Fulham Town Hall Could be Sold to Pay Council Debts

Sale would be part of "major regeneration plan"

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Hammersmith and Fulham Council

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Fulham Town Hall could be put up for sale to help clear Hammersmith and Fulham Council's debt mountain.

The 120 year old Grade II listed town hall is among nine buildings, which also include Sands End Community Centre, which the council says are either underused or provide poor value for money, and which could be sold to cut debts totalling £133 million.

The council also  claims that the Town Hall could be part of a major regeneration plan for Fulham Town Centre, bringing new business and vitality to the area.

The council argues that the building, which is famous for its historic stained windows, is woefully under-used and requires major renovation which it cannot afford in the current economic climate.

Most council services have been moved to other buildings over recent years and the council argues that  " in this day and age, taxpayers simply cannot afford the luxury of having two town halls in one borough ".

Selling the site, says the council, also provides the most likely route to preserving the building and bringing it back to life.

Council Leader, Cllr Stephen Greenhalgh says: " We want to see the building itself brought back to life as part of the biggest regeneration of the area since the Broadway development."

In the past the town hall has proved a popular venue for weddings, but under this plan, the council says services such as registrars will be relocated to suitable accessible accommodation elsewhere in the borough.

Sands End Community Centre, it says, is  also currently under-used. It houses gym facilities and adult education classes which could be re-provided nearby; the local children’s centre which could move to better facilities in Townmead Road where there is outside play space; and a local library.

The library is the least used of the six libraries in the borough, issuing only 13 items per hour at a cost of over £5 per visit and its future as a potential community facility elsewhere in the ward will be the subject of a separate consultation this summer.

The full list of sites being considered for potential sale are:

Fulham Town Hall
The Sands End Community Centre
The Askham Centre
Distillery Lane Centre
Palingswick House
The Irish Centre
58 Bulwer Street
The Greswell Street Centre
50 Commonwealth Avenue W12

There are also three properties where the council proposes to discontinue the lease. These are:

The Information Centre in Hammersmith Broadway
Cambridge House
Barclay House
The council is also considering moving Hammersmith Library to a better site.

According to the council, these sales would raise around £20 million which could contribute towards paying off debt and cutting interest repayments. Rental payments would also be saved.

In total it says £2. 5 million in cash would be freed up for frontline services every year.

It is also making it clear that these proposed asset disposals would be only the first wave in a rolling programme, with more sites likely to be considered for later this year.

Cllr Greenhalgh says: " All indications are that we will have to reduce our spending by around £55 million over the next three years. We have stated very publicly that our focus will be on selling our assets to protect services.

" We have to put people before buildings and safeguard as much of our budget as possible for voluntary sector grants, child protection and services for the elderly."

The council says consultations on the proposed sale of individual buildings will run over the summer and the results carefully considered before any formal disposal decisions are made.

Other cost cutting measures proposed by H&F include merging education services with Westminster Council, which it says will cut costs by eradicating duplication. This could also lead to the loss of hundreds of jobs within the council.

July 1, 2010