Maidenhead Town Hall
Cabinet considered the report regarding the future of the Maidenhead Town Hall.
The Leader of the Council and Chairman of Cabinet, Business, Economic Development and Property informed that as the Town Hall in its current condition did not meet its duty under the Climate Strategy and was no longer economical viable, a viability study was being proposed for a new civic building. There had been a significant amount of public interest in the paper and he clarified that no decision had yet been made, there was no fire sale of council assets and the library was not being sold. The paper related to the future of our civic accommodation.
The paper was a continuation of the Asset Management Strategy and a more stringent environmental policy especially around sustainability, energy performance and requirements from an operational perspective. Given the impact of the last 12 months it was prudent to look at our portfolio and needs so there is a balance between the office environment and remote working. The Town Hall is becoming outdated and did not meet our needs.
The Town Hall was built in 1962 and provides outmoded and inefficient office and civic accommodation for the Council. The building is becoming more costly to maintain with significant expenditure required to maintain its required health & safety obligations, along with ongoing responsive repairs, and the need to put in place some medium to long term planned and cyclical maintenance requirements. The energy performance of the building was only just in the acceptable level for a public building.
There were also a raft of central government policies regarding the energy performance of buildings coming forward with tangible leadership from public buildings and the need for retrofitting. No decision had yet been made but taxpayers would insist when we consider making a considerable investment that available options had been explored. This could be relocation or investment in the current building. A detailed appraisal report would be brought back for consideration and he hoped that the majority of the building could be retained or enhanced for mixed use.
The Lead Member for Climate Change, Sustainability, Parks and Countryside informed that like many residents she liked the building but we needed to look at whole carbon life of the building. There was embodied carbon in the building and implications of continued use, demolition, and a new build. This paper is not a done deal but requesting a detailed appraisal of options.
The Lead Member for Planning, Environmental Services and Maidenhead mentioned the importance of the building for residents and its iconic status by appearing in films. He applauded the openness of the paper and that independent advice was being taken on options. No decision has been made and this was the start of the process.
The Lead Member for Housing, Communications and Youth Engagement said that a decision on the future of the building had not yet been made and its sustainability in the long term had to be ascertained. If the council decides to relocate to a more suitable location then its important not to repeat the historical errors of town council planners in the 1960’s / 70’s and tear down historical buildings. Its important to remember its significant to residents. With the regeneration work its important to maintain the new and old together.
The Deputy Leader of the Council, Resident and Leisure Services, HR, IT, Legal, Performance Management and Windsor informed that the Town Hall was opened in 1962 by the Majesty the Queen and Duke of Edenborough and is now 60 years old so as custodians its important that we review the estate. She thanked the Leader for what he said about the library as it was defiantly not going to be sold.
Mr Hill addressed Cabinet and said that in his days of living in Cambridge he would look at the historical buildings and wonder if they met energy efficiency certification, should we tack down the Windsor Guildhall and replace it with a modern energy efficient building. Obviously this would not be the case but the history of Maidenhead is just as important. There were significant refurbishment in 2014, yet there is no transparently in the finances in this report. He asked if there had already been negotiations with third parties to sell or reuse the Town Hall. He asked if the Chairman had understood the importance of the building and its historical significance; it was now an important vaccination hub. There was the Desborough Theatre to be considered that was much loved by the community and had there been a £2 million pledge for regeneration of it been made.
The Chairman thanked Mr Hill for his comments and said that although his comments about the Guildhall were tongue in check would he consider a 1960’s building as historical. There was going to be important discussions nationally about to get the right balance between meeting environmental obligations and maintaining historical buildings. With regards to transparency he informed that as much as possible the report had been published in Part I and as seen later where it was possible Part II information would be open. There had been no discussions about the future of the building pending the results of this report.
Cllr W Da Costa said the assessment criteria was very important, what was the current use of the building and what options were available. It was right to asses the estate for carbon resilience and that should include the build and use phase of all the councils estate. Would the options be looking at like for like, what about future use, the cost of refurbishment, the carbon impact of building new as well as removing and building on the town hall site. Any negative impact on the Town Hall site should be considered when looking at a new site.
The Chairman informed that as per the Asset Management Plan all assets would be reviewed and it was important to consider the economic, social and sustainability criteria.
(Cllr Carrol left the meeting)
Cllr Knowles informed that he was currently involved in the retrofitting of a property in London and given new technology a lot of space had been made available due to there being no need for larger servers and IT accommodation. With regards to the refurbishment of thee Town Hall in 2014 he asked what the costs were and its life expectancy. The report leads to predetermination as it mentions that the current facilities were outdated, not environmental, not cost effective and that alternative locations should be looked at.
The Chairman reiterated what had already been said about the Town Hall not being able to meet climate strategy standards without significant investment and thus all options should be looked at.
Cllr Baldwin informed Cabinet that replacing the town hall with flats would be a carbon disaster. Given the past year with the facility being virtually empty why could there not be a tiered return during redevelopment and thus save location cots.
The Director of RBWM Property Services informed that during any proposed refurbishment of the Town Hall it would not be possible to retain staff in the building the £3 million was a high level estimate if we had to relocate all staff. There were considerable challenges with the building as pipes and wiring were all imbedded in its structure so upgrading would be intensive.
Cllr Hill said that much of what he wanted to cover had already been said but he wanted to reiterate that the report read as if a decision to leave the Town Hall had already been made, there was no reference to the building being the civic heart of Maidenhead.
Cllr Singh, as ward member, also reiterated the importance of the building and the environment and asked for reassurance that the building would not be knocked down for redevelopment.
Resolved unanimously: that Cabinet notes the report and:
i) Cabinet recognises that the Town Hall cannot meet the Council’s Climate Strategy
ii) ii) Cabinet recognises that the Town Hall is not economically viable to adapt to meet future operational requirements.
iii) Cabinet recommend option appraisals to consider the location of a new civic building in the borough.
iv) Delegates authority to the Chief Executive in consultation with the Lead Member for Business, Economic Development & Property to undertake a detailed review and business plan.