Lambeth councillors have given unanimous approval to their £50m ‘Your New Town Hall’ project. The move will reduce the council’s main office buildings from 14 to two and save around £4.5 million a year, it is claimed.
The plans will see part of Town Hall Parade replaced with a new civic centre. Lambeth Town Hall, a Grade II-listed building, will be renovated.
Olive Morris House will be demolished to make way for a seven-storey block of 74 flats. Hambrook House will be replaced by a 14-storey block of flats. The project will cost £50m. The council says this will not be a burden on taxpayers because costs will be recouped.
Paul McGlone, the council’s deputy leader, said the borough needed to cut running costs urgently but to continue to provide essential public services.
The project is “bold and ambitious – and a good deal for Lambeth,” he said. “It will save us millions of pounds a year, and deliver new, affordable, homes as well as hundreds of jobs.”
The council says 194 homes will be created, 78 of them “affordable”. Muse Developments, the company running the project, submitted the application in April and work is likely to start before next year.
But the cost has come under fire. Jonathan Bartley, work and pensions spokesperson for the Green Party, said the project encapsulated the double standards of Labour, which runs the council.
“It’s destroying local homes and communities like Cressingham Gardens by claiming it has no money for repairs, but is spending tens of millions on its own lavish new building,” said Bartley. “It’s one rule for them and another for locals”.
McGlone rejected the criticisms. “We have consulted with our residents throughout this process. There have been meetings, redrafts and modifications of designs as we’ve listened and responded to people’s views, concerns and suggestions.
“To give just a couple of examples – we have modified the design of buildings to improve quality and we are continuing to ask for views on how Olive Morris’s memory will be preserved. (Morris was a founding member of the Organisation of Women of African and Asian Descent (OWAAD) in London and established the Brixton Black Women’s Group).
McGlone added that the entire scheme had been subject to a “rigorous, independent and transparent” planning applications process.
“The same rules have been applied to both Muse and the council as apply to every other scheme, regardless of the applicant,” he said. “The planning applications committee which granted consent is a cross-party committee, and their decision was unanimous.”
[…] the overflow, nor should it have to. (And unlike Lambeth Town Ha’l, it’s not getting a £50m overhall to make it nicer to work […]
The council has asserted that the “Your New Town Hall” project will be completed at no public cost. Indeed a figure has been repeatedly promoted claiming annual savings of £4.5 million. The wheeler-dealer cabinet however is handing over 13 office blocks owned by us, to a developer, with no indication of their value. This may be a brilliant deal maximising value to the public, or the developers may have taken us to the cleaners. Guess which. We have no way of knowing because typically the figures are a secret. The cabinet refuses to supply any information by claiming exemption from the Freedom of Information Act. Information is withheld so as to enable a false impression to be promoted of value for money; this is simply propaganda. The public is entitled to know the actual values of our properties sold or transferred and the value of the two buildings available for public use. This borough is an Eldorado for property developers with the public kept in the dark. Surely the property barons should be working for us and not the other way around.
Great news !! Now Lambeth can afford to build proper public toilets in Central Brixton using a small amount of the £4.5 million a year savings ?
Demolition of Olive Morris House is shortsighted. If Lambeth really wanted to achieve value for money – and win another architectural award, as it recently did with the Black Cultural Archives building – it would convert Olive Morris House to residential apartments rather than demolish it and replace with a new, mediocre resi building. This 1980s brick office building has the potential to become a design classic and refurbishment would be cheaper than demolition and new-build. A FoI request seems in order – did Lambeth even consider the option of retaining and converting this building?
How are the costs going to l be recouped. Obviously not saving in office costs as that would take more than 10 years, plus interest ….
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