New culture space planned for Walworth as council announces preferred bidders for town hall refurbishment

5 March 2019

A new arts and community hub, café and studio workspaces are proposed for the Walworth area as Southwark Council announces its preferred bidders for the refurbishment of Walworth Town Hall and former library space.

The Grade II listed building has been empty since it was devastated by fire in March 2013. Over the last few months the council has been seeking organisations with the financial capacity and expertise to over see the successful refurbishment of the buildings, establishing a sustainable future for them whilst maintaining public access to the most historically important spaces.

Following consultation on two proposals, the council has selected General Projects to lead the transformation of the town hall. The General Projects proposal looks to restore the building as multi-use cultural space, including employment space for the creative industries and a music studio, building on Southwark’s reputation as a home for creative and cultural start ups.

It will also provide a dedicated community/arts/culture space in the former Newington Library. Together with the recent announcement of the new Walworth Library and Southwark Heritage centre nearby, this will result in around 44 percent more available public space than before the fire.

The proposals also include a new entrance onto the recently completed Walworth Square, connecting it to other recent additions such as the new venue for the council’s new library and Southwark heritage centre and shopping streets of Elephant Park, which include affordable retail units.

Cllr Johnson Situ, Cabinet Member for Growth, Development and Planning, said: “We’re really pleased to announce the preferred bidder to take forward plans to restore the Walworth Town Hall to a publically accessible cultural destination. Both bidders brought forward exciting and innovative ideas and I would like to thank both General Projects and Castleforge for their enthusiasm and understanding of the council’s vision for the space.

“Following the most recent round of consultation, we felt the General Projects offered the most benefits for Walworth residents and demonstrated our ongoing commitment to making the building as publically accessible as possible with proposals for a dedicated cultural and community space, event/performance space in the old Council Chamber, new café/restaurant and other work spaces that will be available for local organisations and community hire. We look forward to working with General Projects and the community in the coming months to build on the proposals.”

Jacob Loftus, Chief Executive Officer for General Projects, said: “The Walworth Town Hall is a South London icon and we are delighted and honoured to have been given the opportunity to become it’s next custodian. We are committed to restoring the building back to its former glory, whilst at the same reinventing it as a new creative workspace, community and cultural hub. At the heart of our vision will be a series of ‘Society Rooms’, which will ensure that the key historic parts of the building remain publicly accessible and provide engaging social and artistic programmes for the community around us. We look forward to working closely with Southwark Council and the local community to deliver a new destination building within SE17.”

Southwark Council will also commit a £2m grant to the project to support the extra community space.

The decision to appoint General Projects is still subject to approval by the council’s Cabinet and will be discussed at this week’s Cabinet meeting on Tuesday 12 March.

The full report is available online.

If the appointment is approved there will be further public consultation on the proposals for the buildings in the period leading up to the submission of  a planning application, and the council will also be having conversations with local residents about the best way to ensure the community/arts/cultural space meets the needs of our diverse population. 

Page last updated: 05 March 2019