Ealing's Labour Council brought forward plans at the last Cabinet meeting to refurbish Ealing Town Hall.
Anyone who has visited the building recently will know that its grand façade hides an interior that is shabby, leaky and not fit for purpose for a modern working environment. Whilst significant money has been spent on the Victoria Hall in recent years, the offices behind the scenes are in a dire state.
We also have a duty to make sure that as a listed building, we keep in it good repair.
Plans have been developed for a number of years but this was the first time we have seen detailed proposals. The main feature of which is to turn the majority of the building into a boutique hotel (with additional luxury flats) whilst retain some civic function – full council meetings, weddings etc. However, the biggest change is the incorporation of the main community assets, such as the Victoria Hall, into the hotel. This is a major change to the original ideas. The Hall should be available for community groups but undoubtedly, under the control of the hotel, they will be side-lined for more commercially attractive users.
On top of this, the Council are proposing the demolition of Perceval House (the Council offices) next door and replacing it with luxury flats in the style of Dickens Yard. Both constructions together will lead to significant disruption for many years for the surrounding areas, not to mention the running of the council itself.
The final, and perhaps most worrying coda to all of this, hidden in the plans for Perceval House, is the relocation of the Central Library. Refurbished very recently at the cost of many millions, the Central Library is a community hub in the Broadway Centre. The Labour Council is proposing to move this to a temporary site (location unknown) and then somehow incorporate it into the new Perceval House development, conjoined with a “customer service centre”. The Council freely admits that both the temporary site and any new location would be significantly smaller than the current location. This could all start next year!
During Labour’s 2010-14 administration, we helped the residents of Ealing to stop the library closure programme – this appears to be an attempt to continue the down-sizing by the back door. The Conservatives in Ealing are not necessarily against the principles behind the proposals; the Perceval House site is a poorly laid out and underused by an increasingly shrinking workforce, the Town Hall needs refurbishment and the library is a bit hidden away in the Broadway Centre. But no real thought has been given about how the Council continues to provide community resources, what the disruption will mean and how all of this links to the developments such as the cinema site across the road.
The Conservative opposition have 'called-in' the decision and it will be scrutinised by Councillors on 13 November at 7pm in the Town Hall. This meeting is open to the public and concerned residents can make their views known. Please do come along to have your say.
The Labour Council needs to preserve the heritage of our town centres and to improve community facilities. The current plans are scant on detail and give little regard to a joined-up approach to redeveloping the area. The pound signs in front of the Labour Councillors’ eyes appear to be blinding them from considered opinion. Let’s hope that Thursday’s meeting will bring some sensible debate and make sure that the good features are carried forward whilst the dubious ones are consigned to the (overflowing) rubbish bins of the Borough.