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Cumbria council proposing to build new headquarters in Carlisle

Cumbria County Council is pushing ahead with plans for a purpose-built HQ in Carlisle’s Botchergate.

Carlisle councillors photo
Joe Hendry, left and Stewart Young

The move should see nearly 1,000 staff relocate to a new building on the site of William Street car park by 2015.

It would free the existing headquarters, at The Courts in English Street, which could become an art gallery and museum.

And Carlisle City Council may join the county in Botchergate perhaps allowing the Civic Centre in Rickergate to be turned into a hotel.

Councillor Stewart Young, deputy leader of the county council, believes the move to a new HQ makes sense.

He said: “It would regenerate that end of Botchergate. There would be potential for us to do something with The Courts and, if the city council come in with us, they could do something significant down in Rickergate.

“It could lead to a major enhancement of Carlisle city centre.”

The county’s main reason for moving is to save money.

It operates from 20 premises in Carlisle including The Courts, a host of Edwardian and Victorian-era buildings in Warwick Road and Portland Square, and the former Capita offices at Kingmoor Park, which it leases.

Moving to a modern building in 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 £2m a year, even after servicing this debt. It expects to save as much as £54m over 25 years.

Once vacated, buildings around Portland Square could be sold for conversion into private homes .

Mr Young said: “We have a maintenance backlog on many of our buildings so if we did nothing we would have to meet the cost of that.”

The county has invited Carlisle City Council to share its Botchergate site but says the city must make up its mind by September.

Dr Joe Hendry, the new Labour leader of the city council, is enthusiastic although he says the authority will have to draw up a business case to ensure that leaving the Civic Centre makes financial sense.

Sharing one site would make it easier for the two councils to share office functions, so saving money, while the influx of staff would boost the shops and cafes in Botchergate.

Dr Hendry said: “It would save both councils money and do a huge amount to regenerate Botchergate, which is one of our priorities.”

He added: “If we leave the Civic Centre, I’d like to see a four-star hotel in there or something like that. We need to try very hard to get on board with the county council. We need to sit down with them and talk.”

He believes there is potential for The Courts and Citadel to house a modern-art gallery – perhaps in conjunction with the Tate Modern – and a museum of Cumbrian life.

Both could potentially be major tourist attractions.

The county’s proposed new HQ is part of its ‘Better Places to Work’ initiative, which has already seen consolidation of premises in Whitehaven.

The aim is to achieve savings of £3.76m a year across Cumbria by rationalising its portfolio of offices.

The plan for Carlisle would retain offices at Barras Lane in Dalston, which would be modernised and refurbished. Some county staff based at Carlisle Civic Centre as tenants of the city council would stay there if the city council decides against moving.

The county already owns William Street car park but it may ask the city council to give it part of the adjoining Cecil Street car park too. In return, the county would transfer the former fire station in Warwick Street to the city.

Have your say

What will happen to those business's around the civic centre when employees move to Botchergate area? & where will 1000employees park their cars when the william st car park is built on?Who on earth do councillors think will purchase the civic centre? & meantime where will the money come from? I suspect the council tax payers of Carlisle will be left with another huge loan with interest to pay off over the next 20years?The city does NOT have the money to pay for this daydream.Improve what the city has now, sort out the sickness culture, reduce the number of city/county councillors, freeze the allowances of councillors, & stop paying silly salaries to senior employees.Wake up, stop fantasising, & sort out the immediate problems.

Posted by Michael Owen on 16 June 2012 at 17:06

It's amazing how many people have attempted to offer a view with some authority when clearly they don't have any of the facts. Try not to express an opinion borne out of ignorance just because you can.

The County Council's decision is very progressive, something a second or even third tier city needs to drags itself out of the hole it's currently in.

Posted by Al on 10 June 2012 at 21:28

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