After ongoing talks, the University has secured the use of Shire Hall in the town’s Market Square to house a new advice and information centre for prospective students and provide a range of courses.
Based on a similar development in the historic George Hotel building in Wolverhampton City Centre, it will be home to an advice centre for people who want to find out more about the University and need guidance on what courses to study, finance or assistance with the application process.
The centre will be based in the Grand Hall part of the building. The University intends to retain the art gallery space, which it aims to use for student and community exhibition space alongside existing planned exhibitions, as well as the historic court rooms- which will remain accessible to the public.
The University, which will be leasing the property, has worked closely with Staffordshire County Council and Stafford Borough Council as part of the venture.
Vice-Chancellor of the University of Wolverhampton, Professor Geoff Layer, said: “We are really proud to be in Stafford. Shire Hall is a beautiful and historic building, right in the heart of the town centre.
“We have been looking for some time at expanding the work we do, particularly for people who want part-time and adult learning, in some of our key neighbouring towns and counties. As a University it is vital we seek to provide opportunities to a wide audience and help shape and drive economic growth in the region.
“We see Stafford as an ideal fit. It is just 15 miles from Wolverhampton and 10 minutes on the train, we have many hundreds of students every year from South Staffordshire who study with us and there are the historical connections between Wolverhampton and Stafford- we were formerly known as the Wolverhampton and Staffordshire Technical College.
“We have been received very positively by both the county and borough councils and local politicians and all parties see this as a great way to keep Shire Hall accessible to the public and in use and to have a significant university presence.
“We now look forward, firstly to opening the new centre in Stafford to the public and then working with organisations in the town to enhance our services for the future.”
Deputy Leader of Staffordshire County Council, Councillor Ian Parry, said the transformation of the hall from a former seat of justice into a future seat of learning would help ensure a vibrant future for the Grade II listed building.
He said: “Shire Hall is an important and well-loved building and while there were never any plans to close it we did want maximise the potential for the site and think we have found the perfect fit with the University.
“This is fantastic news for both Stafford and the University and I am particularly delighted that there will be a student’s art gallery and that court rooms will be used as the setting for future top flight lawyers to hone their legal skills.
“We very much wanted Shire Hall to remain at the heart of Stafford and are looking forward to the fresh energy an influx of new students promises to bring to the town.”
Councillor Mike Heenan, Leader of Stafford Borough Council, said: “I met with the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Wolverhampton on several occasions and I am delighted that this has come to fruition and will be the start of a long and fruitful relationship in Stafford.”
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Date Issued: Thursday 21 May 2014