Planning permission has been granted for Tower Hamlets Council to turn one of the borough’s most historic buildings into a new town hall.
The Grade II listed former Royal London Hospital building, located in Whitechapel, will be home to an ambitious new council building, with services for residents, a library, café and public spaces all under one roof.
The Council’s Strategic Development Committee voted overwhelmingly in support of the scheme when it met the last week in February. The decision is subject to approval by the Mayor of London over the coming weeks.
The 18th Century building has a special place in the hearts of many Tower Hamlets residents as it was used as a maternity hospital for much of the 20th Century. It has been vacant for several years.
Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs said: “This is a key milestone in delivering our new town hall, which will be a landmark building. By bringing the council together with our partners, like healthcare and housing, it will be somewhere where residents can access a range of public services in one place.
“We also want to encourage local people to feel this is a building for them to use. And compared to other options it demonstrates the best value for money. We want a town hall that is worthy of the name but will press down on costs.”
The estimated total cost of the new town hall is £105m which will be better value for money compared to current arrangements.
It will save the £5m a year it currently spends to rent its current accommodation at Mulberry Place. In addition, an estimated £78m will be recouped from the sale of old council buildings that will no longer be needed once staff have moved into the new town hall. Those redundant sites could be used to provide much needed new housing.
Construction of the ambitious new town hall, designed by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris, will start later this year, with an expected completion date in 2022.
As well as public spaces on the ground floor, the new building will provide open plan office accommodation for council staff and partner organisations and a council chamber and meeting rooms.
There are also plans for a library, cafe and customer service facilities for residents and visitors. The new design will retain and restore the Georgian façade of the original hospital building, which dates back to 1757.
The Civic Centre will be in the most accessible part of Tower Hamlets. Situated next to the new transport hub in Whitechapel, it will be served by four different train and tube lines including Crossrail, along with bus and cycle routes.
Associate Sam Scott of architects AHMM commented: “Achieving planning consent for this exciting proposal is an important milestone for such a sensitive and complex project. AHMM and Tower Hamlets Council have engaged extensively with the public and amenity societies to conserve the character of a building which occupies such a significant place in the collective memory of the East End.”