While many councils are converting their historic town halls into luxury homes, hotels, venues or workspaces, Waltham Forest decided to retain the building’s original purpose. Waltham Forest Town Hall, the Assembly Hall and the public realm that surrounds them represent a key civic space for the borough. A plan was formed to densify the site through infill development, while respecting the site’s heritage and retaining its civic function.
The LB Waltham Forest took this opportunity to reconsider the use, function and design of key assets within this estate. It was keen to ensure that any future development balanced two key objectives:
These two dimensions of the corporate strategy effectively set the context for our work – the ambition to create a great place, set against the need to achieve best value from any investment. We were asked to identify opportunities for achieving both of these objectives at once, through a thoughtful, forward-looking approach to the curation of uses and activities.
We worked alongside masterplanners from Hawkins\Brown to conceive a vision for the campus as a democratic place where staff, residents and visitors will always feel welcomed and involved.
This involved exhaustive stakeholder engagement to understand how the spaces are currently used, their functional strengths and weaknesses, and underlying business model.
We approached the challenge from a placemaking perspective – identifying opportunities to create inviting, attractive and animated spaces – reinforced by detailed financial modelling to understand the financial risks and implications of all recommendations.
We then made a series of robust and unambiguous recommendations about how to adapt, use and operate workspace in the Town Hall, the Assembly Hall venue, and surrounding retail frontage, and the public realm.
Our recommendations were well received by senior Council officers, the Chief Executive and Council Members. Nearly all have since been adopted, many have already been implemented, and others were baked into the development brief through which a housing partner was secured.
Our suggested vision is embodied by the newly created Fellowship Square, which is activated by a state-of-the-art programmable fountain. This new civic space has already hosted a series of free summer events and has proved to be hugely popular with local families. The Assembly Hall has been refurbished and modernised. The Town Hall has been adapted to replace inefficient cellular offices with agile workspace that promotes collaboration and wellbeing.
Through a highly competitive procurement process, Countryside Properties was selected as the Council’s development partner and a planning application for the next phase of development has already been submitted.