By Joe Locker, Local Democracy Reporter
A series of ‘high-tech’ Nottingham buildings once used by Government tax office workers have been given Grade II-listed protected status amid plans to re-purpose them for a new university campus.
From 1994 the Castle Meadow Amenity Centre and surrounding offices were home to just under 2,000 Government tax office staff, who at the time worked for Inland Revenue following its decision to expand outside of London.
Inland Revenue later became HMRC in 2005, through a merger with HM Customs and Excise, and the offices were put up for sale for £36m upon the department’s decision to move to its new Unity Square block off Sheriff’s Way in 2021.
The Castle Meadow site has since been bought by the University of Nottingham, which lodged plans to use it as a new city centre location for the Nottingham University Business School.
A digital and data-driven research and innovation hub, called ‘Digital Nottingham’, has also been proposed.
Upon hearing of the news the site was to be re-purposed, the Nottingham Civic Society sought to protect the buildings due to their architectural merit and unique features.
Historic England granted the buildings protected status on May 31 this year.
The buildings had been designed by Sir Michael Hopkins, who won the contract in a competition to find a suitable architect in 1992.
The scheme had been approved by the council in 1991, however it said the original design was unsuitable considering its location close to Nottingham Castle.
Therefore an open competition was held, the first for a Government scheme in more than 30 years.
In total 134 applications were received and Sir Michael was awarded the contract in 1992.
Hilary Silvester, of the Nottingham Civic Society, said it is the second city site to be listed a single year, after the former police and fire station in Shakespeare Street.
“We are delighted to acclaim Nottingham’s youngest listed building,” she said.
“The Inland Revenue building is one that is close to the hearts of Nottingham Civic Society as we were very much in at the birth.
“The original plans for the site (of 1990) were deemed unsatisfactory, and following representations from English Heritage, as it then was, the Royal Fine Arts Commission and ourselves, a competition was held, won by Michael Hopkins & Partners.
“Thirty years later, with the future of the building at that time uncertain, we sought listing, working closely with the Twentieth Century Society and the original architect, Bill Taylor.”
Energy conservation had been a key priority in the development of the office buildings.
Glass block stair towers at the corners of the buildings helped form part of a ‘high-tech’ ventilation system, which allowed hot air to be expelled around the edges of the roof, which can also be hydraulically lifted.
Building materials used also help regulate the temperature in the buildings, and Historic England notes the unique “over-sailing tensile fabric roof” on the centrepiece building on the site.
As such the project went on to become the first in Britain to receive a maximum BREEAM score, an internationally-recognised award for sustainability and quality, among other awards.
The University of Nottingham submitted plans to Nottingham City Council in March, revealing a change of use purpose for the Barkley, Ferrers and Fitzroy House blocks.
The campus will offer space to final year and postgraduate students as well as major employers “to create an ecosystem of employers and students to work and learn together”, according to plans submitted by the university.
Of the decision to protect the buildings, a University of Nottingham spokeswoman added: “The university has been working with English Heritage and the original architect Michael Hopkins & Partners since the purchase of the site with the knowledge that the buildings may become Listed in due course.
“The detailed plans for the campus have been discussed with the local authority to ensure they are fully aware, and it is not envisaged that the listing of the buildings will materially alter the plans for the university.
“We will continue to work with our partners to progress the development plans required to achieve our vision for the future of our campus and to maintain Castle Meadow’s iconic stature within the city under the stewardship of the university.”