Historic Shire Hall in Cambridge looks set to close and become a tourist attraction as as part of county council plans to save £45 million

County Council leader Steve Count says plans to close Shire Hall are coming closer to fruition

County Council leader Steve Count says plans to close Shire Hall are coming closer to fruition - Credit: Archant

Plans to save £45 million of tax payers money by closing the historic Cambridgeshire County Council head offices and turning them into a tourist attraction are coming closer to reality.

Councillor Steve Count, leader of the county council, says he is: “delighted that my motion to come out of Shire Hall is apparently coming to fruition.”

Cambridgeshire taxpayers will be better served by moving services out of the current Shire Hall site and bringing them closer to local communities, Cllr Count said.

Plans are to instead build a new fit for purpose smaller office at either Alconbury or Northstowe.

It would mean at least £45 million savings over a 30-year period.

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Cllr Count said: “After nearly 1,000 years in which the county has been governed from Castle Hill, a County Council study has recommended leaving its expensive site in central Cambridge and moving to a new model in which most services will be provided in local offices, including sharing buildings with other organisations and providing more services through public libraries.

“Under the proposed “hub and spoke” arrangement, most of the officers currently based in the Shire Hall site will move to locations in Cambridgeshire towns where they are closer to the people who use their services.

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“A new, fit-for-purpose civic hub for core staff and councillors, will be built on a brownfield site that is more centrally located in the county.

“The old Shire Hall site will be leased or sold for commercial uses. The heritage of the existing site, which began its civic role when William the Conqueror built a castle there, will be specially protected and made more accessible to tourists visiting the city,” he added.

By realising the value of the central Cambridge site and using existing buildings more efficiently, taxpayers are expected to save £45 million over the next three decades even after the costs of a new civic building are taken into account.

The provisional decision to move was taken in December by the county council’s commercial and investments committee.

Commercial negotiations are ongoing with the owners of two potential sites for the new hub. A final decision about its location will be considered in the next couple of months.

It is hoped that all the new arrangements will be fully operational by the end of 2020.

Councillor Josh Schumann, chairman of the commercial and investment committee said: “As Cambridgeshire is growing and thriving the time has come to recognise those changes in the way we run the County Council.

“It’s simply not justifiable to waste taxpayers’ money by keeping lots of services in a HQ in a very valuable central Cambridge site.

“By moving we will bring services closer to the people we serve, help Cambridge’s economy by making more of the tourist potential of the historic Castle Hill area and save taxpayers money.

“As a council we are committed to delivering better value for money and modernising ourselves: leaving the old Shire Hall shows just how serious we are about that mission.

“Although any final decisions will be taken when all the necessary information is available I am excited to see this project progressing and welcome the next stages which bring us closer to realising our aims and objectives around being commercial and accessible County Council”.

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