Sadiq Khan has set out cost-cutting plans to move the Greater London Authority from Foster + Partners’ Thames-side City Hall to WilkinsonEyre’s The Crystal in the Royal Docks
The mayor will consult with staff, assembly members and unions for six weeks over his proposal to take advantage of a break clause in the existing lease and a potential relocation from the London Bridge landmark at the end of next year.
London’s first mayor, Ken Livingstone, moved into City Hall in 2002, after it was opened by the Queen. But the building currently costs the authority more than £11 million a year in rates, charges, and rent to Kuwaiti landlords St Martin’s.
This figure is due to increase from the start of 2022 and – with the authority facing a £500 million funding black hole due to coronavirus-related drops in business rates and council tax income – Khan is looking to make cutbacks.
The authority already owns The Crystal, which was completed in 2012 but has been largely empty since technology giant Siemens moved out last year.
Khan said: ‘My first priority will always be to protect funding for front-line services, including public transport, the Met Police and the London Fire Brigade. That’s why I’m consulting on plans for the Greater London Authority to leave the current City Hall building next year and relocate to The Crystal.
‘In normal times, it would be standard practice for any mayor to consider utilising the lease break clause on the City Hall building that becomes possible this year, and to view it as an opportunity to ensure Londoners were getting the best value for money. In the current financial context, and with the looming black hole in London’s public finances, it would be negligent not to do so.
‘Leaving our current home would save £55 million over five years, which would help us protect and invest in the things that matter most to Londoners, as well as supporting the regeneration of the Royal Docks.’
City Hall - interior
Sebastien Ricard, the WilkinsonEyre director who led the build of the Crystal to to completion in 2012, said Khan’s plan ’could definitely be a good move.’
‘The building was designed with flexibility in mind as part of the overall sustainability strategy and the GLA is in a great position to push the agenda much further in the way the building is retrofitted, to push the environmental performance still further.
He added: ‘The location has also matured a great deal with the general intensification of development to the east. It’s not a traditional location for a government building but one perhaps more representative of the city that the GLA now represents’
AJ sustainability editor Hattie Hartman wrote when £30 millon Crystal was completed by WilkinsonEyre that it was ‘a highly performative building with an ambitious change-making agenda’. WilkinsonEyre worked with Pringle Brandon on the low-carbon scheme.
In June 2019, the Greater London Authority accepted an early surrender of Siemens’ lease on the building on the proviso that a new use would make ‘better use of the building for the local community’.
The 6,300m² pavilion building is currently housing the Royal Docks Delivery team and continues to host a New London Architecture (NLA) programme and exhibition showcasing the Royal Docks and wider East London development.
Meanwhile Foster + Partners says on its website that City Hall is ‘one of the capital’s most symbolically important projects’. It adds that the building ‘expresses the transparency of the democratic process and demonstrates the potential for a wholly sustainable, virtually non-polluting public building’.
A decision on whether to move is expected by September.