WILTSHIRE Council has raised the priority for finding a third-party operator it hopes will carry out £2m worth of repairs and run City Hall.

The venue has not been used for entertainment since it closed in March 2020 but the council came one step closer to reopening it at a Salisbury Area Board meeting on Thursday, September 28.

David Redfern, director of leisure, culture and communities at Wiltshire Council, admitted his team are "no experts" and told councillors that finding a third-party operator to run the building has become a "key priority".

During April and May 2022, the council carried out a soft market test to gauge the interest of third-party organisations which had "a number of respondents".

But the council is reluctant to spend any money on the building until it has a "serious conversation with somebody who could operate it".

He added that progress has been made toward finalising the Prior Information Notice (PIN) which is a formal indicator to the market that Wiltshire Council is looking for an operator.

Salisbury Journal: City Hall was last used by the NHS for Covid vaccinations.City Hall was last used by the NHS for Covid vaccinations. (Image: Newsquest)

Councillor Paul Sample forwarded a motion, which the majority of councillors agreed on, to secure alternative futures for City Hall if Wiltshire Council fails to reopen it.

These included the formation of a Salisbury City Hall Trust (a registered charity) similar to the Trust which operates Portsmouth Guildhall or the creation of a Community Interest Company (a charitable company limited by guarantee) similar to St John’s Place, Bemerton. 

Salisbury Area Board said Wiltshire Council should hand back Salisbury City Hall to the next operators in at least “as good as” condition as it inherited from Salisbury District Council in 2009.

Salisbury Journal: Cllr Sample's motion in full.Cllr Sample's motion in full. (Image: Salisbury Journal)

Mr Redfern did not rule out the possibility of subsidising the third-party operator and said: "Once we get the facts of the prior information notice and we’ve had that market engagement we can feed that back in and have those discussions."

Any potential plans to combine Salisbury's library and City Hall have been ruled out following a three-month review into the possibility, Mr Redfern added.

Read more: ​Wiltshire Council criticised for not repairing Salisbury City Hall

A procurement process will start soon and Cllr Richard Clewer, leader of Wiltshire Council, said: "We’re going out to find a partner to get city hall open. Once we’ve got that we’ve got the solution."

Part of Cllr Sample's motion included ensuring that Salisbury City Hall be open during Remembrance Commemorations in November 2023. 

Mr Redfern gave assurances that Wiltshire Council will "fully respect" the details around City Hall and its links to the war memorial but said the building would not be insured if it were to open.