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Camden News - by RICHARD OSLEY
Published: 3 December 2009
A Camden Council document shows various access routes to the new Town Hall building by St Pancras station
A Camden Council document shows various access routes to the new Town Hall building by St Pancras station
Great Scott – it’s a spanking new Town Hall

CAMDEN Council is set to move into a “new Town Hall” in a plum spot next to the St Pancras International station in King’s Cross.
It will abandon the annexe building next to the current Town Hall on Euston Road and shift its staff into the new headquarters.
As part of the overhaul, the new offices will sit on top of a new public swimming pool and a relocated St Pancras Library. The move to the railway lands redevelopment site was first revealed by the New Journal in August.
The annexe has been marketed to developers for 12 months and faces being sold, flattened and replaced with a new building.
Unthinkable as it might seem, the current Town Hall, with its marble staircase and decorated chamber, the scene of many famous debates, was also considered for sale by officials. The idea was dismissed on the grounds that its listed status would make it unattractive to property moguls.
Nevertheless, the ambitious property masterplan – unveiled on Tuesday ahead of a key discussion planned for next week among Camden’s cabal of 10 executive councillors – is already the subject of fierce criticism with even senior figures in the Lib Dem and Conservative coalition privately characterising the sweeping change-around as a “gamble”.
Supporters say they must press ahead because the annexe has a £15million repair bill, largely caused by faulty lifts and wiring.
Staff will be asked to share desks – 10 people to every seven desks is the ratio being discussed – and some officials will be encouraged to work from home, logging into their work over the internet.
It is not clear which building the chief executive and council leaders will be based in or which site will be officially called the Town Hall, although council bosses were this week desperate to distance themselves from suggestions that “plush new offices” were being lined up on the railway lands site.
Those questions must be answered after the coalition’s leaders deal with complaints about the handling of the annexe site.
Offered to developers, most observers believe the only way to make the site appealing would be if the buyers got to build a tower possibly more than 25 storeys high. A prospective buyer is thought be already lined up.
If a tower is built, that in turn, conservationists fear, could lead to the south side of Euston Road developing into a forest of sky-scrapers, dwarfing the current Town Hall.
Bill Reed, from the King’s Cross Conservation Area Advisory Committee (KXCAAC), who lives in nearby Argyle Square, said: “I think it’s a crazy idea and so does everyone I’ve spoken to about it. The only way anybody can do anything with the annexe site is to have a taller building and that will be a really bad precedent.”
The relocation of St Pancras Library and the possible impact on Argyle Primary School are sources of objections.
Labour ward councillor Jonathan Simpson said: “The library will be over Euston Road, another 10 minutes walk. That might not seem like much but it is to elderly people who already struggle to cross Euston Road. The school will certainly have to close during the demolition and construction period. Where will local kids go? This is the equivalent of taking Centre Point and putting it right next to the Town Hall.”
Ernest James, chairman of KXCAAC, added: “Disposing of the annexe will mean the main Town Hall will be doomed as well. In 20 or 30 years it could be surrounded by tower blocks. They say they will save money on the heating but the greenest way forward would be to reuse the building, not go around demolishing buildings that have only been up for 30 years.”
Lib Dem finance chief Councillor Ralph Scott said there was no longer an option to “do nothing” because of the cost of running the annexe which he said would only escalate. He said the changes would not cost the taxpayer any extra money.
“The new swimming pool and library and front desk will be first rate in the new building,” said Cllr Scott. “But the offices above them will just be offices. Nothing more. People don’t want to hear about their taxes going on new offices for council officers.”
He said that staff had been supportive of the hot-desking proposals. “Changing headquarters is not something that we would do lightly, not something done overnight but this is a generational opportunity,” said Cllr Scott.
The council has already refurbished Bidborough House and will not be selling it. The former social services block in Camden Road has been vacated and furniture was seen thrown out on the street last week. Other buildings – including Holborn Library site – are due to be refurbished. The Camden Centre events hall in King’s Cross, once on the chopping block, will be saved.
Cllr Scott said: “The cost of keeping the annexe with costs that are going to get bigger and bigger over the coming years is too great. We are talking about more than £70million.”

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