Activists have declared victory in the battle to save the historic Kingston Guildhall from the sale.
A community group successfully registered the council office as a community asset.
Previously, it had been suggested that the building could have been redeveloped into new homes, a workspace or even a boutique hotel, as the city council no longer had the means to take care of it.
Save Royal Kingston has listed the Guildhall as an asset of community value, meaning the community will be notified if the building goes up for sale within five years.
Locals can then create a community right to bid, giving them six months to find out if they can raise money to buy the building.
Helen Hinton, leader of the Kingston Independent Residents Group (KIRG) told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “This means the community has a chance to bid for the Guildhall if the council puts it up for sale within the next five years, which means a historic asset can be preserved for the community and residents.
The KIRG has said it will run in the May 2022 election retaining the Guildhall as a council asset.
The impact of the coronavirus pandemic meant council feared they could no longer afford to look after the Guildhall complex. The board believed it wouldn’t need to use it as much as more staff would look to work remotely in the longer term.
A spokesperson for Save Royal Kingston said: “As soon as it was announced that the council had introduced a policy of selling the Guildhall, the interest was there in saving the building.
“In two weeks, Save Royal Kingston was formed, with over 100 members from across the borough.
“It’s not just about the heritage of the building; it has been the mother ship of Kingston upon Thames for almost four generations. This is where decisions are made, where elections are counted, where births and deaths are recorded and more recently, the venue for wedding ceremonies in the beautifully restored basements.
They added: “We are very happy with this decision of the council, which means that the site has an element of protection by law. This move certainly gave Save Royal Kingston a boost and the group is currently applying to stop the demolition of the Kingfisher Leisure Center in order to encourage the least costly refurbishment option.
“The group recently agreed to submit two new requests to protect community lands in Chessington and North Kingston. ”
A spokesperson for Kingston Council said: “Kingston Council has received a request to have the Guildhall building listed as a Community Value Asset (LCA) under the Localism Act 2011.
“The provisions give local groups the right to nominate a building or other land for listing by the local authority as an asset of community value.
“After applying the tests set out in the legislation, the board agrees that the appointment meets the statutory criteria and that the building will be added to the board’s list of community value assets.”