Plans to build 73 flats inside Greenwich’s former town hall could be approved next week – even though the council’s housing chief has criticised the plans.

Riverlow Group wants to convert Meridian House, whose clock tower is a local  landmark, into apartments and build an extension on the roof to fit them in.  One of the conditions set if the scheme is approved would be that the clock tower would be open to the public four times each year.

Historic England has also raised concerns about the plans for the Grade II-listed Art Deco building, which became the home of the Metropolitan Borough of Greenwich in 1939. 

It only lasted as a town hall for 26 years, and the building was sold in 1973, eight years after Greenwich merged with Woolwich to form the current council. The old town hall chamber was ripped out and the building was most recently home to Greenwich School of Management, which went bust in 2019.

Greenwich Town Hall's viewing gallery in a poor condition
The viewing gallery in the clock tower as it is now. It would be open four times a year. Credit: Riverlow Group

All 73 flats would be for rent, with 15 offered at a discount of 20 per cent, which legally qualifies as “affordable” housing, and nothing for the 28,000 on the council’s waiting list. 

This has raised the ire of Greenwich’s cabinet member for housing, Pat Slattery, who is also a local councillor for the area. She has filed an objection “due to [the] low affordable housing offer”. A viability assessment prepared for Riverlow says that it cannot afford any more “affordable” housing.

Historic England, the government’s heritage body, said it was “unable to support” the proposals said they would affect its “striking composition”. The 20th Century Society has also objected.

Render of Meridian House plans
The old council chamber would have flats built on top. Credit: Riverlow Group

But only four public objections were received, with 124 in support. Greenwich planning officers said that any harm to the building “would be outweighed by the public benefits of the proposal”. 

“The proposed mixed use redevelopment of the site is considered the only viable means of securing the long term conservation of the heritage asset,” they added.

Greenwich Town Hall plaque
Lost history: This plaque on the side of the building is one of the few reminders of its past. Credit: The Greenwich Wire

Meridian House is next door to the Borough Hall, which remained in Greenwich Council’s hands after the old town hall was sold. 

Greenwich announced plans to sell it three years ago after the collapse of a scheme to lease it to the Deptford-based theatre company Selladoor. The building was put on the Theatres Trust’s “at risk” register last year, however, it remains in council ownership.

A decision about Meridian House is set to be made by the planning board next Tuesday.

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