A One Public Estate (OPE) funded masterplan has enabled the successful delivery of a major transformation programme in Waltham Forest.
The London Borough of Waltham Forest is nearly halfway through its Fellowship Square development – a once in a lifetime transformation which is delivering a new residential neighbourhood on the Town Hall Campus site in the heart of Chapel End in Walthamstow.
The Council identified an opportunity to rationalise its estate to significantly reduce running costs, and to unlock surplus land for the delivery of much needed new housing. The key challenge was to consolidate 10 corporately managed Council sites, including six remote offices, with estate running costs of around £2 million per year.
The project will result in a full refurbishment of the Grade II listed Town Hall, a new centrepiece fountain, delivery of the New Civic building and a new neighbourhood and cultural centre, alongside improved landscaping, and green spaces across the site. Fellowship Square sits within a key strategic location in the borough at which to base public services. Most council staff will be based at Fellowship Square within modern, purpose-built offices, which will enable more agile and efficient working.
The Council is using its estates transformation strategy to provide an integrated and more efficient public service offer for the local community. The redevelopment plans will avoid disruption to the daily provision of services, with staff remaining on campus throughout the construction phase.
Fellowship Square is a key part of the Council’s plans to ensure economic recovery following the Covid-19 pandemic.
The vision has been developed over the past few years. Whilst the key objectives were centred around consolidation and making more efficient use of public land and assets, there are several other important priorities, these include:
- Delivering much needed housing, with 50% of this provision being affordable prioritised for local residents
- Opening up and activating of the site to be enjoyed by residents, visitors, and staff
- Preserving and enhancing important historic buildings for future generations to enjoy
Both the Town Hall refurbishment and the development of a New Civic building will provide modern office accommodation for staff. This is supported by strategies for improving public service delivery. New ways of working are promoted to enable the Council to operate more efficiently. The Council is also seeking to offer more joined-up services for the public, including through the delivery of a Families and Homes Hub on the nearby former Wood Street Library site. The redevelopment will deliver a new contact centre for residents to access key services, enabled by new homes, including 50% affordable. The Council’s older, less efficient offices will close, freeing up land for over 500 new homes (including 50% affordable) and commercial space.
Fellowship Square seeks to build on the legacy of Waltham Forest being the first ever Mayor’s London Borough of Culture in 2019. It will provide opportunities for new hospitality, leisure, entertainment and learning spaces which will provide jobs for local people.
Image 1: Architects impression of the completed Fellowship Square
In 2016, OPE awarded £30,000 funding for development of a masterplan for the formerly named Town Hall Campus site. This was the catalyst for regeneration and enabled the Council to forge strong, long lasting relationships with a range of public sector bodies, including Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS).
The relationship between Waltham Forest Council and HMCTS resulted in the subsequent acquisition of the former Magistrates Court by the Council, delivering a capital receipt to HMCTS. The Magistrates Court was refurbished and reopened in March 2018, providing temporary office accommodation for over 350 staff during the Town Hall refurbishment.
Integral to the success of the programme has been a strong decant strategy and consolidation plan. The first phase of the Council’s strategy was to decant staff from two of the off-campus ‘feeder sites’ – Juniper House and Harvey House – into the refurbished Magistrates Court. This also enabled the co-location of the National Probation Services (NPS) with the Council’s Youth Offending Service at Rowan House.
In May 2019, the Council obtained planning permission to redevelop the Juniper House site for the provision of 91 new homes (including 50% affordable), a new nursery and enhanced green space. Construction started on site in Spring 2020 and is expected to be completed in summer 2022. The Harvey House site was disposed of and generated a capital receipt of £1.4m.
The second phase of the decant strategy involved the decant of staff from the Town Hall to The Magistrates and other sites, to enable the refurbishment of the Town Hall itself. The refurbishment works will future-proof the historic Town Hall and represent the largest investment the campus since it first opened in 1941.
Phase I of the programme is on track to complete in Summer 2021, with the Grade-II listed Town Hall refurbishment preserving and protecting the building for future generations. The surrounding areas will be opened-up to the public with a striking fountain centrepiece.
Image 2: Architects impression of the refurbished fountain and Grade II listed Town Hall.
The third phase of the consolidation plan will commence when staff decant into the newly refurbished Town Hall. This will allow Phase II of the development to commence, consisting of a new residential neighbourhood, the New Civic building and commercial space.
The final decant phase will involve staff moving from the remaining operational sites into the New Civic building and Families and Homes Hub. The remaining Council sites - Willow House, Cedar Wood House, and Rowan House – will be either redeveloped by the Council or transferred to Sixty Bricks, the Council’s wholly owned development company.
Image 3: Architects impression of the Families and Homes Hub on Wood Street.
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.”
In addition to funding a masterplan, OPE funded a dedicated Project Manager. This has successfully driven the project forward to align the interests of local and central government in the area, achieving the best local and national outcomes. Key achievements include:
- Acquisition and refurbishment of the former Magistrates Court. The re-use of the building was the first phase of the programme and was delivered through a cost-effective, design-led intervention
- Redevelopment of Juniper House for provision of 91 new homes, including 50% affordable
- Co-location of the National Probation Service with the Youth Offending Service at Rowan House
- Refurbishment and preservation of the Grade-II listed Town Hall and creation of a new public square
- Redevelopment of the former Wood Street Library site for the provision of a Families and Homes Hub. This project was accelerated by Sustainable Grant and is being delivered with the support of MHCLG’s Land Release Fund
- OPE Sustainable Grant funding accelerated the release of feeder sites for housing on the Town Hall Campus, as well as providing extra housing to the scheme overall.
Outcomes of the project include:
- Creation of over 500 new homes (including 50% affordable)
- Generation of capital receipts across local and central to government to the value of circa £45 million
- Revenue savings
- Integrated public services and improved public service delivery.
The project is moving at pace and the vision is well on the way to being delivered. The Town Hall and new public square will open in Summer 2021 and significant progress has been made on Phase II of the programme. In January 2020, the Council secured Countryside Properties as the delivery partner for Phase II and the planning application for the New Civic and residential neighbourhood was submitted in March 2021. Key next steps include:
- Planning approval for Fellowship Square is expected in Summer 2021 and construction is programmed to start on site in Autumn 2021
- Planning approval for the Families and Homes Hub is expected in Summer 2021 and construction is programmed to start on site in Autumn 2021
- Submission of the planning application for Willow House is expected in early 2022