Cambridgeshire County Council appoints Strutt & Parker to sell Shire Hall
The authority will put its headquarters in Cambridge up for sale in the “next few weeks”
The Castle Street property will be placed on the market with Hills Road agents Strutt & Parker.
The buildings has been the administrative centre of the county council since the 1930s, but the site itself has been the seat of government in Cambridge for more than 1,000 years.
Given the financial challenges facing the county council, selling the property could help to protect frontline services.
Chris Malyon, deputy chief executive of the council, said: “The county council has a long association with Shire Hall. However, the time is now right to look to the future.
“We are working with our partners so that we can deliver services as close as possible to the communities that we serve. As we take a step change toward agile working and a more community based approach, we no longer need a central administrative building the size of Shire Hall.
“Instead, we will operate from a smaller central hub while making better use of our assets, and utilising co-location opportunities with partners across the County . Given the financial challenges facing the council it is essential that we make the best use of the assets at our disposal. Moving to a smaller headquarters will help us protect key frontline services.”
Iain Halls, director of Strutt & Parker in Cambridge, said: “This is an exceptional opportunity that could lend itself to occupiers such as hotel, student accommodation, office, retirement and residential. An opportunity of this nature, in such a prominent, prime location in Cambridge, is unique.
“We are expecting a good level of interest and we look forward to assisting the council with its relocation, and being part of the transformation of such a unique asset.”
The first castle on the site, one of three royal castles in Cambridgeshire, was built by William the Conqueror in 1067. The original structure was replaced by a much larger stone structure by Edward I in 1298, and survived through to the English Civil War.
The site has always had a secondary function as a prison and, in 1811, a new state of the art prison was built and later a police station. This closed during World War One and the site was purchased by Cambridgeshire County Council for the new Shire Hall, which was completed in 1933.
Today, the site comprises not only the original Shire Hall but the Old Police Station, Castle Lodge (Registrations Services), public car parking and Castle Mound, which is a popular amenity for local residents and a tourist attraction. Access to the mound for members of the public will remain.
Cambridgeshire County Council will vacate the site when it moves to a new purpose-built headquarters building at Alconbury, south of Peterborough, in 2020.
Josh Schumann, chair of commercial and investments committee, added: “As a council we want to do whatever we can to protect vital frontline services. This is a unique opportunity for the council to reduce the overall cost of its property portfolio whilst supporting local services to become more sustainable.
“The council will continue to have a presence in the city and provide services to Cambridge residents. We will be seeking offers for Shire Hall from organisations that recognise the special heritage importance that the site has not just on the City of Cambridge, but for the county as a whole.
“We are using this opportunity to invest in the future design of the services we provide – local services supporting local people.”
The site is being offered to the market in the next few weeks and according to the agents, could attract interest for a wide range of different uses.