Cambridge's Shire Hall to become aparthotel and offices

Sara Kirsch Sara Kirsch Uploaded 01 July 2021

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UK: Plans to transform Shire Hall into an aparthotel and office space are set to be approved next week by the Cambridgeshire County Council.

The plans, which have been recommended by the Strategy and Resources Committee, call for the site to be transformed into a 225-room aparthotel while maintaining the building’s facade. Plans also call for redevelopment of the Octagon and Old Police House buildings to make room for office space. 

Currently, Shire Hall is the headquarters of the Cambridgeshire County Council, which is set to move to a new space in Huntingdonshire. The Council will be moving to a “hubs and spokes model,” with its new office set to be complete in Alconbury next month. 

Not all members of the council are happy about the headquarters moving. 

Lib Dem leader of the council, Councillor Lucy Nethsingha, said: “The project to move out of Shire Hall to Alconbury was initiated by the previous administration of the council under the leadership of Councillor Steve Count, and had the timing been different the new Joint Administration of the council would have preferred to reconsider this project. However, with the Alconbury Hub now almost complete, and with many staff keen to be able to return to work in an office, having been based at home for so long, we accept that moving into the Alconbury site is inevitable.”

The council has concluded that the new plan is “believed to be the best route to ensuring long-term and fit-for-purpose office accommodation on the current site.”

The council has also said that the proposed plans will “significantly enhance the environmental layout of the site” and “enshrine and increase public access both to the site and the historic Castle Mound”.

The building will be leased by Brookgate, with the council maintaining freehold on the site. In 40 years, the council will be able to end Brookgate’s lease for just £1. In the past, the council said that leasing Shire Hall would release £45 million to fund essential services. 

The Council will also be the landlord of the office space and plans to potentially use some of the space for itself. Whether or not the council will occupy some of the office space depends on changes related to the pandemic in the upcoming months. 

Elisa Meschini, the council’s deputy leader from labour, said: "We do want to see some level of county council presence on the Shire Hall site once it has re-developed, although that will depend on what office space is needed in over the coming years when the full effects of the pandemic on staff and residents working and travelling patterns are properly understood."

The plans for the council’s July 6 meeting will call for it to agree on a commercial position to enable officers to form contracts with Brookgate.

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