Greenwich Council has stepped back from a confrontation with the charity which runs the Old Royal Naval College over plans to change the historic campus’s name.
The Greenwich Foundation For The Old Royal Naval College, which has run the site since the Ministry of Defence left 20 years ago, is considering plans to rename it Greenwich Palace or Royal Greenwich Hospital in a relaunch to coincide with the refurbishment of the Painted Hall, which reopens in April.
Conservative leader Matt Hartley put down a motion condemning the name change, which was revealed by 853 last month and criticised in letters to The Times from local amenity groups and a former trustee of the charity.
But councillors passed an amendment calling on the foundation to talk to “councillors from both sides of the chamber and representatives from key organisations to find a way forward, which addresses the concerns raised”.
Hartley said the current name was historically accurate and any change would risk undermining the financial sustainability of the foundation and “could also harm our overall brand as a borough”.
“We worry in particular about the perceived loss of the naval associations, as that is such a key part of brand Greenwich.”
He said “Greenwich Palace” could appear tenuous, and pointed out that the borough already had a palace: “I understand that Eltham Palace has not been consulted about that change and after I pointed it out the foundation, to its credit, has started a conversation with Eltham Palace.
“Our message is by all means rebrand, just don’t rename.”
His Conservative colleague Nigel Fletcher said a change to Greenwich Palace – the Palace of Placentia stood on the site until 1660 – would be “historically confusing”.
But Greenwich’s cabinet member for culture, Miranda Williams, said: “As a council, I do not feel it is our place to comment on the Greenwich Foundation’s plans to change the name. It is, our however, in our gift to bring the concerned societies together with the foundation and elected representatives to ensure concerns are heard.
“It must also be noted that there is a need to for the foundation to grow its local, domestic and international audiences. Their ambition to become an extraordinary cultural destination that is a relevant and sustainable place for the local community as well as national and international visitors for generations to come must be supported for the benefit of our residents.”
Williams and Hartley had hoped to reach a compromise, but Labour councillors voted down the motion calling on the foundation to abandoned the name change. Instead, councillors on both sides voted for the amendment calling for discussions.
The council’s microphones failed during the meeting, meaning it could not be webcast, so the video above comes from 853‘s YouTube channel. Councillors were wearing festive outfits for the mayor’s charity, Demelza.
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