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Sunday, 23 November 2014

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Cumbria council's new HQ: How it could look

This is how a new £10 million council headquarters in Carlisle’s Botchergate could look.

Supporters say the development will rejuvenate the area, helping transform a rundown part of a major gateway into the city centre.

Cumbria County Council has submitted a planning application for the project and says work could start within months – with construction due to be complete in early 2016 if it gets the go-ahead.

The building would house 600 staff, relocating from other offices including its current city base at The Courts.

Council chiefs propose building the new purpose-built headquarters – designed using natural stone, glass and traditional brick – on the site of the current William Street car park. It will front onto Botchergate, next to the historic Stanley Hall, and will also border Tait Street.

Mike Smith, the council’s assistant director for property, said: “This is a significant step forward as the planning application marks a real milestone in this exciting project.

“As well as being a big commitment for the council, we believe that the scheme will act as a catalyst to encourage other businesses to the Botchergate area and it will hopefully play a key role in the regeneration of the southern end,” added Mr Smith.

“There is still a long way to go and I’m sure there will be challenges, but the council is committed to making this happen as it will bring significant benefits for this area of Carlisle.”

The council will have to borrow £10m to fund the scheme but initial estimates were that it would still save more than £2m a year, even after servicing this debt. It expects to save as much as £54m over 25 years.

The new headquarters will be two storeys high at the front, growing to four at the back.

The authority has already bought the buildings at the front of the site – numbers 107, 109-111 and 113-117 Botchergate – which would be demolished.

Local businesses have largely welcomed the development, which they hope will help boost trade and encourage further investment in Botchergate.

Mike Lee, who owns Palace Cycles, said the design will work well alongside the area’s existing architecture.

“I’ve been positive about this since the beginning. It will provide a sustainable catalyst for this end of town,” he said.

“I hadn’t realised that the front of the building was going to come out on to Botchergate. I really welcome that.

“There is a general trend upwards here. There are far more successful businesses on Botchergate now than there ever have been in 30 years. An office development will further help that regeneration.”

Pat Skimming and Nan Garrigle, of nearby Crag’s Country Bakery, are positive about the impact on business but have concerns about parking. “I like the look of it. It’s got to be better than the scruffy looking building we’ve got there at the moment,” said Pat.

“Everyone says the same – we need more people on Botchergate. But where are they going to put the parking?”

There will be 95 parking spaces on site, as well as bike parking and shower facilities for staff cycling to work.

The council did consider installing a basement car park, but decided against this option due to the additional cost and timescale limitations.

Although it is not obliged to provide parking for staff, it says it is looking at other parking and transport options.

Because the building will take over the William Street car park, it is also looking at wider parking availability in the Botchergate area to ensure that spaces do meet local requirements.

Leanne Barber and Marie Anderson opened the new Angel Boutique on Botchergate eight weeks ago. They believe the development could be great for businesses, but urged the council to buy up some of the redundant land nearby to create a new car park – and create new crossings.

Leanne added: “It will do Botchergate no harm to have more people down here. The only thing I would say is that they really need more crossings. I’ve waited 20 minutes to cross that road.”

Although the building will be a base for up to 600 staff, the number of work stations will be nearer 400 as staff will use a hot-desking system as needed.

The interior design will be modern and open-plan, ensuring it can be adapted to meet changing needs of the council. The design will also incorporate environmentally-friendly technology so it is energy and cost efficient.

There is no firm plan for The Courts once staff move out but the council stresses that it is committed to ensuring that one of the city’s most prominent landmarks has a safe and secure future.

Concerns have already been cast, however, about the project. James Airey, leader of the authority’s opposition Conservative group, has cast doubt about the financial viability of the scheme – and if it would be needed were Cumbria ever to get a unitary authority, replacing the current two-tier district and county system.

The plans will go in front of the council’s development control panel for approval. They do not need to go to Carlisle City Council.

If granted, work is expected to start on site in the next four or five months. The council has appointed Preston-based contractor Eric Wright Construction to carry out the work.

Have your say

Why do the staff who cycle to work require showers or will they be available to cyclists who work nearby and subsidise this luxury???

Posted by beth on 8 September 2014 at 17:23

came into the city from west cumbria yesterday myself an ex ashlea school lad just looked around on my way to scotland road, what carlisle wants is a big clean,im not talking about the street
s im talking big time about the city buildings it self honestly, its,looking rough

Posted by old carlisle mongerel on 5 September 2014 at 21:04

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