Many of you know that the FKRL Trustees recently decided to support the community (D1) aspect of the library building's re-development. We signed an agreement in good faith with All Souls College and the developer to this effect, trusting this would strengthen our position as future operators of the library and community space.
The proposal provides approximately two thirds (186m2) of the ground floor for community use, with FKRL as the 'preferred' tenants. The London Evening Standard called this: 'a landmark agreement with developers that could save Kensal Rise Library' (25th March 2014).
We feel you should know how we came to make this momentous decision and the factors that we were obliged to take into account.
Throughout almost four years of campaigning and negotiating, initially with Brent Council, and more recently with All Souls College and the developer, FKRL's objectives has been, and will remain, to re-establish a library and community space in the building. We trust and hope that our decision offers the community the best chance of this.
The decision is not without risk. However, there were risks involved in the other options open to us which we ultimately rejected. These included the following:
1. HOLDING OUT FOR MORE SPACE
- The provision of rent-free space is an important factor for the sustainability of a community library. The current proposal is for rent-free community space, as this forms part of the agreement between All Souls College and the developer. Even if further space were to be available for community use, there is no guarantee that it would be rent-free.
- Although the upstairs parts of the library were used for archive and staff purposes until the library closed, the ground floor is the only part of the library that has been accessible to the public in recent years, and planning officers noted and remarked on this when we met them in October 2013.
2. TRUSTING IN ACV
- FKRL worked hard to persuade the Council to protect the entire building as an Asset of Community Value (ACV) in 2012. Just before the Council designated it as an ACV the College and the developer entered into a binding agreement that meant the moratorium period of six months that we might have used to prepare a bid for the building could not apply.
- We may have prepared a bid to buy the building, but there would have been no obligation on the College to accept our bid.
- If change of use from community to part-residential/part-community use was refused and the whole building remained in D1 (community) use as an ACV, the developer could rent it out for other community uses: for example, as a religious place of worship, doctor's surgery, or school. The planning process cannot dictate that the community space must be used as a library.
- There is no guarantee that any of the space will be used for a library or for anything that this community might want or need, nor who will be able to use the space.
- ACV does not determine ownership. The owner remains the same. The community does not own the building.
3. HOPING THE PLANNING APPLICATION IS REJECTED
- If the most recent planning application is rejected, the developer could go to Appeal or submit another planning application. This could continue for years, during which there would probably not be any community access to the building.
4. HOPING THE DEVELOPER SELLS THE BUILDING
- If the developer decided to sell the building, substantial seven figure sums would be needed not only to purchase but also to refurbish. The developer would be under no obligation to sell it to FKRL or to the community.
- There is no guarantee that any new purchaser would be obliged to grant a rent free space space to the community.
FKRL made their decision after very carefully analysing the risk of losing the space proposed in the latest planning application, We have always endeavoured to act fairly, honestly and openly in our negotiations with the other parties and have entered into this agreement in good faith.
Kensal Rise Library's last librarian - before it was closed - said of FKRL's achievement and of the space currently on offer:
I'm sorry you weren't able to get as much space as you wanted, obviously the more the better. I think though that you've still got enough space to have a really good community library. There are certainly nice libraries that are smaller than the area you've got.You have done a fantastic job in my opinion in saving the library. I really hope that as a group you don't let any disappointment about not getting everything you wanted overshadow what you have achieved. The odds were stacked against you and the people running Brent Libraries were determined Kensal should close. I'm sure that you will make a success of running the library. It really will be valued by local people after the fight that has been put up to save it.Karl Hemsley (25 March 2014).
We are encouraged by the support of the Lead Member for Libraries at Brent Council, Cllr Roxanne Tessa Awe, Mashari, and by the present and future backing of Ms Tessa Awe, CEO of Brent CVS (Community, Voluntary Sector). There is tremendous community support for the library and the campaign to save it, and we know local people will embrace a new community library if, as we hope, we are given the opportunity to run it.
(FKRL have not been asked to comment on the whole of the planing application, only on the space proposed for D1 (community) use in the redevelopment. The Council is consulting the local community about the planning application in the usual way and everyone is free to comment on all aspects of the proposal.)
WE TRUST THAT THE ABOVE WILL GIVE ALL OUR SUPPORTERS AND THE PUBLIC AT LARGE, A CLEAR UNDERSTANDING OF THE REASONING BEHIND OUR ADOPTING THIS POSITION AND WE VERY MUCH LOOK FORWARD TO OPERATING A COMMUNITY LIBRARY FROM THE D1 SPACE IN DUE COURSE.
Trustees of Friends of Kensal Rise Library