Your New Town Hall – what you’ve said

Written by Anna Quigley

October 3, 2014

Throughout July 2014 Muse and Lambeth Council held a number of Community Design events with the aim of improving the design of Your New Town Hall through local involvement. People were encouraged to share their ideas and thoughts, particularly about the civic spaces included in the project, such as the customer centre and the register office. Events included meetings for residents living close to the sites that make up Your New Town Hall, workshops for community organisations and public exhibitions, such as our stall at the Lambeth Country Show and the film made by young people with Photofusion.

Aerial view presented July 2014, showing 20-storey building

What you said

These are some of the issues you’ve raised. We’re taking them all seriously and here’s just an overview of what we’re doing to address them:

Parking: Immediate residents are concerned about overflow parking in local streets from new residential and civic development.
Brixton has a top rating for public transport and we will expect new developments to be car free with residents of new flats not eligible for parking permits. However, we understand that increased numbers of residents will likely lead to increased pressure on parking outside existing CPZ time restrictions. It’s possible that CPZs can be reviewed and we will also promote car clubs and cycling for Brixton residents more widely.

Construction management: You wanted reassurance about disruption from building works due to YNTH and other nearby developments which may happen at the same time.
We know that some disruption is inevitable but we will do all we can to keep this to a minimum and Muse will be drafting a construction management plan which we’ll share with you for your feedback. It will consider issues such as reasonable hours of working and how vehicles will access the site. We will also work with other developers where there are a number of local construction projects happening at the same time.

Height of proposed buildings in the centre: People want the height of new buildings to respect their surroundings – particularly with regards to sunlight and privacy.
We are testing these issues and exploring the best ways for the new buildings to respect existing residents. E.g. your comments led directly to designs that kept the press building as a buffer to noise and changes to bring back the sunlight to the community garden in Arlington Lodge

Public Realm: People want a well landscaped space, which feels safe – with plants good lighting, seating and more bins.
We’ll continue to work on plans in response to your feedback. Your comments are already helping with where to put play facilities and security gates and we’ll want your thoughts on the public spaces on Buckner Road at the next stage.

Olive Morris House: Some people didn’t understand why we need to demolish Olive Morris House.
We’ll set out the reasons why some buildings are being kept and others aren’t on the website. Olive Morris House in an expensive building to maintain and the layout doesn’t lend itself to efficient modern office space or conversion to residential. We would like you to think about how we continue to commemorate Olive Morris as one of Brixton’s heroes.

Affordable housing: People want new housing to benefit local people and to have as much affordable housing as possible.
We are developing the scheme with this in mind – and will need to comply with the council’s own policy for at least 40% affordable homes. But we also need to balance this against other com

Civic spaces: People want quality spaces, with good public access, better signage and more light. Event spaces should be updated and reasonably priced.
Your feedback will help us to improve on the event spaces and meeting rooms and we will work with you to develop a business plan to include price lists.

Customer services: People want better access, shorter queues and a design that allows for private discussions.
Your feedback is helping us to finalise the building design and we’ll work with you to further develop internal layouts and how the service works better for customers on a day to day basis – this includes making appointments so you’ll be able to see someone at a time that is convenient for you.

Enterprise centre: People want a high tech but affordable space that includes other features, such as a café.
We’ll include this space as we develop the scheme. Meanwhile, we’ll keep trialling what works at the Impact Hub, at our other meanwhile spaces in Brixton, such as Number Six and grow:brixton, and by consulting other local Hub groups.

Democracy: There is support for the idea of live streaming and greater promotion of the public viewing gallery and opportunities for people to watch important meetings.
We want to continue to work with local people to open up the town hall and get people directly engaged with democratic processes. The design of the building is just the start and using digital technology can bring the town hall to you.

What happens next?

What we’ve shown you so far has been very much a work in progress so that your feedback can shape the design of the scheme. At the next stage, which is known as pre-planning consultation, we’ll show you the draft proposals for the scheme and we’ll want to know what you think. This will be the final stage before the scheme is submitted to the planning authority so it’s important you have your say.

The design of the scheme is not the end of your involvement, however, and there will be opportunities to help us shape how services operate and internal design.

7 Thoughts on “Your New Town Hall – what you’ve said

  1. lynda bean says:

    The knocking down of olive morris house is insane and a huge waste of money. It has been revamped at least 4-5 times in the last 25 years from closed cubicles for privacy back to open plan and back again.
    The town hall similarly had millions spent on it in 2000/1.
    Whereas my home is 70 years old and has had one update. I think the present town hall and olive morris house are fine as they are. Yyou dont need shopping therepy if there is so much money in the coffers then put council tax down or my rent

    • Future Brixton says:

      Thanks for your comment. Our study shows that redevelopment of Olive Morris House will save the most money for the council overall. You can read the report here but in outline this is due to:
      • the poor condition of the building – which which is prone to leaks and would need extensive and expensive work to bring up to date without creating any additional office space
      • the layout – awkward floor sizes and ceiling heights are just some of the reasons why converting the building to modern office space or housing would be inefficient. Refurbishing the building for new housing would mean many homes would have to be single aspect and others much closer to neighbouring properties than would be acceptable. Without building a new lift, many homes would also be without lift access.

      Moving the council offices out of the building is part of the wider plan to reduce the number of core council office buildings from 14 to two and save £4.5 million per year. For more detail about the proposed scheme please come to one of the Open Days on 22nd or 24th November or information will also be online next week.

  2. lynda bean says:

    Another thought is Brixton is so crowded now compared to 30 years ago when i moved in. It is a hassle to walk to the tube especially against the flow of human traffic. The center of brixton doesnt need more people. What would be better would be to extend victoria line one stop to steatham thus stopping all those people coming in to
    Brixton. I relize thats different money but we dont need the center of brixton more clogged up.

  3. Plan A says:

    Proposed new high rise flats in Brixton Hill.
    You’re planning on ignoring and breaking your own planning guidelines. Not setting as very good example to residents is it?!

    • Future Brixton says:

      Thanks for your comment regarding building heights and our planning policy. Put simply there is no policy to state buildings cannot be higher than a certain number of storeys. However, every planning application is assessed on its own merits by the Council. The guidance suggests that any tall buildings need to be justified within the planning application.
      Council policy is set out in the Adopted Core Strategy (2011) and the UDP (Saved Policies, 2010). Policy S9 (d) of the Core Strategy states that parts of Brixton are appropriate for tall buildings; Policy PN3 dedicates greater focus on central Brixton. Policy 41 of the UDP sets out Visual design and Urban design criteria. Policy Q26 of the emerging draft Lambeth Local Plan relates to tall buildings with Policy PN3 being dedicated to central Brixton. It should be noted that decision makers can approve proposals that are contrary to planning policy so long as there are sound material planning reasons for doing so.

      The Brixton Supplementary Planning Document provides supporting guidance for development in Brixton. On page 48 this states that where this is an application proposing a building above 10 storeys anywhere in Brixton, the applicant “will be expected to prepare accurate heritage and townscape impact assessments to allow informed decisions to be made. In order to mitigate such harm, new tall buildings should:

      1. Be slender, of elegant proportions with a good silhouette; and
      2. Use detailing and materials that harmonise with the locally distinct palette of materials (brick and stone).”

      A planning application has not yet been submitted for the scheme. The current consultation is intended to present the latest thinking and get people’s feedback before the planning stage.

      • Resident from Bonham Road says:

        I’ve read the report on Olive Morris House. I thought it would justify moving Council Services out of OMH. I don’t think it does anything of the sort.

        When I’ve spoken to Lambeth officers in the past they’ve justified abandoning Olive Morris House by referring to high running costs and repair bills.

        In view of this, I was expecting the report to include actual figures which would show existing and projected savings in repairs and running costs.

        Astonishingly, there are no figures in the report at all. This information can’t be confidential, so why isn’t it in the report?

        The only other justification the report offers for abandoning Olive Morris House as office accommodation are that a) the floor plate is unsuitable for modern office accommodation and b) the floor to ceiling heights are inadequate.

        Neither of these arguments seem to stack up to me.

        The floor plates on the upper levels at Olive Morris house (relatively narrow, windows on both sides, lift shafts near both ends, with space for meeting rooms beyond) actually lend themselves well to use as open plan offices. This is the kind of flexible space – not small offices off a corridor – Lambeth will need to provide for staff who are hot-desking. The report

        The floor to ceiling height is said to present problems because there isn’t space to allow a raised floor or a suspended ceiling to be installed. I don’t agree with this point.

        A few years back it was common to install raised floors in older offices to accommodate phone and IT cabling. This is out of date technology – new offices rely on wi fi, mobiles rather than phones tethered to a wall socket, tablets and laptops rather than computers tethered to a cable coming out of a socket.

        Am also sceptical about the need to install suspended ceilings. The argument for these used to be that suspended ceilings were needed to house air conditioning ducts. I’m not convinced Olive Morris House needs air conditioning – which is starting to look pretty ungreen anyway – as it was designed to minimise solar gain (with windows naturally shaded from hot sun in the summer months from the balcony overhangs).

        I really can’t believe that the case for abandoning Olive Morris House and moving staff into the new Civic Building rests on arguments as flimsy as this.

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