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Bonkers Blog April 2014

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13 April - A monstrous carbuncle on the face of an old friend

Civic Civic CivicBeauty is in the eye of the beholder and to mine the old Woolwich Building Society Headquarters has always been quirky rather than a thing of beauty but whether you agree or not I would doubt there will be many enthusiasts for what Bexley council has done to it.

The major problem with the conversion to Civic Offices has always been that the Woolwich wasn’t built with public access in mind and was erected before the age of electronic data storage, so it was equipped with high ceilings to house enormous racks of files. The adaptation was always going to be a bodge and maybe it would have been a better idea to have saved some money and chosen an alternative plan put forward by council officers but not considered by the ruling Conservatives hell bent on a vanity trip.

Obviously Labour’s plan to build in Erith would have been bodge-free too albeit at a slightly higher cost more than offset by a much longer projected life.

To provide the missing public entrance Bexley council has stuck a concrete monstrosity on the front of their old friend which would not get planning permission if anyone else had the same idea. It looks to me as, come the revolution, it might serve as a gallows.

A notice on the building says it will open on May 12th and perpetuates the myth that it cost taxpayers nothing. The claimed annual savings have risen from the £1 million of a few months ago, past the £1·5 million of recent times to “Saving over £1·5 million a year”. It was only ever a guess so you cannot really say any fanciful figure is wrong and if the saving turns out to be almost nothing no one will ever know.

There have been persistent reports, one from a cabinet member, that the building, or maybe some parts of it, are not big enough. Perhaps I am an optimist in hoping for a decent view of the council chamber and much better acoustics. I wonder if there will be guided tours for members of the public? A democratic council should be keen to show off what the taxpayers have paid for.

Note: “A monstrous carbuncle… © Prince Charles 30th May 1984.


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