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Friday, 25 March 2011

LibDem Response to Ealing Council’s plans to redevelop Acton Town Hall

I think we all agree that the regeneration of Acton is needed, as do many areas within the borough. The comments relate to the recent policies published by Ealing Council and those that have come to Cabinet.

Town Hall site
Like the pool it is crucial that the heritage aspects of the building are retained. It would be helpful to have a balance of retail space, plus housing to raise some funds but we need to ensure that the community space is of a varied range of sizes to accommodate a range of activities whether that be of a sporting, educational or  community type.

For example there is a shortage of space for particular sports, such as basketball, which are popular elsewhere. Outdoor sports is indeed a need. Maybe space could be offered as play area for a school on the Priory Centre, which could also use the magistrate’s court building. 

The Council needs to make far more of the fact that if the plans go ahead as is proposed, Acton will lose its public performance space. The reduced amount of space in the Kings Rooms (when compared to the area in the Priory) will mean, in the Council’s words “more intensive use” (i.e. more sharing).  Will the various users be able to operate satisfactorily in this more confined area? Local organisations should not be forced to travel into central Ealing for such facilities.

There needs to be proactively to see what can be done to enable arts groups to be involved in using community space.

Given what appear to be very low (an underestimate of) property valuations this is driving more of the building to be sold off for housing that does not add to the community aspect of the Acton regeneration project.

There are a number of public houses in Acton and it would be better to avoid attracting more public houses.

Priory Community Centre
It is clear that this is much more than just a building; it is a diverse set of community associations who provide a number of important services to residents whether they are parents’ groups, children’s services or cultural groups, and they all contribute greatly to the social fabric of Acton.

Our view is that the Priory Centre is not the right location for housing. It should be renovated and kept as a community centre that is more accessible or converted into a joint Primary school (in the day) and a community centre (evening). Multi-use is a better way to use buildings and this site is one where this is realistic.

Within the current plans to move the community space to Acton Town Hall, this brings a number of issues – a smaller space for some large community activities; possibly pricing community groups out of the area; some groups may not exist if they have to wait until the Town Hall is converted. Therefore there needs to be a way to temporarily allow current Priory users to use a building in the area such as a Magistrates Court (the Council must be proactive on this) as well as offering a priority booking system given the long nature of their existence.

How is the Council going to honour the undertakings to the present occupants of the Priory Centre that they would not be moved out until the new space for them was available? So far there is little confidence in Ealing Council as they do not seem to be willing to make any guarantees to the current user groups.

Swimming Pool
We think it would be better to retain a 33 metre however if the space can be used to ensure that a greater number of facilities can be installed then the proposed 25m pool plus trainer pool might be workable.

It is crucial to however ensure that the heritage aspects of the pool are retained as you cannot bring back aspects of a building, once destroyed.

The current library is not adequate but a new library needs to be guaranteed as part of the proposal given the recent consultation on libraries. A new library on the Town Hall site needs to really be used as a magnet to attract its use. This is more than just having a good level of computers and related IT but offers other services that can raise footfall.

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