Saturday, 28 November 2015

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Carlisle council shelves plans to leave Civic Centre

Carlisle City Council has shelved plans to leave the Civic Centre and share a joint HQ with Cumbria County Council in Botchergate.

Joe Hendry photo
Joe Hendry outside the Civic Centre

The county announced in May that it was pushing ahead with proposals for a purpose-built HQ on William Street car park.

It invited the city council to move there too so the two councils could share some office functions.

But city council leader Joe Hendry said last night that a move did not stack up.

He told councillors: “We have now investigated the matter.

“The officers’ view is that a move isn’t viable because of the depressed state of the property market and because of the tight timescale the county is working towards. The project can’t work for us.”

Dr Hendry had previously suggested that the Civic Centre might be turned into a hotel, enjoying panoramic views over the city, if a deal to move to Botchergate came off.

But officials believe it would be near impossible to sell the 10-storey building in the current economic climate.

The city council has, however, agreed to a land swap to help the county council.

Ownership of Cecil Street car park, next to the William Street site, has passed to the county to give it a larger plot to develop. In return, the city council now owns the former fire station in Warwick Street.

It has yet to decide what to do with it, although the building could be turned into units for small businesses.

The county council hopes its new HQ will be ready by 2015. It stresses that the development will save money in the long run and help to regenerate Botchergate. The authority has 20 premises in Carlisle including The Courts in English Street, Edwardian and Victorian-era buildings in Warwick Road and Portland Square, and the former Capita offices at Kingmoor Park.

Moving to Botchergate would slash energy and maintenance bills, and reduce the number of staff because there would be only one reception area.

The council will have to borrow £10m to fund the scheme but should still save more than £2 million a year, even after servicing this debt.

It expects to save as much as £54m over 25 years.


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