Lambeth council is looking for a development partner to deliver an estimated £30m town hall “campus” in Brixton.
Under the plan, a new set of council offices will be built around the town hall in central Brixton. The town hall itself, which is a listed building, will be modernised.
After redundancies and budget cuts over the past few years, there is now empty office space in the borough. The council has estimated that by reducing the amount of civic buildings in its portfolio and condensing its offices onto the town hall site, it will save up to £4.5million a year.
Cllr Paul McGlone, cabinet member for finance and resources, said: “By selling offices we no longer need the council will be able to generate enough money to bring the remaining offices up to a better standard.
“It will also maximise the efficiency of the remaining offices and provide savings that can go back into delivering services for local people.”
The authority has pledged that cash saved will be invested in Lambeth’s schools, roads and housing.
Provisionally called the SW2 Enterprise Centre, the campus will include facilities to be used by community groups, local businesses and entrepreneurs.
There are concerns that the plans have been passed through council without much public input, despite the fact that the public is currently being consulted on ‘Future Brixton’ and despite Lambeth’s new co-operative policies. The area falls under the remit of the Brixton Masterplan but was not mentioned to participants in recent workshops about the Supplementary Planning Document, which will give legal teeth to the Masterplan.
While the SW2 Enterprise website makes no mention of any co-production or co-operative work with local residents to deliver the new ‘campus’, it claims that the principles of the co-operative council will be borne out “by creating a civic place where the public, users and residents can integrate with and have visibility of civic functions.”
Lambeth council is also offering developers the opportunity to create part of the area for residential or retail use. The SW2 Enterprise website, designed to give information for prospective developers, states: “the scheme has the potential to support additional development of around 100,000-150,000 sq foot in a combination of residential, community and commercial activity.”
The whole site comprises 2.5 acres including the listed Lambeth Town Hall and adjacent civic buildings, such as Hambrook House and Olive Morris House.
Duncan Law, of Transition Town Brixton, said: “This hasn’t factored in the SPD [consultation for Future Brixton] at all. It would have been good to have had some clarity on this in our workshops on Future Brixton.
“If anybody has the money for a development like this it would be people like Tesco or Barretts Homes. We’ve already got three major arcades and a street market. To build an arcade in this area – it would be brand new shops and trying to attract high-end retail, but it is higher up Brixton Hill and unlikely to be used and has to be maintained and serviced so the rents would go up.”
Transition Town Brixton has drawn up a list of principles for any future developments in Brixton in a google document (here) to which anyone can add comments. Law said: “My hope is that whatever is built is built so that it is future appropriate and it honours the social and racial and commercial mix in Brixton, and doesn’t increase toeholds for big commercial companies. Anything predicated on the expansion of Tesco and anything not sustainable should not be allowed.”
As part of the deal, criticised by the Lambeth Liberal Democrats in July as a “vanity project”, Lambeth-owned International House in Canterbury Crescent will be handed over to the developer while Phoenix House in Vauxhall will be sold to fund the SW2 Enterprise Centre.
The council is reportedly hoping to be on site by 2014 for a completion in 2016.