Stafford's iconic Shire Hall could be brought back to life
Stafford's iconic Shire Hall is set to be brought back to life as plans to re-open it were revealed two years on from its controversial closure.
The 18th century gem will be opened for events and exhibitions and be used to help boost start-up businesses, under "exciting" new plans put forward by regeneration specialists. It could even house a new museum, county council leaders said.
Campaigners have demanded answers on what will happen to one of the town's most loved buildings since it closed in 2017. Council bosses pledged at the time to try and find a sustainable use for the hall.
The proposals for the Grade II-listed landmark would see the Assembly Hall used as a event and exhibition space, e former library become a small business start-up space and the vaults used for food or drink.
One of the courtrooms could potentially be used as a museum or exhibition space for local groups and organisations, the county council said.
Mark Winnington, Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet member for Economic Growth, said: “At a time when town centres everywhere are looking to make best use of their properties, the idea of using Shire Hall for a variety of purposes is flexible and exciting.
“The nature of the Grade II listing is such that the back of the building is more flexible for renovation than the Assembly Hall and we are working on funding bids from various sources, including Historic England, to ensure that the building is maintained and preserved for future generations.
“Any future use of the building needs to have a long-term credibility, not be a burden on taxpayers and contribute to the wider prosperity of Stafford town centre.”
An initial assessment of the building, which dates from the 1790s, was undertaken by the Prince’s Regeneration Trust, before more detailed work was carried out by heritage building specialists Ingham Pinnock Associates and others.
Director Ross Ingham said: “Shire Hall is a magnificent building, full of potential and there’s no reason why it can’t fulfil an active role in the heart of Stafford.”
The building is still used for one-off events. Recently an amateur drama group used one of the court rooms for a performance, while the Assembly Hall is to be used as the medical area for June’s IRONMAN 70.3 event and will host the end-of-year exhibition for Stafford College art students.
Mark Winnington added: “The building is being heated, inspected regularly and maintained. This is a complex process, but we’re determined to get it right for a building we’re all very proud of.”