Posts Tagged ‘Playtower’

Playtower gets £400k to stop deterioration

February 12, 2010

The Budget Report has been approved by the Mayor, I’m reading it and will eventually comment as I digest it.

This paragraph caught my attention immediately though:

5.20 The Council owns two properties, Ladywell Playtower and Beckenham Place Park Mansion House and stable block, that appear on the English Heritage ‘at risk’ register. Neither of the these buildings have a viable Council-related use and their listing and physical condition make them difficult development propositions. Officers have met with English Heritage to discuss Beckenham Place Park and will seek to bid for funding to undertake work to avoid any further deterioration. Officers will open similar discussions on Ladywell Playtower, but given the current condition of both properties, an allocation of £0.4m is proposed to undertake work to avoid further structural deterioration of the buildings.

These are £400k in addition to the £419k (and running) for 24hr security at the building.

When last November I received the  reply to my written question at Council and discovered that £419k had been spent on security I used my right to a verbal supplementary to ask the Deputy Mayor how that cost compared to what would have been spent to keep the building in use, allocating it to a suitable tenant, when a few years back the Ladywell Gymnastics Club relocated to Bellingham.

The question was dodged altogether with one of those warped reasoning that seasoned politicians master so well and involves answering another question that was not what was asked. In this case the Deputy Mayor decided to non-answer my question by saying that since the building was closed security had to be provided. Right answer to the wrong question or wrong answer to the right question? I leave that to you.

But, in the meantime what we have is a beautiful building that’s been kept as an eyesore for years and allowed to deteriorate. The Council has been dragging its heels, and at huge cost. There is a lesson here. Don’t leave buildings empty!

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The cost of security

November 24, 2009

I just received the replies to my questions for tomorrow’s Council meeting, here’s the first.

PUBLIC QUESTION NO. 20
LONDON BOROUGH OF LEWISHAM

COUNCIL MEETING

25 NOVEMBER 2009

Question asked by: Mr M Calò

Member to reply:    Deputy Mayor

Question

How long has the Ladywell Playtower been under 24hr security and at what cost?

Reply

24 hour security was installed at Ladywell Playtower on 12.05.06. The total cost to date is £419,401.

Council turns its back to the Playtower

September 19, 2009

PlaytowerThe original Victorian Ladywell Baths building, built in 1885 and commonly known as the Playtower is one of the most interesting buildings of Lewisham Central.
After its life as a swimming pool it became a gymnastic club, that was until a few years ago when the Ladywell Gymnastic Club relocated to modern facilities in Bellingham.
At that point a very shortsighted Council decided to close the building and keep it like that, which meant that a steady deterioration started its course.
Had they decided to keep it in some use it would not have fallen into disrepair to the point that it now needs a colossal sum just to keep it standing.
Unfortunately the Mayor decided that what it needed was a security guard on site round the clock to make sure that no one gets close to it. This security guard has been the recipient of a full income for some years now and we’re very happy for him.

But regardless of what this administration’s shortsightedness did to the poor building many care for it and last year the Ladywell Village Improvement Group (LVIG) tried to bring it back into use as a Youth Club and to develop that plan it had received the backing of Lewisham’s own Regeneration office which worked with an architects’ firm and came out with a proposal that was presented at a meeting that I attended together with members of the LVIG, local Councillors, Council officers and of course the architects.
The proposal was really impressive, one of the pools rooms would have been transformed into a theatre, the other into a 5 a side football pitch, a whole host of other activities would have been based around the rest of the building.
The price tag for all this was a eye-watering £8m, of which only about £2m coming from Lewisham Council, the bulk of the sum should have come from a Government fund called Myspace set up to give grants of up to £5m to projects for youth facilities.

Only that on Wednesday the Mayor decided to bid for this fund for essentially the same project, only to be developed in Sydenham Wells Park instead of the Playtower. This means that there is currently no plan whatsoever for a use for this rather handsome historic and landmark building that is rotting away as I type.

It’s therefore time for me to put again on the table my proposal for a possible use of the Playtower, proposal that I had shelved to support the LVIG bid for a Youth Club to be based there.

Just before the LVIG made its proposal public I had in fact made public mine, not through this blog but through a guest column on Brockley Central and the response was very good indeed. A thing that I found rather reassuring, because it’s hard to be objective about our own ideas.

Anyway, over one year has passed and I am still convinced that it’s something that’s worth pursuing and since the Council has now decided that it won’t back the proposal of a Youth Club there I think that it’s time to re-open the case for this alternative use.

One difference between this proposal and the Youth Club is that it’s for a use that would create many jobs, substantial economic activity and hopefully generate an income. If a business case for this can be made then this can be used to attract the funds that are needed for the refurbishment of the building, estimated at £3m.

And what’s this proposal? Read it here…

But whatever scheme is pursued urgent action is needed to stop the building from deteriorating further and secure the structure, now.
The money spent on years of 24 hours security guards would have paid for some basic works and would have allowed the building to remain in use, the sorry state it is now and the consequent likely cost of a refurbishment today was an entirely predictable consequence of the lack of action of the Council, in fact it was predicted by many.