Greenwich Council is poised to put its historic Borough Hall in west Greenwich up for sale after a plan to lease the building to a theatre company collapsed.
The council had attempted to strike a deal with Selladoor, a Deptford-based company which runs regional theatres across the UK. The company had planned to put in a rooftop bar and expand the main hall to install 640 seats.
Built in the 1930s as part of the old Greenwich Town Hall, the Grade II-listed building has been empty since Greenwich Dance moved to Charlton House in 2018, after which it was briefly squatted.
Council officers claimed the deal would “provide an alternative to the saturated and expensive West End marketplace”. Last summer, the council’s assistant chief executive, Katrina Delaney, said the proposal was to host plays that would then transfer to the West End.
But some Labour councillors had resisted Selladoor taking over, saying that it put at risk the viability of nearby Greenwich Theatre, which the council had previously wanted to move into the Borough Hall.
Now council officers say “it not been possible, despite extensive work and negotiations between the parties, to agree heads of terms” between the town hall and Selladoor. The building – which past council reports have said is full of asbestos and needs £10 million of repairs – will now go up for sale.
“The Greenwich Borough Halls remains vacant and an important under-used asset within the world heritage site,” a report to the council’s cabinet says. “Moreover, given the building condition and its listed building status, ongoing maintenance presents a liability to the council. Residents will also be aware that the building has been squatted a number of times and the eviction of the squatters has cost the council considerable sums of money.
“On the basis that the building continues to remain vacant and does not generate any income for the council, and represents a liability in terms of ongoing cost of maintenance it is necessary as part of the council’s on going asset management strategy to recommend to cabinet an alternative approach – hence the recommendation to market the building for disposal.”
Two years ago, the council said it hoped the building would remain an arts venue. However, it could now be sold by next summer “on an unconditional basis”, the report says – meaning that the building could be converted into housing, like the former Hornsey Town Hall in north London, or business use. It adds that Selladoor could “bid through this process if they choose to maintain their interest”.
A sale would see the council lose its last interest in the building, which was the home of the former Metropolitan Borough of Greenwich from 1939 until it was merged with neighbouring Woolwich to form the current borough in 1965. The rest of the building, with its distinctive clock tower, was sold in the 1970s; it was most recently home to the Greenwich School of Management, which went bust last year.
Councillors on the ruling cabinet, the council’s main decision-making body, will discuss the report next Wednesday.
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