By Andrew Topping, Local Democracy Reporter
Opposition councillors have called for a strong scrutiny process to be provided over potential plans to sell off at least part of County Hall.
Senior Conservative councillors last week confirmed some of the historic Nottinghamshire County Council headquarters could be vacated in the future.
It comes as part of a wider review of the authority’s office estate, with the West Bridgford building touted for potential luxury flats, bars or restaurants.
A potential move to the new £15.7m Top Wighay Farm building, near Hucknall and Linby, has also been put forward.
This is amid an expected £50m cost over ten years to bring County Hall up to modern standards.
No decision has been made yet but the next steps are expected to become clear in March.
Now councillors have met for the first time since the Tory administration revealed its plans and have asked for assurances the proposals will be properly scrutinised.
A report presented to the council’s overview committee on Tuesday (January 24) outlined the wider review but included no firm proposals for County Hall.
However, Councillor Keith Girling (Con), cabinet member for asset management, last week confirmed his preference is to leave at least part of the building.
He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “We’re looking at all options but County Hall would make for an incredible building and a community area.
“If we’ve got luxury flats above and a good area below, with bars and restaurants looking out on the river, it would really lift this place and regenerate it.”
It led to senior Tories being accused of having “pre-empted” the decision and “undermining” the scrutiny process.
Cllr Kate Foale is the leader of the Labour Group at the county council.
Speaking in the overview committee on Tuesday (January 24), she said: “Can we be absolutely sure that there are no plans firmed up to sell County Hall?
“The difficulty we’ve got is that what is in this report is quite different to what the Conservatives are saying both publicly and privately.
“Can we please have a public assurance that this has not yet been agreed upon and that, when the business case comes, it will be an open and scrutinised decision?”
Cllr Steve Carr (Lib Dem), who represents Bramcote and Beeston North, added: “It really does not help when the leader of the council and the portfolio holder appear in the media virtually announcing the demise of County Hall.
“[They have announced it] being turned into restaurants and luxury flats before this committee has even sat down to discuss the report.
“It’s just not right that this is pre-empted in this way.”
In the meeting, council officers confirmed the proposals are subject to business cases being drawn up for each council building.
This will include plans for the future of County Hall – including how it could be reused in the future – and these business cases will be presented for scrutiny.
Derek Higton, service director for place and communities, said: “There will be further opportunities for members to examine and explore the various business cases. This includes County Hall.”
Cllr Girling added: “I can assure you no decision has been made on the future of this or any building.”
The purpose-built headquarters hosts various council functions, including offices for staff and councillors as well as the debating chamber.
Speaking last week, Cllr Girling confirmed the new Top Wighay building could be constructed to accommodate these facilities.
He added a long-term relocation would put the authority “in the heart of the county” and close to where services are used most.
The proposals are due before the overview committee again on March 23.