Ealing Council is to close Ealing Town Hall from early October and move its council meetings, Mayor’s office and public areas to nearby Perceval House. The announcement comes following a recent health and safety assessment of the building as well as other plans the council has for the future of the historic Town Hall.
While the Labour-run council takes a decision on the future of the building, which is subject to ongoing legal challenge over plans to turn it into a hotel, council meetings as well as offices for councillors and the Mayor will move to nearby Perceval House.
The council has also said residents across the borough will be able to book community space to use at Perceval House.
In an email seen by EALING.NEWS and sent to Victoria Hall Trust Committee members, it was revealed that the Town Hall will be closed to staff, councillors and visitors from early October 2023.
The email said: “The council is waiting for a decision to be made by the judiciary on whether parts of Ealing Town Hall can be renovated and refurbished by a developer as a hotel.”
“The plans would also see the council returning to occupy the eastern part of the building for civic purposes such as offices for councillors and rooms for council meetings, marriage and citizenship ceremonies and community hire. The Victoria Hall and other rooms would also continue to be available for community and other groups to hire for events.
“Parts of the Ealing Town Hall used for events and meetings are not currently accessible to people with health conditions or impairments who are unable to use the stairs unaided. This is because there are no designated safety fire refuge points across the building for those who may need extra assistance to evacuate the building safely.
“And, a recent health and safety inspection, undertaken by external inspectors, also found that due to the building’s age – 135 years – most of the internal Victorian and Edwardian fire stopping measures do not meet current standards.
“With these factors in mind, the decision to close Ealing Town Hall to staff, councillors, and visitors has been brought forward to October 2023.
“Bookings for room and space hire in Ealing Town Hall are no longer being taken.”
Council Leader, Councillor Peter Mason said there will also be bookable space for people to use in Perceval House as well as holding council meetings there.
He said: “As we announced in our retrofit first approach to retaining Perceval House, we want to open Perceval House to everyone and see the ground floor become a lively space for our residents and communities. By relocating public meetings and creating bookable event and meeting spaces in Perceval House, we are taking the first step in honouring this commitment and understanding what people want and need from their community spaces.”
He added: “The long-term future of Ealing Town Tall has always been our priority and I know people will be worried about the future of our iconic and much cherished town hall.
“We eagerly await the Tribunal’s decision about the future of Ealing Town Hall but, in the meantime, we need to move forward our plans to open up Perceval House; and ensure peoples’ safety.”
Speaking to EALING.NEWS, Roger Green, chair of the Friends of the Victoria Hall said: “It’s a sad day for the people of Ealing that the council has closed down the only large hall at the centre of the borough, readily accessible from each of its seven towns. The Victoria Hall was built by the people, for the people and it’s still owned by the people. This shoddy shut-down should not be allowed to stand.”
Mr Green added: “We’d noticed a few weeks ago that the council had stopped taking bookings for the Victoria Hall. Now we know why. The implication in the council letter that the fire safety measures haven’t been improved since Edwardian times just shows what a poor job the Council has been doing all these years of looking after an important community asset.
“If that’s not bad enough, it seems it’s taken the council 13 years to notice that the 2010 Equality Act sets out the obligations public bodies have to provide disabled access to their buildings.
Councillor Mason said the council has “fulfilled our role”. He said: “We have fulfilled our role to preserve Ealing Town Hall as a building for the people of Ealing as best as we can. But as a listed building it is very expensive to maintain and repair and is now in considerable need of a substantial refurbishment to make it safe, fit for purpose and useable by all.
“The decision to close the building see’s the start of the plans to open Perceval House for wider community use and mitigates accessibility and health and safety concerns.”
Speaking to EALING.NEWS, Councillor Gary Malcolm, leader of Ealing Liberal Democrats criticised the council for allowing things to get the way they are.
He said: “Liberal Democrats think that it is a shame the Town Hall has been allowed to crumble over recent years. The Council has to make sure that if the building is dangerous for staff, community groups, residents and everyone else, then we need to move to Perceval House.”
Councillor Malcolm added: “Liberal Democrats previously had proposed that Perceval House, which is often very empty, should be used by more community groups. We hope this takes place as our community buildings should be used by the community and we need to encourage this.”
Neil Reynolds, chair of Ealing Green Party said: “It is a great pity the council has let one of Ealing’s most iconic buildings fall into this state. It should seek a long-term plan to reopen the Town Hall and keep it in public ownership. Opening Perceval house in the meantime for community use is welcome.”
Julian Gallant, leader of Ealing Conservatives told EALING.NEWS: “With one day’s notice, Ealing’s opposition parties were informed that the Town Hall would be closed and that Perceval House would now accommodate all Council meetings. Obviously, major safety issues have come to light, but it’s been clear for a long time that the Town Hall is in a major state of disrepair. Conservative warnings and comments have been met with indifference.
”Plans to turn the Town Hall into an hotel depend on a complicated judicial decision on the governance of the Victoria Hall. If this goes against the Council, there are no alternative plans. Either way, Council members cannot expect to move back into this iconic seat of local government for several years.”
Councillor Gallant added: “Labour have been in control of Ealing Council since 2010. They have had plenty of time to solve this problem.”