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Cambridge City Council

Green light given to public say in design work for the Guildhall, market square and Corn Exchange

30 January 2024

CAMRIDGE City councillors have approved proposals to give the public and stakeholders a say in studies for the refurbishment of the city’s civic heart.

Councillors agreed yesterday (29 January) at Strategy and Resources Scrutiny Committee to invite design and consultancy teams to bid to produce detailed options and feasibility reports for refurbishing the Guildhall, Market Square and Corn Exchange.

Cllr Simon Smith, Executive Councillor for Finance and Resources, said: “I welcome the cross-party consensus on the proposals, and commitments to engage with the public and stakeholders at key stages in the design process. 

“By working with the community and stakeholders, we will find out what people want from the Guildhall, market and Corn Exchange and spaces between, so they better serve people and businesses. By working together, we can make the city centre a place that everyone can be proud of.

“The most significant part of the work will inform an investment case for refurbishing the Guildhall. The initial feasibility study has shown cost savings and income from lettings could help to safeguard our frontline services in the future. 

“We will need any investment to make the Guildhall zero carbon, home to fit for the future offices for staff, a new customer service centre and revitalised halls for conferences events.

“The work will be commissioned in April and formal engagement events will commence in May with the final reports to be completed by October and presented to the Strategy and Resources Scrutiny Committee in November for decision.”

Market traders and other stakeholders have already met council officers to discuss the project and they have been invited to a further briefing this week.

A new Civic Quarter Liaison Group, to be chaired by Cllr Rosy Moore, Executive Councillor for Climate Change, will be established to involve market traders, residents, business representatives and other stakeholders, throughout the process. A dedicated website has gone live for the latest updates.

Once appointed, the design and consultancy team will produce options focusing on:

  • Guildhall

Delivering improvements that make the Guildhall a more open and accessible place that retains the character and heritage of its grade II listing, meets the council’s civic and administrative needs and generates commercial revenue. Investment could be funded by the sale of Mandela House on Regent Street and the use of reserves.

  • Market square

Developing the vision agreed by councillors in 2022 for the market square which followed consultation in 2021. The results of the consultation showed support for making the market square a more accessible, attractive, welcoming, exciting and safe place to visit, shop and gather, both during the day and into the evening.

  • Corn Exchange

Exploring options to make the Corn Exchange a more modern and appealing venue with a programme of improvements to the facilities. Options will be considered for updating facilities, exploring new commercial opportunities and reducing operational costs.

The design and consultancy team's work will also contribute towards the business case for matched funding of £1.5m earmarked by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority last year, subject to approval of the CPCA budget.

The process for appointing a design and consultancy team will take place through the council’s procurement portal: email:

The civic quarter project is an important part of the council’s transformation programme Our Cambridge which is creating a more digitally enabled and efficient council delivering high quality services for residents. As part this programme, the council is transforming some of its accommodation including the creation of an operational hub at Cowley Road by merging two existing sites.

The rationale for the project is:

    1. To create a more attractive central Cambridge destination for residents and increase visitor numbers for the market, the Corn Exchange and businesses in the area;
    2. To make long term savings to help ensure frontline council services are sustainable, by cutting operational costs and increasing revenue streams;
    3. To contribute to the council’s target of being net zero carbon by 2030.