Council plans reorganisation of town halls — opportunity for Camberwell?

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.

95 thoughts on “Council plans reorganisation of town halls — opportunity for Camberwell?”

  1. Conversion to flats would not be a bad thing as it would provide much needed homes and tenants would still be spending monsy locally.

  2. Most of the staff have already moved out of Camberwell anyway; there aren’t many people left in the building. I would prefer that the Council keep a presence there, as I feel they’re moving to the north of the borough at the expense of the rest of it; realistically, however, I’d like to see it offered to community groups before private sales, or perhaps a mixture of the two.

  3. a few years back, before they moved to tooley street, council held a meeting for 3rd sector groups (community groups in english) to say they were moving to tooley street & there were a number of properties they were getting rid of so 3rd sector groups could have a first go of bidding for them. not a single local community group, unlike some faith ‘charities’, could afford to buy anything as they were all not-for-profit, unlike some faith ‘charities’. council was not going to even consider renting them out as they wanted cash fast.
    the one thing we keep forgetting (including me) is that those buildings actually belong to residents of southwark and are, in a way, lent to our elected representatives and unelected administration to manage/etc on our behalf. they have made an effort to ‘consult’ but i doubt any of it will make any difference to be honest, because the council again needs cash. fast.
    what would be a real leap and a real turning things around would be them giving us the townhalls back, at peppercorn rent, to create those community-owned and community-run spaces.

    and it is all possible.
    regardless of who’s in governments, or what the markets are ‘saying’ etc.

  4. More flats, that’s what’ll happen.

    More poky, spotlit, beech floored, white walled, overpriced one or two bed flats with bad soundproofing and daft management charges, where the UK’s ever growing mountain of lonely isolated people in pointless office jobs will live.

    Could mean more customers in the pubs and more restaurants. Thus good for Camberwell.

  5. @Peter

    Or perhaps it just may herald an early realization in my long-held belief that there are many boroughs in London (and nationally too) who may one day in the future may well revert to becoming 2 seperate entitys again rather than one big,hulking inefficient one where lots of money is squandered through poor management…this is often put down to corruption (and it DOES happen) but more likely it is usually a case of simply trying to plug too many leaking holes in the hull of the ship all at the same time, thus causing confusion and panic which exacerbates the modest nature of the original problem!

    Surely it makes sense that a small to medium sized council would be far easier to run than a large one?

    Or are more compact, managable organizations only applicable to the wealthier pockets of a city?

    Just a thought 😉

  6. My waters tell me this is NOT good. It is a fall back manoeuvre on the part of the applicant, Redeemed Christian Church of God (who he?). RCCG’s application for change of use was UTTERLY CRAP. Southwark’s planning department sat on it for a long time without making any form of public comment or recommendation to committee. Silence is not rational when a four week ‘black and white’ process should be what is happening.

    Meantime RCCG have been doing (they have done it) work to the building. One might think, innocently, that something was happening in the church. SORRY. Something was happening in the BINGO HALL already. Something like religious services…

  7. we’re still to find out whether the planning department acted completely on its own accord or were they doing what they were told to?

    the one ‘good’ thing is that regardless of what some politicians seem to think, the owner of a listed building is legally obliged to maintain the same listed building as failure to do so would be in breach of planning legislation.

    i can’t see how any reinvented planning application by the same owners for change of use can be justified, but we’ll see.

  8. Had to break for dinner. Nam pla chicken noodle soup with shredded bok choi and other things. Very nice.

    Back to the evangelical church and Southwark’s… sorry, I mean back to the the bingo hall and Southwark’s planning department.

    As we know, because it is true, planning officers, the length and breadth of Britain, are always above the influence of external forces or influence. They are always objective. Their work involves applying, dry, clear and unambiguous guidance unemotionally to the various and myriad planning applications that come before them. Like a quality controller in a factory sorting items on a conveyor belt into categories. The applications either pass muster or need attention to get to pass muster point or they just don’t.

    It is impossible to imagine how the planning application for the church, I mean the bingo hall, wasn’t recommended for rejection by planning committee (frankly I do not know the nuances of the subject). The application said that a lot of consultation had been done with local people in Westminster… yes that’s right — Westminster. The last time I walked by the church, I mean the bingo hall, it was in Camberwell. Maybe it was a vision. Maybe I was tripping. Maybe I’ll go back to the church, I mean the bingo hall, and see if I can’t get a visitation from the planning officer in the sky.

    I BET there’s a thing, a law, a glitch, a legal fall back, a loophole so to speak which means a lower level of scrutiny applies to a second application if a first planning application for a particular building has been in front of officers and up for consultation and is then withdrawn having not been to its first stage of approval. Some weird mediaeval nonsense like that applies here. I BET.

    I BET the church was told ‘withdraw it or it will get rejected’.

  9. @Mark Dodds

    I wasn’t celebrating when I heard the news…there is a long way to go yet, that’s for sure.

    If it’s medieval then the chances are it applies here…it always has done 🙁

    Unless of course, the new Labour administration in charge of Southwark really is serious regarding genuine progressive change — as their new leader Ed Milliband outlined at the annual party conference a couple of months back…

    Shall we all hold our breath?

  10. Interesting fact. Justin Webb, presenter with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, lives in Camberwell. I’m guessing not on the Lettsom Estate.

  11. Had two SE5 disappointments recently.

    Sunday Lunch at The Tiger. Not bad, just not good enough. These things are best done at home of course, but given that their evening fare is often quite good we thought we’d try The Tiger.

    The group tried chicken and pork. Nobody went for the beef. The dishes arrived covered in thin parsnip crisps which looked like wood shavings and were acrid. There were too many of them. Once we’d piled them up at the side of the plates some forgettable veg, a grim but moreish ball of Paxo stuffing and a few roast tatties were revealed. My lump of pork belly wasn’t bad quantity-wise, but it was dry and had to be slathered in gravy / apple sauce. The chicken was a bit better. At £9+ I’d hoped for more.

    South London Gallery. Been to both shows since it’s reopened. Q liked elements of the last one, especially the Black Hawk Down piece. But I found the current Michal Budny exhibition in that funny upstairs bit utterly pointless. Almost insultingly so. An empty room with a box on the floor and some dodgy shelves. Some might say that I didn’t ‘get it’ or that the fact I am writing about it here means it’s ‘art’. Well maybe. Was it a statement challenging our assumptions that all Poles are good at DIY? Was it about our urge to fill empty spaces? Who knows.

    A few more shows like that and I’m not going to bother walking ten minutes to visit the place. Thankfully, the SLG cafe is popular. Though the big-tabled room at the back on my visits was dominated by young parents creating a sort of weekend baby creche. Not a bad thing, just not somewhere I want to be.

  12. Some excitement and innovation would help at the SLG.

    There have been some good exhibitions: The Lagos Photo Log a couple years ago, the LA Lamp Posts before that, even some of the video stuff has been okay. The Art Bin was fun(ish), I suppose.

    But often it’s quite conservative; also the artists seem depressed at the human condition, or something.

    Good morning to ride up to London. Wind at your back.

  13. @Phil G South London Gallery also has an array of performance type events. In November alone, Massimo Bartolini has a light sculpture inspired by choreography, which involves a dance performance at the following Sunday sunset times: 14th 3:45–4:45, 21st 3:30–4:30, 28th 3:30–4:30. Last night Jimmy Robert presented Consensus Rouge Noir, ‘a new performance featuring text read over filmed imagery’. On Wed 17th November (£5/3) they have Philip Warnell in Outlandish: Strange Foreign Bodies. This is a film screening about the history and integrity of bodies and has a discussion afterwards. Finally on 26th November 7pm (free) there is a screening of Nollywood, Losing the Plot, about the phenomenon of Nigerian Cinema. So South London Gallery, to be fair to them, is making an effort with some interesting things going on…

  14. I know there’s lots going on there. I just thought the Budny thing was shit. 🙂 Thanks for the pointers anyway, very useful reminders.

  15. today’s southwark news states the house of praise are likely to resubmit the planning application for the gala bingo hall change of use in two weeks.

  16. Second lot of banding tests today for our eldest entry to se4condary school. He’s not happy and who could blame him?

    LAst night at the Crytp JAzz Club Allison Neale’s laid back West Coast vibe went down well. Food sold out and everyone happy…

    Jazzwise, the UK’s most most jazz magazine had us on the front cover:

  17. Second lot of banding tests today for our eldest entry to se4condary school. He’s not happy and who could blame him?

    Last night at the Crypt Jazz Club Allison Neale’s laid back West Coast vibe went down well. Food sold out and everyone happy…

    And yesterday Jazzwise, the UK’s most most jazz magazine had us on the front cover:

    OOPs apologies was in a dreadful hurry to get to London Nautical.

  18. So, a precis for the various grounds for objecting to gambling license applications.

    errr… ZERO. Don’t bother because your neighbourhood being systematically ruined by useless planning law is none of your business.

  19. Smooth talking Justin aims to turn into an attack wolf, just like Wolfman Humphreys … shame, he seemed such a nice guy. For what it’s worth, when he finishes work on the Today programme he returns to deepest Camberwell .… on the 148 bus (which conveniently runs from White City to C’well). Class.

  20. Jesus shops in Marks & Spencer.


    Local Bermondsey boy Haye? Or Harrison from Harlesden? Haye gives Harrison over 3 stone but is almost as tall, which says Haye is fitter.

  21. Ohhhh. Not Justin Budny… Justin Webb.

    I watched the boxing through the window of EDT standing among the comfort of a busy Saturday evening throng of footfall on Lordship Lane. I found the spectacle rather depressing and the crowd cheering with every heavy punch even more so.

    It seems schizophrenic to me that a society which essentially regards gambling and violence as vices at the same time finds them so acceptable that they can be broadcast and celebrated on every high street and living room in the land.

  22. there is indeed a schism — institutionalised violence (war) good/unquestionable;
    individual violence (all other) despicable;
    institutionalised gambling (canary wharf) good/unquestionable;
    individual gambling (benefitscroungers) very very bad

  23. Moderation is always on; it’s automatic and I have no idea of the criteria for what gets moderated. If your comment does get held, be patient; I’ll get to it sooner rather than later.

  24. and, in case you missed it, the house of praise have withdrawn the planning application on 8th november and resubmitted the planning application for change of use on 8th november. that’s fast by any means 🙂

  25. I received a 2 letters last week from Southwark Council saying the change of use had been withdrawn for GALA bingo. This was because as many of us had done I had objected to the change of use officially.

    My instincts tell me this is just the start of a long battle.

    Can anyone tell me what is the best way to move forward do we have to object every time RCCG re submit their application under a slightly different criteria?

  26. The Gala Bingo already looks like it’s going to have the finest reception area in Camberwell, all bright lights and glass, a more celestial meeting & greeting area for sure than that of the workerist Town Hall with its earnest slogan, “DO TODAY’S WORK TODAY 1934.”

    Maybe we should embrace the show of strength — the Mercs, the Maybachs, the Cayennes and even the Chrysler “Crossfire” coupes (Crossfire! What were Chrysler thinking!) — that will enter Camberwell. We can stand on the pavements and wave.

    In many religions, display of wealth is a matter of rejoicing, of joy and awe, proof of God’s bounty. The money-lenders may have been cast out of the temple of our society, but we may yet kneel to the wheels, sing the praises of the tin and the bling.

  27. The best way to oppose the house of praise is to follow Dagmar. I walked by and mine ! What an impressive work compared to what former Bingo left behind. We have a choice to make use of the place or fight to the end and pick more enemies. I am not comfortable when my enemies are not talking. Maybe the church knows something we don’t. It is certain they will get the permit just a matter of time as they said somewhere. The planners told me that they are operating on the D2 permit for functions already in response to my query. Can someone please help to throw more light on this? I am planning a nude march against the Townhalls being sold soon. Let me know if you are joining me and by the way House of Praise has shown interest in buying two of them!

  28. the divine necessity for any house of worship is the book and knack-knack stall, en-suite coffee shop with the occasional performance thrown in — i’m led to believe the performances are called services technically.
    having the money lenders in could be a positive step for the high church/catholic tradition, melt down the bling and provide interest free loans to the needy.
    i is reminded of the closing chapters of Clochemerle and Justin Putet’s (sp?) run through the village

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