Agenda item



Report HPR2020/026


The Acting Assistant Director, Culture and Regeneration confirmed that this report followed the Committee’s endorsement and Executive approval to carry out a feasibility study on Beckenham Public Halls.  One of the options explored in the feasibility study was the consideration of whether Beckenham Library could be relocated to the Beckenham Halls.  She clarified that this was never a feasibility study for the Beckenham Library site.


The Acting Assistant Director, apologised to the Committee, Ward Councillors and members of the public for the delay and late submission of this report.  There had been some delays to the consultant’s review as a result of Covid-19 and the regeneration team were confronted with significant capacity challenges as they supported the administration of the Government’s Covid business grants.  Given the public interest in this report, officers believed it would be appropriate to submit the report as soon as possible (being one week prior to the meeting), for Member consideration, noting that the Executive was the decision making body and any member of the public or Councillor questions could be submitted for the Executive meeting on 16 September.


The consultant’s report was detailed and in parts complex, given the nature of what officers asked the consultants to cover in the feasibility study.  However, the Executive Summary provided the overriding information.


The consultants had detailed the level of works required to the Beckenham Public Halls, which was greater than originally anticipated. In consideration of the potential relocation, the consultants concluded that whilst considering the physical location of the Public Halls to be more appropriate for a library, the costs of the relocation and works required would outweigh the now lower likely capita receipt of the existing library site.  At the request of a member of the public, the existing library site was reviewed by Historic England for consideration as to whether the Library should be added to the list of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historical Interest – this review had been completed and the building was not added to the List.


In consideration of the feasibility study, the impact Covid-19 had on the potential sale of the existing library site and the greater costs of the works required to the Halls for suitable library locations, the recommendation was not to relocate the library but to consider other uses for the public Halls via lease disposal and to test the market for community and/or commercial use in the Halls with the surveys and up-to-date information now at officers’ disposal.


The Director of Housing, Planning, Property and Regeneration confirmed that at present there were no proposals to relocate Beckenham Library.


The Chairman accepted the conclusion that the cost of renovating the Public Halls would outweigh the potential benefits and asked what options remained for the existing Beckenham Library.  The Acting Assistant Director confirmed that a further piece of work on this matter would need to be undertaken in the future.


Councillor King expressed his concern that the need for maintenance and repair of the Public Halls was due to the Council not spending money to maintain the building which went against the principles of ‘Building a Better Bromley’.  He reported that various residents’ groups had also expressed concerns.  Relocation of the library to the Public Halls would result in a 40% reduction in book stock.  Councillor King also questioned whether the option to lease the Halls as a commercial site was viable; the building would need to be refurbished and community groups may be excluded from the Halls in the future.  Clock House Ward Members had raised concerns.  The report did not give any further direction on the existing library site.  For all the reasons given above, Councillor King did not support the option to lease Beckenham Public Halls.


The Director, Planning, Housing, Property and Regeneration acknowledged that there was currently a maintenance backlog and the Public Halls repairs had been reported.  A full asset review of the building was being undertaken. The option to lease the Public Halls was for testing the market and if this proved to be successful, the contract would include an element of community use.


The Acting Assistant Director, Culture and Regeneration agreed to circulate details of the current position with the present tenant of the club who had a protected tenancy.  She confirmed that officers had liaised with the tenant throughout the entire process.


The Chairman’s preference was for Option 6 – To go out to the market to advertise a leasehold disposal of the Public Halls with Option 4 – Sell the freehold title for Beckenham Public Hall, to be held as a comparison when considering the leasehold option.


Councillor Morgan clarified that the basic difference between Options 6 and 4 was that community use could be protected with a lease whereas community use would be lost if the freehold title was sold.


Councillor Michael considered Option 6 to be the way forward.  This option guaranteed that the building would be refurbished and community use protected. She also emphasised the need to carry out maintenance and repair work to the existing Beckenham Library building if it is going to remain a library and not be demolished for affordable housing. Cllr Michael requested that a further piece of work to consider the necessary work for the existing Beckenham Library building be brought to a future meeting of the RR&H PDS Committee.


Issues around Beckenham Library needed to be addressed and a future report on maintenance and upkeep of the existing library site would be submitted to a future meeting of this Committee.


 RESOLVED that:-


1  the report be noted and the Committee’s comments be provided to Members of the Executive; and


2  the Executive approve the recommendation to undertake a lease disposal for Beckenham Public Hall which would be in return for investment in the building and the provision of community use in the new facility as described in Section 3.16 of this report.  The cost of proceeding with this option has been estimated at £35k maximum for the required professional services and marketing of the site.


Councillor King’s vote against the recommendation was noted.


Supporting documents:


Original Text: