OK, I had decided to hold back from comment on this. I am "just" a Brent SOS library campaigner from the other end of the Borough. I have been involved more or less from the beginning but "my" library is Barham - which Brent Council and its Labour councillors treat somewhat differently from Kensal Rise. However, I am not bitter! I rejoice at the return of ANY library to the Brent library circuit and look forward to Kensal Rise re-opening even if it is “only” on the ground floor. I apologise if that offends some people and can take being told to butt out..
But I claim some right to comment from a position of knowledge. In my working life up to retirement last year, I was a commercial property lawyer, experienced in development, sales and landlord and tenant matters in a Central London firm for over 33 years – including “against” the solicitors All Souls use – Farrers. I acted for P&O, Chelsfield, Laing, Sun Life Assurance and many developers and investors small and large.
I was “lucky” enough to be allowed to go to some of Cricklewood ‘s meetings - including at Savills with the Cricklewood team, where I met the (in)famous Mr Seaman and his advisers, and also – in a separate meeting – the legendary Mr Gillick.
The day that All Souls exchanged contracts with Andrew Gillick’s property company in respect of the Kensal Rise Library, the die was cast in terms of what bargain could be made for the library. People may not like it but that is the position at law. Nobody at Kensal Rise – the Friends of Kensal Rise (FKRL) or otherwise – nor at Brent Council had any control whatsoever. The legal position is what it is. All Souls sold to Andrew Gillick’s company. The contract was not subject to planning, and Gillick could buy, with the only protection for the library as set out in the Option Agreement. Thanks to the campaigners’ persistence, that Option Agreement has become public – but only just. FKRL had no knowledge of what protective provisions there might be to preserve their beloved library. They had no power whatsoever to impose anything, or change what All Souls and Gillick had agreed.
However, thanks, in my view, to the fantastic campaigning by FKRL, through its Trustees and the community– it turns out that – All Souls kept back a provision for community space in that Option Agreement – essentially the binding contract for the disposal (as Gillick exercised his option). The Trustees – from the sight I have had as a member of Brent SOS steering group from the beginning have, in my opinion, played an absolute blinder with constant risks and with essentially a blooming awful hand once Brent was daft enough to trigger the reverter. What they have achieved thus far was against impossible odds
The provisions as to space and terms on which it can be obtained for community are set in the contract. It simply was not possible for anyone to improve on that position. All Souls and Gillick entered into their Option Agreement . FKRL was not and could not be at the table for that agreement. Essentially, that was that. All that hard work to get Kensal Rise classified as an Asset of Community Value was defeated. FKRL had no position from which legally to negotiate.
So – sorry for my bluntness – but the Trustees of FKRL couldn’t change that. Anyone who thinks that it was in the legal control of FKRL to get any better position is plainly wrong. The contract between All Souls and Gillick’s company is enforceable in law, and FKRL has no standing in that contract.
If people want to object to the planning application, that is up to them. There may be tactical considerations but it is hardly my place to comment on that – I don’t know all the facts nor am I a Kensal Rise campaigner nor resident in Kensal Rise. But – from the (involved and caring) outsider’s position, forgive me for saying this. The Brent SOS campaign has brought so many magnificent hard working people together, forged alliances across party lines and worked very hard for the public of Brent . Because of that, Kensal Rise MAY well actually get a library. Can people celebrate that? I am sure that they will work together to ensure that will happen.
But may I personally pay a huge tribute to my chief contacts – firstly, the truly magnificent, totally committed, fearsome and fearless - and hard working beyond all measure - Margaret Bailey Apart from all her physical work along with others “manning” the much lamented and iconic pop-up library, I have been in contact with her, as she sat up all night for days getting documents drafted and in , e.g. on the planning) .And - let us not forget – it was Margaret. who took the risk on the court case in her name. As a lawyer, I understand the courage and genuine risk of that - however much she may minimise it, in her inimitable fashion. And, of course, Laura Collignon , who has in addition to all her work in the complex, lengthy and multi-layered campaign for Kensal Rise, marshalled the mixed , feisty and totally committed members of the Brent SOS overall steering group in some of the best run meetings I have ever witnessed .