Opposition parties say they are “open-minded” about the prospect of Cardiff council building itself a new headquarters, but have sought assurances about the future of City Hall.
The council’s finance boss Councillor Russell Goodway last week confirmed he was investigating whether the council’s entire property estate could be replaced with a single new HQ.
County Hall in Cardiff Bay could be replaced by a convention centre and indoor arena, while ownership of the City Hall at Cathays Park could be transferred to a trust.
Coun Goodway said the cost of refurbishing the two buildings was about £25m and there was a “compelling argument” to reduce the council’s estate to one building.
While it would have to make “economic sense” for taxpayers, he said the project would potentially create much-needed construction jobs in the capital. He has not speculated where the new HQ could rise up, but it is understood land next to the Welsh Government offices in the Bay or north of Cardiff Central are being considered.
Rhiwbina’s Independent councillor Jayne Cowan said she was reassured to learn the disposal of City Hall – the home of local government in Cardiff since 1904 – was not a prospect.
“Careful consideration could be looked into transferring City Hall to a trust who could then access other money,” she said.
“I understand that the council, because it is using part of the City Hall as offices, could not access grants such as the Heritage Lottery Funding (HLF) because it is being used for council staff.
“If the primary use of the building was a venue for events, then it may be possible to apply for grants to assist in maintaining and improving this beautiful building,” said Coun Cowan.
Peter Cox, of the Cardiff Civic Society, said: “If he [Coun Goodway] thinks it makes economic sense to divest itself of costly buildings, then what he is saying is not unsensible.
“I can understand wanting to sell off old office buildings, but when it comes to historic buildings I cannot see why it would want to divest itself of ownership, apart from it being a crude way of getting HLF funding.
“It’s much more important that the council, as the representative of the community, tries to see what other useful community purposes City Hall could have.”
Mr Cox suggested that, with the size of the council’s workforce shrinking, the Labour-run authority should consider remodelling it to house more staff, as it was originally intended.
Councillor Neil McEvoy, leader of the Plaid Cymru group, said when he was deputy leader in 2008 the council rejected a proposal to build itself new headquarters at junction 33 of the M4.
“The problem with Russell Goodway is that he has a lot of good things going for him in terms of ability, but he does not take care of the essentials,” he said.
“We have services crying out for attention and then we have these grandiose designs all of a sudden, but it’s fairly difficult to comment without the details.”
Liberal Democrat group leader, Councillor Judith Woodman, said with investment County Hall still had up to 30 years of useful life left.
“Keeping just City and County Hall would be ideal.
“Do not forget, there is an element of kudos with City Hall: people like the architecture and history,” she said.
“It’s something to be proud of and we will never get a building of that quality again. The chamber itself is fantastic.
“There is a lot to be said for rationalising the estate.
“But just to build one new HQ, I do not agree with that. I think we need two buildings.
“However, show me the business case and I may change my mind,” added Coun Woodman.
Coun David Walker, leader of the Conservative group, said: “What we need to see is the figures and then we can give our views on this. I’m open-minded to a good business case.”