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Cumbria council's new £10m headquarters move step closer

A £10 million move that would revive rundown Botchergate is a significant step closer.

Carlisle photo
Emma McBride and Amanda Scott from Daily Baguette

Cumbria County Council is forging ahead with plans for purpose-built new headquarters for 600 workers in Carlisle.

Leaders have awarded a contract to a firm to design and build the complex, which the authority insists will save it money in the face of stinging spending cuts.

Hopes remain that staff could relocate to the new building, on the site of the current William Street car park, from offices including The Courts in English Street by the end of next year.

Council leader Stewart Young is optimistic it’s a scheme that will boost business and lure others to the south end of Botchergate and make the investments needed to improve tired buildings.

The contract to design the headquarters is the first real sign that the long talked about scheme is likely to go ahead.

Mr Young said: “This is a huge step forward. This is a big commitment for the council.

“We’re hoping the scheme will act as a magnet to encourage other businesses and regenerate that southern end of Botchergate, which has been rundown for quite some significant time.

“The centre of gravity in town has gradually shifted north through the pedestrianisation of the city centre and The Lanes, then Debenhams and the historic quarter.

“Botchergate has been left behind in that. We want to rebalance the town centre to try and give something to that end.

“There’s still a long way to go and I’m sure there will be challenges, but we’re determined to see this through.”

Mr Young says saving money is the motivation behind the move, with the council currently operating 20 premises in Carlisle including, a host of Edwardian and Victorian-era buildings in Warwick Road and Portland Squares.

The Courts would also be freed up, potentially to become a tourist attraction.

Moving to a modern building would, council chiefs say, slash energy and maintenance bills as they attempt to find nearly £90m more of savings in the next three years – cuts that could reduce the authority’s countywide workforce by another 600.

Businesses that could cash-in on the hundreds of workers moving to Botchergate have a welcomed the progress.

Amanda Scott, manager of the Daily Baguette on Botchergate, said: “It could be a good thing because of the amount of people that will be around. Any boost is welcome.”

Emma McBride, the shop’s catering assistant, added: “Hopefully it will regenerate Botchergate and tidy the area up."

Alastair Torrance, manager of ATM Games on Botchergate, said: “The more people there are in the area will help business, but you can never tell.

“If more people know about you then you might get some more custom. I hope the plans will flourish.”

Shelley Robinson, a hairdresser at Elainz, said: “It is quite quiet around this way now so we will be hoping it will bring in more people.”

Details of the preferred contractor, whose appointment has been agreed by councillors, have not yet been revealed because of commercial confidentiality.

A final decision on whether to go ahead with the project will be made by the authority’s ruling cabinet in October. A spokeswoman said: “We will now work with that preferred contractor to develop the design, seek planning consent and finalise the cost.”

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.

Have your say

Why don't they build it on the flagship Durranhill site our council bought during Carlisle Renaissance? The site was meant to be a business gateway to the city, but has sat derelict since the day it was bought and is now for sale at a pittance.

They go from one failed scheme to another.

I've heard, on good authority too, that the planned building has already been identified as being too small, hence the need to move many staff to Kingstown. Perhaps the Cumberland News may wish to investigate this - is it big enough for purpose? The whole idea was to centralise staff in a more efficient building. It won't.

Posted by DE on 21 November 2014 at 10:32

Cumbria County Council? Or is it really Carlisle County Council? Why does it have to be in Carlisle at all? And what happens when the County Council gets abolished?

Posted by Michael on 9 June 2014 at 17:16

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