The staggering cost of bringing an iconic Hereford building back into use has been revealed.

The fate of the Shirehall on St Peter’s Square is to be decided next week. The prominent grade II* listed classical building is owned by Herefordshire Council but has been out of use since June 2020 when part of its roof collapsed.

It houses two courtrooms and a “custody suite”, the Assembly Hall music venue and several council facilities – one of which, a CCTV control room, remains in use.

Next week, the council’s cabinet will decide whether to retain and invest in the building, to either lease it or sell it on the open market, or to defer a decision “to allow further investigations on potential future uses of the building”.

But a report for the meeting warns that, though there is an “existing budget line of £1.2 million” for the work to bring the building up to scratch, a further £6.3 million would still have to be found, bringing the total for the work to £7.5 million.

If a capital bid for the extra funding were made in time for the next financial year, “the building could be made available for use in early to mid-2025”, the report says.

“Any delay in submitting a capital bid clearly moves the potential re-occupation date back by a year,” it warns.


If cabinet opts to take no immediate action, then the staff car park by the hall could be used by the public on a pay-and-display basis in the meantime.

“It is widely acknowledged that the Assembly Hall is the best musical venue in Hereford, and key musical groups and organisations are keen to use it once again,” the report says.

But it warns the building has “extensive defects throughout”, including “many” leaks, “degraded” gutters and drainpipes, “rotten” windows and doors, rising damp in the basement levels “substandard or near end-of-life” mechanical and electrical systems, and “possible compliance issues” on fire safety, accessibility and public health.

A plan to “decarbonise” the building would include solar panels, for which it has up to £60,000 to invest in, as well as LED lighting, new windows and heating.

Currently the council is paying for scaffolding to hold up the courtroom ceiling as well as ongoing monitoring of the building, while it has lost revenue from hosting the courts service.

Should it retain and restore the building , the council would then “look to optimise the daytime, evening and weekend community use by either seeking to work with a partner around social and community use, or the council marketing and promoting the rooms for hire”, its report says.

The decision covers not only the main building, but also offices at 33-35 Union Street and 1a St Owen Street, both currently used by the council’s children’s services.

It is the latest in a series of recent revelations on the ballooning costs of projects in the city centre, including the nearby St Owen Street "contraflow" and the re-laying of Widemarsh Street's kerbs.