Rally held over future of Raac-riddled civic centre

Steve Chapman, Whitchurch pirate Guy Hepworth and Gregory Ebbs
Steve Chapman, Guy Hepworth and Gregory Ebbs were among those at the protest [BBC]

Campaigners have held a protest outside a council meeting in a bid to secure the future of Whitchurch Civic Centre.

The rally took place outside Shropshire Council’s headquarters in Shrewsbury on Thursday, with residents calling for the repair and restoration of the civic centre.

The building was closed last year after it was found to be in a poor condition due to the presence of reinforced autoclaved aerate concrete (Raac).

Shropshire Council has set up a working group to examine options for the building’s future, but said it did not have the money to repair it.

Gregory Ebbs, who organised the protest at the Shirehall, said the aim was to let the local authority know that people cared about the future of the building.

He told BBC Radio Shropshire: "Putting money into the building is an investment in the town for future generations both for the young and the elderly.

"Whatever they put into it will benefit the community for years to come."

The working group, formed of officials from Shropshire Council and Whitchurch Town Council, held its first meeting in March.

Members have been considering six options:

  • Do nothing and close the building permanently

  • Raac to remain in place and mitigated through internal structural framework, repairs to spalled concrete and full replacement of roof membranes

  • Replacement of structural roof and associated essential items

  • Demolition and clearing of site

  • Demolition and rebuild as existing facilities provision

  • Demolition and redevelopment of the site

Shropshire Council said that with tens of millions of pounds being saved and job cuts being made, it did not have the money to repair the building.

Mayor of Whitchurch Andy Hall said government ministers had been contacted to see what funding could be available.

He said councillors were waiting for an outcome and that talks over the future of the building were ongoing.

Guy Hepworth, Whitchurch town pirate
Guy Hepworth, Whitchurch town pirate, was at the protest [BBC]

There has been a huge public support for retaining the building, with 400 people attending a public meting in January, with many more following it online.

In a report to Shropshire Council at the time, demolition and redevelopment of the site was outlined as the preferred option.

Given the strength of feeling in the town, the local authority was quick to say this was a starting point for consultations.

However, it faces some of the largest budget pressures of any council in England.

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