Saturday 7 January 2012

Winners and Losers in Willesden Green Library Redevelopment

The report (LINK) on the Willesden Green Library Redevelopment to go before the Brent Executive on Monday January 16th recommends that the contract for a new cultural centre be awarded to Galliford Try PLC. The contract includes the acquisition of additional land in the adjacent area  In return for the design and build of the cultural centre on land where the council will retain the freehold (Council Works Land) , the developer will be granted the right to develop residential units for market sale, associated public realm and car parking on the remainder of the land (Developer Works Land)  with the freehold transferred to them on a 'drip feed' basis. This will make the project 'cost neutral' the Council claim.

The report makes it clear that  neither of the existing tenants of the Willesden Green Centre, Willesden Bookshop and Brent Irish Advisory Service will be offered financial assistance following termination and states that neither will be offered space within the new cultural centre. The Council will offer 'assistance to both organisations to try and secure alternative premises within the borough'. They make the same offer to Brent Artist Resource which occupy spaces at the Willesden Green Library Centre on a service level agreement.

The report rejects what they call 'a suggestion by a very small number of members of the public supporting the continued use of the Kensal Rise and Cricklewood (library) sites' as alternate library or study sites during the redevelopment period. They say the sites are not suitable because the need would not occur until July 2012 by which time if the Council continues to be successful against legal challenges they will be administered by All Souls College and not the Council -'as owners, trustees or otherwise' ; they would be expensive to maintain and heat;  additional staff would be needed; and because the locations do not meet the needs of of the borough's residents.

During the rebuilding a temporary library will be provided in the Grange Road offices, this would have a reduced stock but 'further premises are being investigated in the Willesden area'. In terms of study facilities 10 PCs and ten spaces will be provided at Grange Road, 20 extra spaces at Kilburn librray, and 5 extra each at the Town Hall and Ealing Road. They propose to reach at agreement with Job Centre Plus in Harlesden for the provision of a replacement Customer Contact Centre.

Phase Plan
The Appendix above shows the extent of the redevelopment and acquisition of land. 1. Cultural Centre Phase 1, 2. Residential Phase 1, 3 Residential Phase 2, 4 Chambers Lane site. PDF HERE

Galliford Try PLC will undertake a consultation LINK which will start within the Council immediately after the January Executive.  In their Community Engagement Strategy Galliford state that working with communities comes as 'second nature' to them but go on:
That said it would be wrong to assume that simply by virtue of our approach, the development will be well received. Once built, it is likely that the new cultural centre will be welcomed and appreciated, but along the way existing buildings are to be redeveloped. one locally listed and another having been built only relatively recently; a high profile community group, the Brent Irish Advisory Service, is to be displaced; and new homes are to be built on scarce parking spaces - all potentially sensitive issues.
Not to mention the loss of the Willesden Bookshop....

I am now off to join campaigners who are at this moment publicising these issues outside Willesden Green Library.


Lrg said...

There is no apparent requirement to preserve the character of the current facade of the building, so who knows what the new development will look like.
Also, there is nothing to indicate whether there are any revenue implications (e.g. loss of rental income)

Martin Francis said...

There was a good turnout at Willesden Green this morning. Worrying how many didn't know about the temporary closure. A lot of concern about loss of the old library building that is locally listed and the loss of study space. Youth group interviewing people on video about the libraries issue were very disappointed when Cllr Lesley Jones told them she was 'too tired' to be interviewed after holding her morning surgery at the library.