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'Build a new town hall at Elephant & Castle,' urges Southwark councillor

A Southwark Liberal Democrat councillor has called on the authority to consider building a new town hall at the Elephant & Castle as part of the area's regeneration.

Dulwich councillor Robin Crookshank Hilton made the suggestion during a discussion of Southwark's draft Elephant & Castle supplementary planning document at Tuesday's meeting of the borough's planning committee.

"Why can't we have some kind of reference [in the planning policy document] to building a town hall facility – especially with a council chamber that could be used for other types of assembly purposes?" she asked.

"I think a lot of people are saying that Tooley Street is good as an office facility, but we don't have the civic facilities here."

She added: "Elephant & Castle is really central and it has such good transport links from all parts of the borough."

Cllr Crookshank Hilton suggest that the idea of a new council chamber should be included on a 'wish list' in the new Elephant & Castle planning policy and that it could be funded from developers' section 106 contributions.

The committee's Labour vice-chair Cllr Athea Smith said she agreed with Cllr Crookshank Hilton and recommended that Southwark Council should look at the example of Brent which is developing a new civic centre in Wembley.

Committee chair Nick Dolezal (Labour) was also sympathetic to Cllr Crookshank Hilton's idea and joked that a new town hall should be at the top of a new high-rise building at the Elephant.

Southwark is currently in the process of selling its old town hall in Peckham Road for use by the Camberwell College of Arts.

At present all council committees meet at 160 Tooley Street with council assembly meetings held in school halls around the borough.

Last year the borough's cabinet asked officers to investigate the possibility of holding council assembly meetings in the atrium of the Tooley Street building. However, as one councillor has pointed out, noise from the plastic roof would drown out speakers at a meeting held during a rain storm.

The need for a new large-scale assembly space in the Elephant & Castle area will become more acute when the current leisure centre is closed this summer. A Latin American church – the Comunidad Cristiana de Londres – attracts many hundreds of worshipers to its Sunday services in the leisure centre's sports hall. Political rallies and hustings are also held in the same venue but these spaces will not be available in future.

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