Kingston Council has revealed ambitious plans to revamp the Guildhall complex along with the Guildhall itself and to give up the administration spaces to be converted into offices and homes.
In a statement published on November 18, council leader Caroline Kerr outlined the plan to create “new homes, new workplaces, and possibly even a boutique hotel in this building itself” to the benefit of everyone in the community.
Kerr said the project would be about “breathing new life into the town” but is also a response to Covid-19.
She said: “The fact is, we can’t afford to look after this iconic building and protect it for future generations.
“Instead we’d like to see it repurposed and conserved, so that people can enjoy this valuable asset for decades to come.”
Kerr said the reduction in spending was crucial as the upkeep of the three Guildhall buildings comes at an “eye-watering” cost.
The statement said: “We will need some office space in future of course, and we will be looking at options in the town centre and in community hubs around the borough.
“But it’s your money, and we won’t fritter it on our own operations,”
Plans not welcomed by all
The plan for the Guildhall regeneration was not welcomed unanimously.
Some members of the community feared that the buildings one and two, would be eventually privatised.
Kingston campaigner James Giles said this initiative is an “outrageous attempt to sell off of the family silver”.
“We could rent out Guildhall buildings one and two to local business, maybe start-ups, to have a space.
“That would generate an income, and there are many businesses who would love a town centre location,” Giles said, addressing the “severe financial challenges” the Council faced.
“We could do some genuine good for the community while still keeping it for council use,” he added.
Ed Davey, MP for Kingston and Surbiton and leader of the Liberal Democrats said he was on board with the regeneration proposal praising it as a “fantastic vision”.
He encouraged residents to chip in with their ideas to contribute to an inclusive and holistic vision for reshaping the “iconic” Guildhall complex.
Luisa Porritt, Liberal Democrat Candidate for Mayor of London also embraced the “innovative idea”.
“This is exactly the sort of forward-thinking our city needs,” she said.
The plan was unveiled as part of ‘Reimagining Kingston Town Centre’s Streets & Spaces’ strategy, released in 2019.