There has long been a split in Shropshire Council between councillors who want to keep Shirehall and this that want to demolish it and move to the town centre. Last December, the council agreed to dispose of the building in the next few years after work on Civic Hub in the town centre is completed. That Civic Hub is still in the ideas stage and there is no clear idea of where the money will come fund it. Unless the council sells the 3.5 hectare Shirehall site for housing boosting its capital reserves which were depleted by the £51m purchase of the shopping centres in Shrewsbury town centre.

The budget plans agreed two weeks ago days propose that Shirehall is sold before April 2025 to make a saving of £325,000 in 2024/25.

I was arriving at Shirehall just before the pandemic when a staff member can up to me and said, “Andy, can you save Shirehall? We want to keep it and work here.” I supported that and still want to support it. But council leaders and officers are determined to sell.

The pandemic has changed the pattern of working in Shropshire Council. Most people had to work from home during the pandemic. The council decided to make that arrangement permanent with officers moving quickly to close down facilities such as the popular Column cafeteria. Three floors of Shirehall were closed after they failed fire safety checks. They are now fit for purpose but still closed. After the pandemic, most staff were not allowed to return, except to work on hot desks in offices on a desolate ground floor corridor. Many staff still work in the West Wing, which is the home of the powerful in council and other staff.

The pods on the first floor, which is where the meeting rooms and council chamber are, are in regular use. But even on this level of the building, there are days when Shirehall feels a desolate place.

What will Shropshire Council do with the building and 3.5 hectare site? That’s not known but it has a several options:

  • To sell the site as it is to a housebuilder. Some while back, it was reported that this might raise £10 million.
  • To demolish Shirehall increasing the value of the site before sale.
  • To apply for planning permission for the site, which one report said could accommodate 175 homes, increasing the value of the site further.
  • To develop the site with a housebuilder or its own housing company Cornovii.

The one option I am sure is not on the council’s agenda is to attract a university to the site after the withdrawal of Chester University from Shrewsbury. It could become an innovation and training hub but that will be an adventure too far for a cash strapped council. If it has any hope of getting its schemes to redevelop Shrewsbury town centre and build the North West Relief Road, it must sell Shirehall.

Where will the staff go? Recent messages from the chief executive to staff and councillors have emphasised that there will not be a return to Shirehall or to any new location for the council for most staff. It is not known what council staff think of this.

There is talk of the council moving into the soon to be vacant Guildhall until the proposed multiagency hub is built. That would not be unreasonable but the Guildhall chamber only has space for 48 councillors. There are 73 councillors on Shropshire Council and there will be 74 after May 2025. During the pandemic, the council met in Theatre Seven. That proved quite unsuitable for democratic debate. The council also met at Shrewsbury College (SCAT) which was better but still sub optimum.

2 thought on “Council Cuts: Shropshire Council to close Shirehall and sell it to raise money”
  1. All Councillors who voted to purchase the shopping centres should be held personally liable for the cost of this ridiculous, iresposible, financially incontinent decision
    Instead, the ratepayers are having to bear the cost through increases in Council Tax and reductions to services (eg charging for green waste disposal and closing Household Recycling Centres).

  2. I agree that the current administration are financially incompetent to an almost criminal degree. But the shopping centres were bought from the capital budget that they wouldn’t be allowed to use for day to day expenses such as running the recycling centres.

    It would be good to see the Tory councillors get full value from Shirehall perhaps by sitting in there right up until the moment it is demolished.

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