Selling the Borough Halls

The Greenwich Society response: -

Dear Mr England

CONSERVATION OF GRADE II BOROUGH HALLS SE10

The Greenwich Society is disappointed that the council has decided to sell the Borough Halls. They have fallen into a poor state of repair over the years and it is unsatisfactory that the council, as owner and with responsibility for ensuring the conservation of heritage assets within the borough, is avoiding the necessary remedial action and looking instead to a buyer to take on the task. We suspect that it will be difficult to sell the building and that effort might be better devoted to a more wide-ranging exploration of alternative uses. We hope the council will remain willing to look at other options if they come forward

For the moment we have to accept that this is the path the council has chosen to take. Our concern now is that any sale should lead to the repair of the building and to a use appropriate to its architectural and historical importance.

We urge the council to include in the sale prospectus and in any eventual sale agreement a very clear statement about the building’s listed status and the legal protection and responsibility for keeping it in a good state of repair which this entails. The council should remind prospective purchasers that any new uses for the building involving alterations would require listed building consent and that any proposals will be judged according to their likely impact on the special interest of the building (as included in the Historic England list description but not confined to this).

It may be objected that prospective purchasers will already know all this. Experience elsewhere shows that some developers will gamble on being able to evade their legal obligations and, as a building deteriorates, to obtain consent for damaging alterations as the only available option.

As well as a clear statement of the legal position it would be very helpful if the planners could provide some general guidance to prospective buyers on what constitutes the special interest of the building and hence what alternative uses and alterations might be acceptable. We recall that a guidance of this sort accompanied the sale of The Arches to a developer and that was not a statutorily listed building.

We ask you to take these suggestions on board and look forward to hearing from you.

Best wishes

Richard Butt

Vice Chair - Greenwich Society