Camden seals £40 million Lendlease deal for Town Hall refurb
Councillors to move to Crownwdale Centre for three years
22 March, 2018 — By Richard Osley
Camden Council’s listed town hall building in King’s Cross
CAMDEN is to hand property giant Lendlease more than £40million to manage the refurbishment of the Town Hall building in King’s Cross, as the council prepares to invite private companies to take over its upper floors.
As part of a long-term aim to make money out of the council’s historic base in Judd Street, rooms on the second and third floors are to be upgraded and made available for let on the private market.
The basement, meanwhile, will house tech start-ups. Officials believe the cost of the contract is a best-value rate for a listed building which has fallen into disrepair and has some quirky internal fittings. The council will look for long-term commercial tenants for the upper floors, an arrangement which has been on the cards for many months and is talked about as the “privatisation of the Town Hall’ by sceptics within the Labour Party.
Camden’s council chamber, with its horseshoe of green leather seats, will be spruced up as part of the overhaul, forcing councillors to spend around three years meeting in the Crowndale Centre, near Mornington Crescent. The move has been likened to the way MPs face time away from the House of Commons while the parliamentary estate is upgraded, a project also involving Lendlease.
A new wedding suite at the Town Hall could end the practice of excited couples planning their marriages having to queue in the same line as people registering deaths.
The choice of contractor has raised eyebrows among some backbench Labour councillors as it comes on the heels of the company’s controversial deal with Haringey to redevelop land on a 50-50 basis. This project, known as Haringey Development Scheme, has led to such bitter divisions that councillors were deselected and council leader Claire Kober eventually stood down.
Backbench Labour councillors in Camden faced internal criticism for publicly celebrating the likely end of the Lendlease deal in Haringey in letters to newspapers. At the same time, council officers were negotiating a works deal with Lendlease for the Town Hall. Unlike the situation in Haringey, however, the company will play a management role for Camden and will not retain a stake in the building once the refurbishment is complete.
The choice of contractors was delegated to officials by the Labour cabinet of councillors, although the final decision, a spokesman said, was made “in consultation” with finance chief Councillor Richard Olszewski.
The council said in a statement: “Lendlease secured the contract following a formal competitive procurement process. The procurement process was carried out in compliance with procurement regulations – as we are obliged to follow by law – and we evaluated the competing bids based on value for money and quality. The procurement strategy was agreed by the council’s cabinet, which delegated procurement to officers in the normal manner.”
It added: “We will be engaging with interested parties on proposals ahead of us submitting a planning application. This will include meeting with representatives of groups for people with disabilities about improving access to a refurbished Town Hall.”
Many officials have moved out of Judd Street to the new council tower block at 5 Pancras Square – commonly known as 5PS – at the King’s Cross railwaylands. With staff not occupying all of the space there, Conservatives have called on Camden to let out more floors to private businesses to bring in more revenue for the cash-strapped council.
And here is how the temporary council chamber will look for the next three years…
[Illustration: AAB architects]
THE victors at the May 3 elections will have little time to get comfy in the council chamber before they have to move to temporary digs at the Crowndale Centre. This is the first artist’s impression of the set up for meetings there for three years.
“The Crowndale chamber will be laid out in the same way, with seating for councillors, the Mayor, public galleries and press space all provided,” a statement said. “It will be fitted out in a more flexible and modern style than the Town Hall chamber. It will benefit from better webcasting, audio visual and voting systems, which will all be re-used back at the Town Hall.”