CONTROVERSIAL plans for new city council offices at Gorse Stacks are dead in the water after the Tories delivered on their manifesto pledge to abandon the project.
Confirmation the building – dubbed ‘the glass slug’ because of its design – is no more, came in an election leaflet issued by city Cllr Eleanor Johnson, the Conservative candidate in yesterday’s (Thursday) county council by election in Gowy.
More conventional, and cheaper, council offices are likely to be built at either Tower Wharf or Black Diamond Street using cash from a re-negotiated deal from Northgate developers ING.
It is understood Tories believe the offices could either be used as headquarters or sold for profit if the much bigger ‘West Cheshire’ local authority proposed for 2009 under a local government reorganisation plan goes ahead.
But Lib Dem group leader city Cllr Paul Roberts accused the Tory administration of losing £8m, suggesting ING are only willing to stump up about £20m in place of providing ‘the slug’ which had an estimated building cost of £28m.
Cllr Roberts said: ‘Their promise to cancel the council offices on Gorse Stacks and to invest a large sum of money in other assets has been revealed to be a sham and totally untrue.’
Conservatives will point out that under their new arrangement Gorse Stacks remains as a valuable asset either continuing to provide income as a car park or available for development.
In a letter to electors Cllr Johnson this week confirmed the slug is finished: ‘The ‘slug’ was the obsession of the previous Lib Dem/Labour alliance than ran Chester but we maintained we never needed a multi million pound glass palace for councillors. The deal is great for our city.’
Cllr Johnson added: ‘The city council will make the formal announcement soon.’
Cllr Johnson’s disclosure came just days after public and press had twice been excluded from crucial Town Hall meetings which had discussed the council offices and the £400m Northgate Development.
Although development portfolio holder Cllr Mike Jones (Con, Tattenhall) told a special meeting of the full city council: ‘I sincerely wish the whole meeting could be held in public’, the Tories later used their majority to crush a move to have a publicly available document relating to the new council offices debated with the public present.
Cllr Jones this week refused to comment to The Chronicle based on legal reasons, because the deal is not signed off.
Labour leader Cllr John Price (Blacon Hall) commented: ‘The general public will be somewhat perplexed. We are deeply unhappy with this process. Openness this is not.’