Decision on Shire Hall's future could take 'some time'
Regeneration experts have warned it may take 'some time' to get the Shire Hall back up and running but said it could be used for 'pop-up' businesses in the short term.
Staffordshire County Council, which owns the iconic Grade II* listed property in Stafford which was built in the 1790s, has asked the Prince's Regeneration Trust (PRT) to draw up a report around the possible future uses after it closed in July.
The trust has now presented a draft plan to the authority indicating that finding a long-term sustainable use for the Shire Hall may be a drawn out and complicated process.
PRT director of heritage operations Nicola Dyer said: "Rather than telling owners what to do with their building, the purpose of the initial plan is to help them find the right end-use by offering a suggested way forwards.
"Pop-ups are potentially good because they keep interest in a building, keep it in use and also can be used to test whether ideas will work, but finding a sustainable long-term use will require consideration of the significance of the building and wider plans for Stafford as a whole.
"If a proposed project involves a great deal of alteration to Shire Hall, Historic England, the Georgian Group and other stakeholders will need to be consulted.
"Additionally, the process of applying to charities, trusts and so on for significant funding can take some time, however a building as significant as Shire Hall deserves to find a sustainable solution which will ensure it is safe for future generations."
The building is still heated and is being maintained by caretakers.
The latest statement from the PRT was greeted with disappointment by businessman Ben Sandy, who is part of a three-man consortium who have proposed to inject £150,000 in to the Shire Hall to transform it into an arts hub and county museum.
He said: "We haven't received any communication with the council or even the trust, since we put our plans forward.
"It sounds like they don't believe our proposal is sustainable. I am surprised they would say that without having met us first.
"We believe in it, it is sustainable long-term and not just a flash in the pan. We would like the opportunity to meet with the council to discuss it further."
Councillor Mark Winnington, overseeing the future of the Shire Hall, said: "Shire Hall is a remarkable building and we’re clear we want a viable, long-term use which complements the centre of Stafford as a whole and is able to sustain its own future through profits, or grants, rather than rely upon local taxpayers’ money.
"Once we’ve received the final report from The Prince’s Regeneration Trust later this month we will look to begin the process of considering uses and subjecting ideas to closer scrutiny."