Ealing Town Hall

From Wikipedia:

“Ealing Town hall is a municipal building in New Broadway, Ealing, London. It is a Grade II listed building.

The building was commissioned to replace a mid-19th century town hall in The Mall designed by Charles Jones in the Gothic Revival style. The site selected for the new building was open land owned by the Wood family, who were major landowners in the area.

The new building, which was also designed by Charles Jones and in the same style but on a much larger scale, was built by Hugh Knight and officially opened by the Prince and Princess of Wales on 15 December 1888. The design involved an asymmetrical main frontage with eleven bays facing onto New Broadway; the central section featured a double round arched doorway on the ground floor; there were oriel windows on the first and second floors and a gable above flanked by turrets; the design also featured an off-centre clock tower with lancet windows and a spire. A public hall intended for hosting events such as dances, wedding receptions and political rallies, known as the Victoria Hall, was erected on the north east corner of the site. Internally, the principal room was the original council chamber on the first floor which was renamed the “Nelson Room” in the 1930s in memory of Sir Edward Montague Nelson, a former mayor.

The building was significantly extended to the east, with a new octagonally towered entrance, to the designs of George H. Fellowes Prynne in 1930. Internally, the extension created a new council chamber and a mayor’s parlour as well as a new public hall in the basement which became known as the “Queens Hall”.

The building had been established as the offices of the local board of health and, after Ealing became an urban district in 1894, it became the new council offices. It went on to become headquarters of the Municipal Borough of Ealing in 1901 and continued to function as the local of seat of government when the enlarged London Borough of Ealing was formed in 1965.

A large “spanner-shaped” building designed by Sidney Kaye, Eric Firmin & Partners was erected to the east of the town hall, as additional accommodation for council officers and their departments, in 1983. Initially referred to as the “Civic Centre”, it was renamed “Perceval House” after Spencer Perceval, a former Prime Minister who, before he was assassinated, lived in Elm Grove in Ealing.

Works of art in the town hall include a portrait of King Edward VII by Henry John Hudson, a portrait of Spencer Perceval by an unknown artist and a portrait of Sir Edward Montague Nelson by Barnett Samuel Marks.

In July 2016, in the context of large budget deficit and the need to reshape its services, the council announced an agreement with a hotel developer to convert part of the Town Hall and the Victoria Hall into a boutique hotel. The development could also see a 28-storey tower block on the Perceval House site.”

Anahita Hossein-Pour wrote at myLondon.news on 2.7.20:

“The saga of Ealing Council’s plans to sell off Ealing Town Hall to a hotel company has been long and complex, but it entered yet another phase this week.

Campaigners have hit out at a “pretty hopeless” and “shoddy” meeting of Victoria Hall trustees where there was “virtually no discussion” over serious concerns of the site being sold off to hotel developers.

In a meeting of technical glitches, and at one point the sound of a flushing toilet, Friends of Victoria Hall chair Roger Green said: “It kind of says it all, they are trying to flush us down the pan.”

A deal between Ealing Council and hotel developer Mastcraft to sell off Ealing Town Hall has been in the pipeline since 2016, but has been blocked since the discovery the deal would involve selling off assets -some of which did not belong to the council. Victoria Hall – located next to the town hall – was built from public donations and belongs to Victoria Hall Trust, set up in 1893.

The council has insisted that Victoria Hall, a venue for community events, will still be accessible for the borough’s groups and charities once the whole building is turned into a boutique hotel, but campaigners have warned some community groups will no longer qualify for discounted rates or be able to book for peak weekend slots under the commercial deal.

The sell-off plan came as Ealing Council claimed it could no longer afford to maintain the building and fund repair works due to local government funding cuts.

But plans submitted to the Charity Commission on how a lease would operate, were considered not in the best interest of the charity by the watchdog in April this year.

The council has also confirmed it has so far spent approximately £1,942,000 on the deal.

In a damning report, the Charity Commission agreed to the plan in principle but called for “stronger protections” for the charity in the proposed deal.

A spokesperson added: “We are not satisfied that the decision to lease to the commercial developer, on the terms agreed, is in the best interests of the charity.

“We expect the charity to reconsider this deal, in light of our decision, and we have made a series of specific recommendations to the charity to consider.

“We expect the charity to now undertake further work to consider how they can best advance the interests of the charity and the benefit it delivers to the Borough of Ealing.”

A General Purposes Committee meeting was held on Monday, June 29, to discuss options to revise the scheme following the Charity Commission’s recommendations.

Trustees were reminded to act in the charity’s best interests as trustees, separate from their role as councillors on Ealing Council.

Speaking to councillors ahead of the votes, Mr Green warned that “major issues” had not been faced in reviewing the scheme going forward, particularly over conflict of interest between the trust and the council, the extent of the trust’s property being established and the best way to secure a return of its assets being sold off.

It was also questioned how the interests of a hotel operator can be reconciled with the needs of the Trust’s beneficiaries – the people of Ealing.

Ignore this at your peril. There is a very high risk that they [the Charity Commission] will reject any half-heartedly revised scheme,” said Mr Green.

Ahead of the meeting deputy leader of the opposition, councillor Anthony Young, also said the Charity Commission’s ruling was “extraordinary” and urged the council to adopt the watchdog’s call for independent trustees to be appointed to the charity.

The trustees are currently made up of seven Labour councillors, one Conservative and one Liberal Democrat.

Cllr Young said: “In all my 42 years on the council, I have rarely seen such a frank report criticising the council.

“In this case, the criticism is of the council’s failure to manage the conflict of interest arising from wanting to sell-off the town hall and its trustee role of looking after the public’s interest in the site.

“The Charity Commission also did not accept that the council was managing its trustee role via the council’s general purpose committee, which has seven Labour members including the chair, out of nine members, and pointed out the lack of independent members.

“We are therefore calling for the Labour administration to listen to the Charity Commission and to appoint an independent board of trustees instead of the trustees being councillors already committed to selling off Ealing’s Victorian heritage.”

The meeting of trustees saw a vote in favour of reaffirming existing processes in place to manage potential conflicts of interest, but to also review the procedures to see what other safeguards could be put in place.

Other votes included to make further arrangements with Mastcraft over community group use of the hotel, and defer a decision over the use of income made for the charity until the scheme is approved.

Trustee John Ball, also a Lib Dem councillor, expressed concerns to colleagues that despite the Charity Commission’s review, “it seems we’re going ahead with something which is not really taking on board these primary objections’.

But legal advice given to the trustees was that the best deal had been thrashed out with Mastcraft and explored in detail.

Director of legal and democratic services, Helen Harris, added: “We have tried to group the issues but if you would like us to go back on particular details if you feel we haven’t set out options you would like to see, that’s why we have an option of a further meeting.”

Trustees unanimously agreed to revisit the details of the revised plan in a further meeting, provisionally set for July 30.

Committee chair Kamaljit Nagpal said: “I think we’ve all voted in the right way because this is far too important and I think we all agree we want to come back and have a look at it again.”

Mr Green however said the outcome was a “hardly changed” plan, adding: “They don’t deserve to get away with it. We could hardly call it a meeting, there was no discussion of the very serious concerns of the Charity Commission.

“Some of those options were a choice between not very good and another not very good one.”

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