Heritage experts say pop-up businesses could make use of the Shire Hall in Stafford, until a long-term plan for the site is decided upon.
The Prince’s Regeneration Trust (PRT) has suggested short-term ‘pop-up ventures’ for businesses and not-for-profit groups in retail, leisure or heritage in the Grade II* listed building.
Speaking after presenting a draft plan detailing the necessary stages to owners Staffordshire County Council, PRT Director of Heritage Operations Nicola Dyer said: “Rather than telling owners what to do with their building, the purpose of the initial plan is to help them find the right end-use by offering a suggested way forwards.
“Pop-ups are potentially good because they keep interest in a building, keep it in use and also can be used to test whether ideas will work, but finding a sustainable long term use will require consideration of the significance of the building and wider plans for Stafford as a whole.
“If a proposed project involves a great deal of alteration to Shire Hall, Historic England, the Georgian Group and other stakeholders will need to be consulted.
“Additionally, the process of applying to charities, trusts and so on for significant funding can take some time, however a building as significant as Shire Hall deserves to find a sustainable solution which will ensure it is safe for future generations.”
The PRT report, due to be finalised later this month, was based on several principles, including:
- the building will be conserved;
- mixed use options will be considered;
- the use, or uses, must be viable;
- use could be from a private venture, or a public/charitable operation;
- future use will involve consultation with interested parties and the wider community.
The meeting also heard that Shire Hall, built in the 1790s, is still heated and caretakers are inspecting it regularly to keep maintenance up-to-date.
The county council has committed to breathing new life into the building to ensure it can be enjoyed for future generations.
Welcoming the report Mark Winnington, Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet member responsible for the project, said: “Shire Hall is a remarkable building and we’re clear we want a viable, long-term use which complements the centre of Stafford as a whole and is able to sustain its own future through profits, or grants, rather than rely upon local taxpayers’ money.
“Once we’ve received the final report from The Prince’s Regeneration Trust later this month we will look to begin the process of considering uses and subjecting ideas to closer scrutiny.”