Charity calls for protection of Cardiff’s County Hall
Ted Peskett, local democracy reporter
A national charity has urged Cardiff Council to protect its current headquarters after proposals were revealed to move to a new location.
The council told cabinet members at a meeting last month that its preferred way forward for County Hall, located next to Atlantic Wharf in Butetown, is to replace it with a smaller building.
The Twentieth Century Society (C20), which campaigns for the protection of the UK’s modern architecture, has urged the council to explore options for a retrofit scheme.
Cardiff Council said the building is simply too big for what it needs right now and that it would cost tens of millions of pounds to bring it up to the required standards.
A spokesperson for C20 said: “Cardiff Council declared a climate emergency in March 2019 and their Environmental Policy commits to being carbon neutral by 2030.
“The enormous carbon-cost of largescale demolition is simply not compatible with these commitments.”
The charity applied to Cadw in August 2022 to list County Hall and added the building, constructed between 1986 and 1987, to its 2023 Risk List – a compilation of what the charity considers to be the UK’s top 10 most threatened buildings.
An outline business case commissioned by the council found that, following the move to hybrid working, the local authority requires 140,000 square feet of core office space and County Hall has 227,000 square feet of space.
The council is also facing a budget gap of more than £24m.
Cardiff Council’s cabinet member for investment and development, Cllr Russell Goodway, said at last month’s cabinet meeting: “To keep that level of accommodation would be unsustainable, especially at a time when budgets are extremely tight.”
However, C20 still hold concerns over the potential environmental damage that demolishing County Hall could have.
The spokesperson for C20 added: “Our older buildings are more than capable of adapting to find new uses – County Hall has both the space and flexibility to accommodate a range of new occupant.
“Facing the wrecking ball would cause grave environmental damage, and leave the waterfront a poorer place.”
Cardiff Council’s cabinet members gave the go ahead for a full business case to be developed on the future use of its offices on June 22.
The business case will also consider the future of City Hall, which could see millions of pounds in investment for its upkeep.
A Cardiff Council spokesperson said that the local authority “simply does not need the scale of office space that it did previously and it is simply not value for taxpayers to retain and maintain under used spaces”.
The spokesperson added: “A recent report on office needs, however, has indicated that a new, modern, County Hall would have a much lower operational carbon footprint whilst the difference in terms of embodied carbon is likely to be marginal, which is why the council is exploring this option.
“Partial demolition or the potential to rent out the surplus office space of County Hall were both considered as part of the review, but the costs associated with any retention would seem to far outweigh building a new HQ.”
“However, the Council understands the concerns around the potential ‘carbon cost’ of demolishing County Hall, but that decision will only be taken once a Full Business Case is available and which will take the carbon cost of demolition into account.
“Proposals under consideration will also look to explore how City Hall can secure the multi-million-pound investment it requires to address ongoing maintenance.
“The Council is absolutely committed to securing the future of City Hall, which is one of Wales’s finest heritage buildings and one of the Council’s most successful revenue raising assets.”
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