could leave County Hall as soon as late 2024 if councillors approve plans to relocate to a new home near Hucknall.

All councillors will meet on July 13 as the Conservative-led council edges closer to leaving its West Bridgford base of more than 75 years.

It comes amid surging maintenance costs at the historic building and a drive to save millions of pounds each year.

The authority will instead relocate its main civic functions to the planned new £18.3m building at Top Wighay Farm near the Hucknall and Linby border.

The new building, which will be entirely energy-efficient and was granted planning consent in July 2022, was initially expected to cost £15.7m.

But costs have risen amid plans to move facilities like the council debating chamber to the new site, as well as rising construction fees fuelled by inflation.

The plans have been in the pipeline for several months after the authority said it would cost nearly £60m to maintain County Hall.

This includes a repairs backlog of more than £30m and a further £28m bringing in modern environmental standards.

The new building will be low-carbon and all-electric, with the council saying this will allow bills to be "kept as low as possible".

And speaking ahead of the full council meeting next week, Councillor Keith Girling (Con), cabinet member for economic development and asset management, said the move "makes sense".

"The financial burden of County Hall is phenomenal," he said.

"It costs £1.7m a year to run, there's a £30m backlog of repairs and, to make it environmentally friendly, that's another £28m.

"The new building will cost just above £18m to do but it's not just that, it's about the savings we'll get through running the place.

"We're trying to make [the new building] as environmentally friendly as possible."

The July 13 decision will not determine the future use of County Hall, with later research to be done on how it could be reused.

This will include protecting the iconic green roof and stone statues, with staff, residents and heritage groups to be consulted.

Council leader Cllr Ben Bradley MP says the authority will maintain a West Bridgford presence through Trent Bridge House so Rushcliffe-based employees don't have to relocate.

He added: "County Hall is only ever really 30 per cent full due to hybrid working.

"It's important we're spending money on services and not on keeping an empty building warm.

"We will work with staff, developers and heritage groups to make sure we protect the statues and the green roof.

"It could [become] all sorts of things, residential, leisure, food – who knows. But whatever happens with it, it could be a real asset."

The current headquarters, which opened in 1946, hosts various functions including offices, meeting rooms and the council's debating chamber.

These would all be moved to Top Wighay, though Cllr Girling says new facilities would be "less grand" than current County Hall infrastructure.

A new mock-up flyover video created by developers shows the proposed new council chamber would act as a multi-use room.

Tables and chairs will be removed when council meetings are not in session so the hall can be used for other purposes.

Cllr Girling added space has been allocated at the Top Wighay land for a potential tram extension in the future.

However, the wider plans have fuelled concerns from the Independent Alliance opposition group, which has long described the relocation as the "worst-kept secret in Nottinghamshire".

Cllr Dave Shaw, who represents Hucknall West, said: "This will have a massive impact on Hucknall infrastructure yet little consideration has been made to this.

"Everyone knew the plans, even the cleaners at County Hall. Yet staff, residents and councillors have little-to-no detail on how their lives will be impacted.

"The Independent Alliance will be pushing for major improvements to Hucknall as part of any package.

"Residents face getting to work on broken roads with a poor public transport system – Hucknall and the wider area needs to be dramatically improved as part of this decision."

Construction is due to start on the new building later this year.

If the relocation is approved, the authority says it would move to Top Wighay once it is completed between late 2024 and early 2025.


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