An enterprise hub providing workspace for more than 20 small businesses is set to be created in Stafford as part of a £2 million project to help boost the town centre economy.
The project will see part of the Shire Hall building, which formerly housed the town’s library, transformed into a full-service hub by early 2022, offering office space, reception facilities, meeting areas, networking opportunities and business advice and support.
The hub is being part-funded by Staffordshire County Council and £1.6 million which has been secured from the national Getting Building Fund through the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
It will aim to attract businesses from a range of professional services including solicitors, ICT firms, digital and tech.
Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet member for economy and skills Philip White said: “The Shire Hall is an iconic building in the heart of Stafford town centre and it is important we bring it back into productive use for the community and the local economy.
“Much consideration has gone into the planning of the hall’s future use and our evidence and research has shown there is a need for provision in the town for small businesses. The enterprise hub facility will be in the former library area to the rear of the building and include all the facilities our target businesses will need. It will follow the model of our other enterprise centres with flexible tenancies and a support team on site.”
He added: “A thriving enterprise hub in the Shire Hall will benefit the wider town centre economy and recent investment and planned regeneration undoubtedly make Stafford an attractive place to work and live. How we re-purpose our town centres will be critical as we move out of the pandemic period.
“We will be working closely with colleagues at Stafford Borough Council and the LEP throughout this year as we prepare for the hub’s opening in early 2022.”
Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership chairman Alun Rogers said: “The former library space in the Shire Hall will provide ideal space for small businesses and support the town centre economy, particularly as it recovers from the pandemic period. It is a priority to the LEP to support small businesses and ensure they can operate in the right environment to enable them to thrive.
“The Getting Building Fund is aimed at projects which are ready to go and can make a difference as soon as possible. Transforming the vacant space at the Shire Hall into an entrepreneurial and collaboration hub is ideal and we look forward to working with our partners to bring it to life.”
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Frances Beatty, cabinet member for economic development and planning at Stafford Borough Council, added: “It will be great to have the iconic Shire Hall brought back in to use after being mothballed for so long.
“It will be our centrepiece for the renaissance of popular community events and gatherings in the Market Square and indeed across the town, in the post-covid world.”
What do you think about the plans for the Shire Hall? Share your views in the comments section below.
The enterprise hub project forms part of the wider longer-term regeneration of the Shire Hall and complements plans to re-purpose and re-develop land occupied by vacant buildings, including the former magistrates court and the county council’s own Wedgwood Building.
Other major recent investments in Stafford town centre include the recent renovation of Victoria Park and the Riverside retail development, both led by the borough council.