Letter: Missed opportunities at County Hall

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The Independent Online
Sir: How right Paul Vallely is about London's empty County Hall ("Spacious, desirable and still empty", 6 April). This sad saga is indeed a monument to the "strident ideology of the Thatcher epoch and the dilatory incompetence of the Major years". Along with the poll tax fiasco, Black Wednesday and the squandering of North Sea oil revenues, County Hall comes high in the Conservative government's league table of colossal waste and misuse of public resources.

It is worth remembering that when the Thatcher administration wasfulfilling its act of spite to deprive London of its strategic authority, it was busily allocating vast expenditure to various annexes to the Palace of Westminster - notably, the Bridge Street development - although the vacant County Hall would, with appropriate refurbishment and alteration, have provided a ready-made and far cheaper solution to the problem of MPs' accommodation, the need for proper library and research facilities, and improved catering arrangements for both staff and visitors.

County Hall even had its own built-in debating chamber, which would have amply met the demand for adequate facilities for extra-parliamentary conference activities. Furthermore, both the BBC and ITN had expressed interest in basing their Westminster operations in County Hall, which is only a stone's throw across Westminster Bridge, albeit on the "wrong" side of the river. It was believed by some thatMargaret Thatcher would not run the risk of being forced to set foot in the London Borough of Lambeth's "nuclear- free zone".

The principals of the London School of Economics should perhaps take some small comfort that it is not onlythey who have been made to suffer because ofMrs Thatcher's determination to erase all memory of the GLC and transfer County Hall to private enterprise.

Parliament has also been a loser.

Yours sincerely,


Barnet, Hertfordshire

6 April