Cash-strapped councils in London have sold off historic public assets worth over £70 million in the last five years, usnewsrank.com can now reveal.
In a big blow to communities, instead of refurbishing Grade I and Grade II-listed landmarks to use as youth centres or much-needed housing, some councils gave them away for ‘very, very low’ sums.
This is the case of Fulham Town Hall – built in 1890 with Georgian architecture – which was bought by developer Ziser London for £10 million to be turned into a boutique hotel, spa and a restaurant.
But leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council Stephen Cowan pointed out that the Grade II-listed landmark opposite Fulham Broadway Station was sold ‘rather incompetently’ under the former Tory council.
The councillor argued that in Fulham, it is hard to buy a house for ‘anything less than £2 million’, so its selling price was ‘absolutely ridiculous’.
He told usnewsrank.com: ‘Our predecessors sold it in 2014 alongside a lot of other properties very, very cheaply.
‘We are not necessarily against selling it, just against selling it for so cheap.
‘When the Conservatives were in office, they decided to sell off community centres, youth clubs and two big council estates – all of which for very low, knocked-down prices – including Fulham Town Hall.
‘We viewed this decision as unbusiness-like and bad value for money. We tried to stop it when we came into office but they had exchanged contracts already with the people they sold the town hall to.
‘So, we did our best to review it but we were legally obliged to honour it. The building was actually sold in 2013 but the process was not complete until 2017.
‘And we thought it was a very bad thing as it was too low and it was sold for ridiculous purposes.
‘If you sell it, sell it for proper value and make sure it is of community use.’
According to dozens of Freedom of Information requests to all London borough authorities, Hammersmith and Fulham Council is not alone in disposing of historic public assets.
After years on the market, Greenwich Council finally cashed in on the dilapidated former East Greenwich library.
The Grade II-listed property, which shut in 2015, was bought by the Redeemed Christian Church Of God – an expansionary religious movement from Nigeria – in 2019 for £1.8 million.
A spokesperson for the council, however, insisted that the sale was not driven by a need to generate money.
In another controversial move, the City of London also sold Snow Hill and the 1960s Wood Street police stations in 2020 for £14.9 million and £40 million respectively.
Magnificent Hotels bought the Grade II-listed building on a 151-year lease to convert the Wood Street property into a five-star boutique hotel after City of London Police declared the station was surplus to operational requirements.
Located a 10-minute stroll from Wood Street, Snow Hill police station is also being transformed into a 219-room hotel by Premier Inn.
A City of London Corporation spokesperson said: ‘Both properties were sold to hotel developers and, once redeveloped, will represent a boost to overnight accommodation in the Square Mile.
‘The capital released by these sales will be reinvested into the new state-of-the-art headquarters for the City of London Police which will form part of the Salisbury Square Development on Fleet Street.’
Another historic property viewed as ‘surplus’ is the former Drill Hall Theatre in Chenies Street, Bloomsbury.
The 19th-century building was snapped up by RADA for £3.4 million in December 2017.
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