Harrow Council has announced that they plan to move their Civic Centre and build new communities in Harrow and Wealdstone.
In what would be the borough’s biggest regeneration plans, which will be voted on next week, the council would move its headquarters to a much smaller and more efficient building in Wealdstone and redevelop the present Civic Centre site (pictured top) into a new community with homes, schools, new public spaces, business opportunities and community facilities. The council car park in Greenhill Way would also be redeveloped as a part of the “Heart of Harrow” developments.
The council say the plans will be self-funding.
The present Civic Centre site makes poor use of its space. Most of the site is configured as surface car parking. In addition, the buildings are dated, poorly utilised, and expensive to run. The council has sought to redevelop the site on previous occasions. The most recent plan would have seen them move into Harrow town centre on the Harrow College site, but funding plans failed.
The move to Wealdstone could be a good one. Although it is not thought of as the heart of the borough, it is an area of deprivation, and the injection of council staff into the local economy might give the town a boost, in the same way that Brent Council’s move of its Civic Centre into Wembley Park has galvanised the regeneration of that area.
Council leader David Perry said: “We are creating the places and the opportunities that our communities deserve: a thriving, modern and vibrant borough that makes Harrow a home to be proud of.
“We have land in the very heart of Harrow that simply is not pulling its weight. That is why we are putting forward robust proposals to leave our costly and outdated Civic Centre to build a much smaller and more efficient office in the heart of Wealdstone.”
The proposed new Civic Centre would be built on the site of the Peel House car park in Wealdstone. At less than 10,000 square metres, the site is just a fifth of the size of the current Civic Centre. The council believes it could break ground as soon as 2017 and potentially make the move across the railway tracks in 2019.
Council Chief Executive Michael Lockwood said: “45 years ago, Harrow Council built this Civic Centre because local government was growing and workers needed a building to match.
“Today, with the cuts faced by every council, local government is changing all around the country. Harrow Council is becoming a smaller and more agile organisation that demonstrates value for money, adaptability and efficiency. It is time to do the same as our predecessors and find a more appropriate new home”.
“It is right that Wealdstone should be our destination – there is no place more fitting for us to see our future. Moving our office will inject millions into the Wealdstone economy, create new homes and jobs, and importantly boost local businesses and shops.”
The council say they considered a wide variety of options, including renting or buying existing offices; or building homes and offices on other sites around the borough. Ultimately all were rejected on cost or efficiency grounds. They say the new plans stand to win the council £8.8 million straight away from the GLA’s regeneration pot.
Cllr David Perry added: “Our plans show that our regeneration programme will return a surplus to the taxpayers of Harrow, running into millions of pounds. For years to come, these developments will deliver large annual returns that we will invest into vital local services.”
The proposals for the three sites include the creation of more than 300 jobs and 1,100 homes. They form part of the council’s “Building a Better Harrow” regeneration strategy, which over the coming years aims to deliver a total of 3,000 jobs, 5,500 new homes and £1.75 billion of investment to the borough.