Demolition plan for part of Carlisle's Civic Centre
Part of Carlisle's Civic Centre could be demolished under radical plans to revamp the landmark building in the wake of the floods.
The Cumberland News can reveal that the iconic octagonal chamber block annexe, which is used to hold council meetings and some civic ceremonies, may be levelled - to make way for more car parking spaces.
Overall proposals for the recovery of the building after it was hit by floodwater for the second time in December 2015 also involve moves to create a new conference centre inside.
This would be in a newly-refurbished ground floor in the main Civic Centre building, which is owned and occupied by Carlisle City Council.
The overall plan is to bring more cash into the authority and make better use of the space in the 1960s block, which towers over the city centre.
Over the coming months, the authority will be consulting council members on how space inside the building can be used more effectively.
Some flood fightback work has already taken place, with electrical equipment and heating boilers being removed from the basement - which flooded in December 2015 and will now remain empty - and moved to upper floors.
The authority is also keen to improve its wireless connectivity - including council and public wi-fi - negating the need for cabling and server space, having agreed a final £3.4m payout with insurers.
Speaking exclusively to The Cumberland News, Darren Crossley, deputy chief executive at Carlisle City Council, said that there had been “quite a lot of interest” in the proposals.
“That includes both councillors and staff that work in the civic centre,” he said. “It’s positive that there’s been such a level of interest.
“We’ve got a process that we have to go through, so we’ll be consulting, then it’ll go to the council."
The ground floor of the Civic Centre has been out of use since the 2015 floods.
Both the public and staff have gained access through a temporary customer contact centre next to the car park.
The ground floor has now dried out and has been stripped down, ready for refurbishment.
Plans reveal that the previous contact centre and rates hall could be used as a “modern, fully accessible council chamber with conference/exhibition centre.”
“It’s a fairly large space that could have multiple uses - we need to make use of the space that we have.
“Over the past seven years or so, our workforce has decreased which has meant occupancy is lower and there’s more space available.
"One thing that we do want to increase are spaces where the public can have face-to-face contact with officers and discuss things in private.”
Mr Crossley also confirmed that the council will consider demolishing the octagonal-shaped building next to the existing car park, which houses the council chamber.
The authority believes that the facility is no longer fit for purpose and envisages that future meetings could be held in the multi-use conference centre.
He said: "One of the options would be to remove the chamber - to demolish it - and develop the car parking facilities.
"But members would have to give their thoughts on that, too.
"It would be a way to increase the revenue from that particular car park.
"It would also be a viable way to condense the site.”
The report prepared for the executive says that an alternative option could be to find an occupant for both the lower and upper floors.
But it also states: "Specialist advisors have concluded that it would be difficult to let the space and it would have low potential for income generation."
Mr Crossley said that should a decision be made to demolish the chamber, funds would not be taken from from the £3.4m insurance pot.
“That would be something entirely separate,” he said.
“It would be seen as something that could generate revenue from the extra parking that would be made available."
Carlisle Civic Centre officially opened its doors on March 12, 1964.
The building polarises opinion.
Some people believe it represents the architecture of the time - but it has also been criticised for its appearance.
The 11-storey building, which stands at 145ft tall, overlooks Hardwicke Circus and dominates the city skyline.