Nine Council Buildings to be Sold to Pay off Debts

Irish Centre and Palingswick House among proposed sales

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Hammersmith and Fulham Council is proposing to sell nine council buildings, including the Hammersmith's Irish Centre and Palingswick House, which is used by 21 voluntary sector organisations, and the Askham Family Centre and 50 Commonwealth Avenue, home to the charity Nubian Life, in Shepherd's Bush.

In addition it is proposing to close three other properties, including the Information Centre on Hammersmith Broadway and moving Hammersmith Library to another site.

The council estimates that selling these buildings, which it claims are either underused or represent poor value for money, could raise around £20 million, which could be used to help clear its £133 debt mountain.

The full list of sites being considered for potential sale are:

The Askham Centre
Distillery Lane Centre
Palingswick House
The Irish Centre
58 Bulwer Street
The Greswell Street Centre
50 Commonwealth Avenue W12
Fulham Town Hall
The Sands End Community Centre

As well as the proposal to move Hammersmith Library, there are also three properties where the council proposes to discontinue the lease. These are:

The Information Centre in Hammersmith Broadway
Cambridge House
Barclay House

Here are the details of its plans for Hammersmith and Shepherd's Bush.

The council says it is planning to meet with the wider Irish community to discuss options for future funding arrangements for the Irish Centre. Its lease does not expire until 2012, so this will be a long lead in from consultation to any changes that are proposed. There are a number of issues which need to be considered before a final decision can be made on the options for this building, which will be subject to a separate report later in the year.

Palingswick House in King Street currently houses 21 voluntary sector organisations. Palingswick House needs renovation work the council cannot afford and could raise a multi-million pound contribution to the debt reduction plan. It is not accessible for disabled people and it is not located in the borough’s most deprived communities.

The council is proposing instead to concentrate voluntary sector accommodation in two new community hubs, one on the Edward Woods estate and the other, provided by the North Fulham NDC in Dawes Rd. These, it argues, will provide better, more tailored sites for a wider range of organisations. Priority will go to organisations who provide services for the most vulnerable local residents and who support the council’s overall priorities for the borough. The current users of Palingswick House will be able to apply for space, along with other local organisations.

Cambridge House and Barclay House are council offices that will no longer be needed – the council’s Smartworking programme and staff restructuring, along with the market-testing of services over the last four years, has radically reduced the in-house workforce resulting in a much-reduced accommodation requirement. Other sites, including Riverview House and Stowe Road depot have already been disposed of.

The Askham Centre is under-used. Children’s Services located there would be moved to more cost-effective premises.

The Distillery Lane site has been vacant since early June following the relocation of the after-school service to St Paul's Primary School.

The Greswell Street Centre is currently occupied by HAFAD who will be offered alternative accommodation at the more accessible White City Collaborative Care Centre

Bulwer Street has three occupants: Shepherds Bush Families Project provides the Children's Centre for the area which would be moved to another site nearby. If a formal decision to sell the property is made following a consultation. the Vietnamese Association would be invited to apply for space at the Edward Woods community hub. Groups that use the centre would be helped to find other locations in the wide range of other community venues in the area.

The Broadway Information Centre is badly located and under-used by the public. Together with public information being more widely available through the internet, the public information centre is not considered the best use of this site.

50 Commonwealth Avenue - Nubian Life will be offered alternative accommodation, or if no other suitable location is identified, the building will be retained.

In addition, the council will seek to move Hammersmith Library to a new site in central Hammersmith. The current site of Hammersmith Library is a listed building from which it is difficult to run a modern, accessible library. It may be possible for the current library to move to a better site in Hammersmith Broadway. This proposal will only go ahead following consultation with residents and only if a suitable site for the library in the centre of Hammersmith is secured.

The council is making it clear that these proposed asset disposals would be only the first wave in a rolling programme, with more sites likely to be considered for later this year.

Cllr Greenhalgh says: " All indications are that we will have to reduce our spending by around £55 million over the next three years. We have stated very publicly that our focus will be on selling our assets to protect services.

" We have to put people before buildings and safeguard as much of our budget as possible for voluntary sector grants, child protection and services for the elderly."

The council says consultations on the proposed sale of individual buildings will run over the summer and the results carefully considered before any formal disposal decisions are made. To take part in the consultation, visit Buildings Consultation

Other cost cutting measures proposed by H&F include merging education services with Westminster Council, which it says will cut costs by eradicating duplication. This could also lead to the loss of hundreds of jobs within the council.