London Mayor Ken Livingstone held talks this week to consider alternative homes for the Greater London Assembly after he warned that the Foster and Partners-designed building at London Bridge City may not be 'best value for Londoners'.
Livingstone, his deputy Nicky Gavron, environment spokesman Darren Johnson and Labour assembly member Valerie Shawcross met with officials from the Government Office for London to consider the cost and facilities offered at London Bridge City, as well as those at the former home of the Greater London Council at County Hall and a number of other undisclosed options.A source close to Livingstone's cabinet said this week: 'He's looking at many different options to find the one which is best value for money for London. That may not be the Foster building.' But as the AJ went to press, a GLA spokeswoman characterised the talks between the government and the mayor on the cost and design details of Foster's building as 'extremely positive'.
Officials are keen to play down the possibility of a switch in building because the government has already signed a 25 year lease starting at £4.75 million a year on the £40 million London Bridge City building with developer CIT Group.
But Livingstone's former seat of power at County Hall emerged as a contender for the GLA's home last week when its owner, the Japanese Shirayama Corporation, said it is keen to lease part to the GLA at a knock-down price. £2.5 million has already been pumped into the restoration of the debating chamber and around 26,000m 2of office space is currently vacant in the west wing of the building. This is far more than the lettable floor area provided by the new headquarters building at London Bridge City, which boasts 18,500m 2.County Hall is also in use as a luxury hotel, aquarium, offices for the Princess Diana Trust and the Premier League Hall of Fame. Shirayama Corporation's architect on the building since 1994, Geoff Mann at RHWL, said the assembly would fit well in County Hall. 'There's plenty of room and the building is so huge and grand that it can take any number of uses, ' he said.
A decision on which building Livingstone will pursue is expected to be made late next month.