According to the latest issue of the consistently excellent weekly Southwark News the leader of Southwark Council Peter Johns has confirmed that the Council is set to sell off the three town halls it owns — in Walworth, Bermondsey and of course the main one which is still used for its originally built purpose in Camberwell.
The situation of having three town halls arose in 1965 when the current London Borough of Southwark was created bringing together the former metropolitan boroughs of Bermondsey, Camberwell and Southwark. The Council is now considering selling the town halls off as none are fit for purpose, all requiring substantial investment which, in the current spending squeeze, the resources for which the council does not have.
According to the News the Council will publish its decision on 23 November when it has been finalised by the Cabinet. The story seemed to suggest that the Camberwell town hall could be retained for some council functions such as the main council meetings dependent upon uses being found for the other accommodation on the site.
So what does this mean for Camberwell?
I see a threat to camberwell as well as an opportunity.
This could be bad for Camberwell — the loss of Council employees and their spending will be detrimental to local Camberwell shops, bars and restaurants. Worse thing would be conversion to flats or other private use.
Or it could be beneficial for Camberwell — a real opportunity. If the town hall building could be given over for community/ arts use it could really improve the area bringing something of benefit to local people. Retaining the council assembly function in Camberwell is also to my mind essential for Camberwell.
So what can we do?
I suggest that readers of this blog in Southwark engage their councillors (list of email addresses on Southwark site) to ask what they as individuals think of the proposals and suggest that the impact of any proposal for the future of the town hall on Camberwell must be looked at and community / arts use prioritised.