Monday, 30 November 2015

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Carlisle's Civic Centre could be knocked down

Carlisle's Civic Centre could be flattened to clear the way for a massive shopping development.

Civic centre photo
Carlisle Civic Centre

Bulldozing the towering landmark is one of the ideas on the table to capitalise on investment interest in the city.

A huge transformation of Rickergate is being proposed to turn the area into a retail and leisure hub.

It would include building a large department store, multi-storey car park, a string of other shops and new homes.

The plans would, however, mean knocking down eight houses and a hairdresser’s on Warwick Street.

Independent consultants have drawn up proposals as part of work by Carlisle City Council to create the area’s next local plan, a blueprint of what might be built and where over the next 15 years.

Jane Meek, the authority’s economic development director, said: “This is exciting for the city. Considering the recession, to have developer and retailer interest is fabulous.

“It shows what a dynamic, attractive area this is. This will take Carlisle forward.”

Consultants identified Rickergate as the area of the city centre best suited for major retail development following a detailed study.

But to achieve the full 200,000sq ft of non-food shopping space Carlisle is forecast to need between now and 2030, it would mean clearing the 50-year-old Civic Centre.

Two options surrounding the scheme go out for public consultation from Monday.

One includes demolishing the rotunda section of the Civic, where the city council’s chamber sits, with a three-storey 89,000sq ft anchor store for the new development, along with three retail units and a 370-space multi-storey car park, where the public car park is currently.

The other would see the 11-storey main tower section of the Civic go as well, creating the department store but with five other units and a 450-space car park on that side of the street.

That second option would give the full 200,000sq ft of space needed. The first would fall just short of that figure.

Proposals show there could be up to 10 new shop units on the opposite side of the street, including where the magistrates’ court now stands – although the facade of the building’s older section would be retained – and potentially three restaurants, including the current Adriano’s site.

Thirty-one flats could also be built on Corporation Road, backing on to the courts and old fire station site.

The £1m arts centre being created in the old station building would remain.

If any scheme were to be given the go-ahead, it would take seven to 10 years to bring to fruition.

It would be the first major retail project in the city centre since the expansion of The Lanes Shopping Centre in 2000.

Councillors were briefed on the proposals this week.

Talks were also held yesterday with members of the Save Our Streets group, whose campaigning in Rickergate formed part of the outcry that forced the collapse of the controversial Carlisle Renaissance project in 2010.

That had become bogged down in a scheme to demolish much of Rickergate, including the Civic Centre, to make way for a plaza with shops, offices and a four-star hotel.

Present council chiefs have distanced themselves from those doomed proposals.

They are keen to hear people’s views in the five-week consultation on the draft city centre framework. Responses will be fed into a report to go to a full council meeting in January where councillors will be asked to decide on the preferred option.

Mrs Meek said: “This has got a solid evidence base and we are required to do this as part of the local plan.”

And the director is optimistic there’s enough interest from retailers to warrant such a scheme.

Heavily courted retailers, including cut-price clothing chain Primark, have said there’s currently nowhere big enough in Carlisle to meet their needs.

Council chiefs say they’re in constant touch with retailers scoping whether to set up in the city.

“Our retail catchment is near enough 500,000 people because it stretches into south west Scotland.

“There’s a lot of interest because of that,” Mrs Meek added.

Demolition of the Civic Centre would, of course, mean the city council having to find a new headquarters.

But with redundancies and staff cuts in the face of the Government’s spending squeeze, Ms Meek says the authority would not need such a big base.

“Councillors are committed to maintaining a presence in the city centre and there’s office space across the city,” she said.

Government policy dictates that city centres are the priority for retail development and that areas for growth must be identified. City council chiefs believe the options tabled will not only attract new firms but boost existing business.

Have your say

I grew up in Carlisle and seeing the civic centre be knocked down would absolutely destroy me

Posted by jeff on 26 March 2015 at 14:24

Save Carlisle Civic Centre!!!

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And lots more to come!

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Posted by LL on 30 August 2014 at 21:05

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