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First look behind the scenes at Camden’s new council chamber

Exclusive peek behind the scenes as Camden Council gets ready for big move

26 July, 2018 — By Richard Osley

IT might not quite look like it now, but this is the room that will very soon become Camden’s new council chamber.

The New Journal was given an exclusive first peek behind the scenes on Monday at the Crowndale Centre, near Mornington Crescent, where Camden is creating a new chamber, mayor’s parlour and committee rooms.

It will be shutting the old Town Hall building in Judd Street, King’s Cross, this summer as part of a refurbishment project aimed at making the upper two floors and basement suitable for the council to let out. Councillors will move back in after a three-year overhaul, but in the meantime the council’s political life, along with some services, will be moving to the Crowndale, a former mail sorting office.

The room in the Crowndale Centre being turned into the new council chamber, as viewed from what will be the public gallery

Stephen Neil, the council’s project manager, said the new chamber would not have a rigid horseshoe arrangement for councillors. Desks would be arranged differently, depending on the meeting or event.

“When the full council meeting is being held, it will not be a horseshoe, more of a rectangle, but if we wanted to suddenly do some Strictly Come Dancing in here, we could quickly roll away the desks and change the layout,” he said.

The new facilities will include an improved sound system, electronic voting for councillors and screens in the public gallery for those unable to see debates. Mr Neil said: “We want to be able to reuse as much as we are putting into the Crowndale when we move back. A lot of it is trying to move away from lots of paper by using more technology.”

New committee rooms and corridors have been built into a former open plan layout

Three of the five new scrutiny committee rooms will have webcasting, so that more of the smaller meetings will have a video record and potential live audience. A dated but eye-catching, large air-conditioning tube inside the building has been retained. “We discovered a bit of damp and we had a leak, but we haven’t encountered too many problems, as the building has been changed around so many times over the years that if there were any surprises they’d have probably been found already,” he said. First meeting in the new chamber – of the cabinet – is to take place on Sept­ember 5, although the full office move is in August.

Workers on site fit new lights and, below, the room which will become the Mayor’s parlour

Camden Mayor Jenny Headlam-Wells will move to a new parlour with window views of the Richard Cobden statue, Koko nightclub and Camden High Street. The council, which moved into its 5 Pancras Square office block on the King’s Cross regeneration site two years ago after selling the “annexe” building in King’s Cross to a hotel group, is looking to lever in new finance by using underused space at Judd Street. It insists the historic chamber will be brought back into use with a little refreshing.

Camden Mayor Jenny Headlam-Wells’s new view

Finance chief Coun­cillor Richard Olszewski said: “We are investing in Camden Town Hall so it can remain at the heart of democracy in Camden, a building open to all where residents can hold their elected leaders to account. “Refurbishment will update the building while preserving its history, improving its sustain­ability, reducing running costs and trans­forming the way we use space.”

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