Tories Fear Public Set to Lose Access to Ealing Town Hall

Say delay in signing contract suggests developer unwilling to hire out Victoria Hall

Victoria Hall


Have Your Say Over Controversial Ealing Town Hall Changes

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Local Conservatives are claiming that a delay in signing a detailed contract with the developer of Ealing Town Hall could be down to a failure to reach agreement on continued public access to the site. This has been denied by Julian Bell the leader of Ealing Council.

It is nineteen months since the Council selected a developer. Last year the Labour administration agreed to a call from Conservatives on the Council at a Scrutiny Call-in that the right of the public to hire out Victoria Hall should extend for the duration of the 250-year lease and not just for five years as originally planned.

The Conservatives are speculating that the developer is unwilling to make this concession and that Labour are now attempting to drag the process out until after the local election in May, when they will announce that the extension of access to the hall will not take place.

Cllr Greg Stafford, Opposition Leader said, “It has been 19 months since the Labour Administration voted to get rid of Ealing’s crown jewel - The Town Hall, by the grant of a 250-year lease to a developer to turn into a boutique hotel.

“At that time, Conservative Councillors questioned the legitimacy of giving away the much-loved and much-used public asset built by public subscription to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887 and argued successfully that the public should be allowed to the hire the Victoria Hall for the full duration of the proposed 250-year lease and not just for 5 years as originally proposed.

“We are now fearful that the failure of the Council to get the contract signed implies that they have not been able to get the developers to agree to the public use for the full 250-years. Furthermore, Labour’s decision to consult now on the charitable status of the Town Hall after the agreeing to flog it, suggests that they are just waiting until after the election to backtrack on letting the community use the facilities for the duration of the lease. This certainly would not be first, not the last time, that Labour falls to safeguard the public’s interest.”

Recently the consultation deadline about proposed changes to the Town Hall was extended after what campaigners say was an overwhelming response. The Council is seeking the Charity Commission’s permission to vary parts of the Trust prior to the disposal or the Town Hall, but before this can be done they must consult 'key' stakeholders about the plans.

Mastcraft has been appointed to redevelop the grade II listed building turning it into a a 140-bed hotel with a lease for 245 years. The Council remain freeholders and will keep the east wing with the Council Chamber and marriage rooms, but Victoria Hall and Princes Rooms form part of the deal with the developers. Victoria Hall was built in 1893 for 'charitable purposes' and from public donations and since then has belonged to a charitable trust - the trustees being elected councillors.

Councillor Julian Bell, leader of Ealing Council said, “In 2014 the cabinet took the decision to redevelop/refurbish the town hall complex to include keeping the east wing for civic use and weddings, and, very importantly, maintain the community use of the public halls at a discounted rate for the life of the lease. The council would maintain the freehold of the property and have control of the rates charged for community activity. Our preferred developers, Mastcraft, selected in July 2016, are in full support of this and public access to hire Victoria Hall has never been an issue.

“In 2016 it was hoped that the legal agreement with Mastcraft would have been completed by now. Negotiations with Mastcraft have however yet to be concluded, partly because of design options which are still under discussion and partly to enable the current consultation on the updating of the charitable purposes relating to the Victoria Hall Trust to be concluded. This has resulted in a slippage in the original timetable. The new timetable identifies a decant from the Town Hall in autumn 2018 which will allow for the results of the current consultation to be taken into account.”

To have your say about the proposals email at Ealing Council.

January 25, 2018

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