London Borough of Waltham Forest: Town hall campus

One Public Estate has funded a dedicated project manager and has successfully brought together HMCTS and the council to align the interests of local and central government in the area, achieving the best local and national outcomes.

The challenge

The London Borough of Waltham Forest has been exploring the challenge of using its multiple office sites to reduce estate running costs and free-up development land for new housing. The council has staff based in 10 corporately managed operations, including six remote offices, with estate running costs of around £2 million per year.

A prime opportunity to co-locate council staff has been identified at Waltham Forest’s historic town hall campus, which includes the Grade II listed town hall and a former magistrates’ court owned by Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS), currently housing the Probation Service. The campus sits within a key strategic location in the borough at which to base public services.

The council is seeking to use its estates transformation strategy to provide an integrated and more efficient public service offer for the local community. Any plans will have to avoid disruption to the daily provision of services, with staff remaining on campus throughout the construction phase.

The vision

Waltham Forest Council and HMCTS have forged a relationship to jointly transform the historic town hall campus, redeveloping buildings around the town hall to relocate services and staff from existing council offices and the Probation Service to a new 6,600 square metre civic centre developed to house the council, HMCTS and potentially other public bodies and private businesses.

The council and other staff will then move into the new office accommodation, offering more joined-up services for the public including a one-stop-shop for health and wellbeing and a new public service contact centre. Nine of the council’s older, less efficient offices will close, freeing up land for 430 new homes (of which at least 35 per cent will be affordable) and commercial space. The planned civic centre will have capacity for further public bodies to co-locate on the site and the partnership is identifying suitable partners.

Waltham Forest College sits next to the town hall campus, and through additional OPE revenue funding the scheme has expanded to include the college within its scope, delivering an additional 100 housing units and reduced running costs alongside improved education facilities.

Martin Esom, Chief Executive, London Borough of Waltham Forest, said: “OPE funding has been instrumental in allowing us to redevelop and modernise our civic estate by instilling collaborative, partnership working with other public sector partners to create economic growth for Waltham Forest residents alongside the delivery of new housing and improved public services.”

Actions taken/planned

One Public Estate has funded a dedicated project manager and has successfully brought together HMCTS and the council to align the interests of local and central government in the area, achieving the best local and national outcomes.

HMCTS sold the former court building to the council, which refurbished and reopened the premises in March 2018. The re-use of the building is the first phase of the programme and has been delivered through a cost effective design-led intervention. Internal court walls were demolished to transform the building and increase the feeling of space, maximising natural light. The designers enhanced and re-used many of the original features of the old court building.

It is now used by 350 council officers as well as members of the public and is a light, calm place to work. The cafe at ground floor is already a success and is making the town hall campus more inclusive, accessible and a better place for the community.

The refurbishment and re-use of the court has released land for up to 100 homes through the release of two offsite buildings.

Additional OPE Sustainable Pilot Grant funding has been secured by the partnership which will speed up the release of feeder sites for housing at the town hall campus, as well as providing extra housing to the scheme overall.

Outcomes/potential outcomes

Outcomes of the project include:

• creation of over 500 new high-quality homes (around 35 per cent of which will be affordable)

• generation of capital receipts to the value of £44.5 million

• revenue savings

• integrated public services and improved public service delivery.

Next steps

The project is moving at pace and has delivered early successes, with the acquisition of the former magistrates’ court delivering a capital receipt to HMCTS, releasing land for 100 units and seeing 350 staff relocated into an innovative cost-effective workspace environment.

The next steps include the delivery of:

• an expanded master plan for Waltham Forest College and the campus which will complement and enhance the transformation proposals

• planning for new housing and additional civic space for a co-located and integrated public service delivery location for the borough

• early release of surplus accommodation by making the best use of the newly refurbished former court building

• construction to begin on new civic space and housing.