Tower Hamlets gives itself planning permission to turn old London Hospital into its new £105m civic centre
PUBLISHED: 14:21 07 March 2018 | UPDATED: 13:28 08 March 2018
Planning permission has been given to turn the former iconic London Hospital in Whitechapel into a new £105m ‘super’ town hall complex.
The massive Grade II-listed building in the Whitechapel Road is to be the new Tower Hamlets civic centre in 2022 after the council’s expensive lease on Mulberry Place is wrapped up.
It puts the local authority back at the heart of the community as part of the Whitechapel masterplan redevelopment that includes Crossrail’s Elizabeth line opening later this year, instead of being stuck out in the far corner of Blackwall for the past 20 years.
“We want to encourage people to feel this civic centre is for them to use,” Mayor John Biggs said. “It will be somewhere that people can get public services in one place in a town hall worthy of the name.”
The council granted itself planning permission when its strategic development committee voted overwhelmingly to pass the scheme, subject to approval by the Mayor of London in the coming weeks.
The 18th century structure has been empty since 2013, when the Royal London Hospital moved out to its new Stepney Way complex.
The old site was then bought from the NHS for a £9m ‘bargain basement’ price by ex-mayor Lutfur Rahman in 2015 — his ‘last deal’ legacy just four weeks before his notorious ban from office.
Construction starts later this year, completion expected in 2022, with the design restoring the Georgian façade of the original 1757 hospital.
Architect Sam Scott said: “We have engaged the public and amenity societies to conserve the historic character of the building which occupies a place in the collective memory of the East End.”
Having a centralised civic centre in Whitechapel is estimated to save the local authority £5m a year not having to lease expensive commercial property like Mulberry Place.
There is also a projected £78m to recoup from selling other council buildings no longer needed, once staff move into the new town hall.
Public spaces are included in the scheme, along with open plan offices for staff, meeting rooms and a council debating chamber, café and other facilities.
There are also plans for a library as part of a “cultural and learning” campus similar to the old Whitechapel High Street library that was closed when Whitechapel Idea Store opened 10 years ago. But it won’t affect the Idea Store over the road, which is to carry on as teaching and learning resources centre.