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Shire Hall in Cambridge 'could become a hotel or student accommodation'

Shire Hall in Cambridge. Picture: Courtesy of Strutt & Parker (5905684)
Shire Hall in Cambridge. Picture: Courtesy of Strutt & Parker (5905684)

The fate of the historic Cambridge headquarters of Cambridgeshire County Council will be decided next year - with a hotel, retirement home or student accommodation among the options.

There has been great interest from prospective developers since Shire Hall in Castle Street went on the market, with 181 inquiries.

The council is moving into purpose-built headquarters in Alconbury by 2020.

Agents Strutt & Parker describe the building as a “unique piece of real estate” and said it could be used as a hotel, office, homes, or retirement or student accommodation.

The six-acre site is owned freehold by the council. The decision to "dispose of” the building and relocate to Alconbury was agreed by full council.

Developers, investors, funds and agents have since been approached to gauge interest in the site.

According to a report set to go before the council’s commercial and investment committee on Friday (December 14), 181 inquires about Shire Hall have been received. Now formal and informal viewings will take place in December, with extra viewing days proposed in January next year.

Shire Hall in Cambridge. Picture: Courtesy of Strutt & Parker (5905686)
Shire Hall in Cambridge. Picture: Courtesy of Strutt & Parker (5905686)

According to the report: “Predominantly interest has been for hotel use, the retirement sector and student accommodation providers, with a few having residential interest or office proposals.”

The report says the council would prefer to lease out Shire Hall rather than sell it outright in order “to obtain regular rental income as opposed to a capital receipt”.

According to the council, interviews with prospective buyers or people interested in renting Shire Hall will be held in January and February. By mid-March, the successful bid should be chosen and the exchange of contracts is expected to take place in mid-2019.

Cllr Josh Schumann, chair of the commercial and investments committee, said the council would still keep a “presence” in Cambridge.

“As a council we want to do whatever we can to protect vital front line services,” Cllr Schumann said. “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 hope is the new "civic hub" at Alconbury will save the council more than £45million over a 30-year period.

But the cost of the new build has risen from an original estimate of £16.6m to around £18.3m, after the size of the plot was increased and political groups requested dedicated meeting spaces, on top of the 17 meeting rooms already planned. Constructing the additional rooms will cost £580,000 plus fees and associated costs of £419,000. Increasing the plot from two acres to four added £800,000 to the bill.

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