The proposal to put a ‘bookish gym’ in the Carnegie Library building goes to Lambeth Planning Committee this evening, Tues Feb 7, 7 pm at Bolney Meadows Community Centre.
Green Party Councillor Scott Ainslie has offered to speak in support of the objectors because no Herne Hill Councillor is prepared to do so – they’re all busy toeing the official Labour Cabinet line.
However, according to Democratic Services Cllr Ainslie will not be allowed to speak because he is not a Ward Councillor. This leaves the objectors without Councillor representation, which seems fundamentally undemocratic.
So tonight, Cllr Ainslie will ask the Chair of the Committee for permission to speak.
If that proves to be impossible, we’ve been sent the full text of his speech, which we agree with.
Brixton Buzz remains totally opposed to this crazy proposal being pushed through by Lambeth.
Cllr Scott Ainslie’s comments on Carnegie Library planning application 7/2/17
This proposal is for a facility that nobody needs or wants. Let’s be clear that the people of Lambeth do not want a gym – they want their library back. This is evident from the 316 objections received in comparison with only 5 letters of support.
First of all let’s clarify what is actually at stake. According to the plans, the ground floor would remain in D1 use though a significant amount of it would become a ‘flexible community space’ rather than library space, and it’s not at all clear what that ‘community space’ would be used for.
When plans for the Carnegie Library were exhibited last year, both the Council and GLL stated that ground floor space could be used by GLL for exercise classes. Bodypumping is hardly compatible with a quiet library space where people read and study!
The application conflicts with the Lambeth Local Plan in a number of ways. The Planning Officer’s report (at 6.1.16) quotes Local Plan Annex 2 which says the Council will use the Carnegie Library project to ‘facilitate the redevelopment of historically significant buildings to deliver improved library service provision’.
Yet immediately afterwards, the report admits (at 6.1.19) that the Carnegie will become a ‘neighbourhood library’, which will mean a reduction in library space and a change to self-service facilities instead of a staffed library.
Hardly an improvement – more like devastation of the library service, with the Council putting around £4m into developing gyms instead. And how does this fit with the Local Plan’s statement that in a listed building, there should be no change of use or loss unless fully replaced by ‘facilities… of the same or better size and quality to serve the needs of the area’?
The Local Plan also commits the Council to ensure that in a listed building, development that restricts the ability of the building to continue in viable long-term use will be resisted’.
But the gym enterprise could be a complete financial disaster for the Council, compromising the survival of the building as a community asset. No effective business plan has been put forward by GLL to show that a gym is needed in this area or would be successful.
In addition, activities that actually contributed to the Carnegie’s financial viability – such as hiring out the building for events – will become impossible due to the gym taking over the main ground floor space, plus the devastation of the attractive wildlife garden.
Finally, this proposal conflicts with the Equality Act and the Human Rights Act.
The report claims no such conflict, but how does this square with the report to Cabinet on October 12 2015 which gives a long list of protected people who will be disadvantaged by unstaffed libraries and says: ‘It is not possible to mitigate the impact of the unstaffed neighbourhood libraries on groups of vulnerable people who rely on staff in their local library for support’?
Gyms in Lambeth are used by only 10% of adults, and obviously not at all by children.
The Council seems determined to replace libraries with gyms, but Lambeth Green Party has consistently supported the alternative plan for a staff and community mutual trust which would keep all Lambeth’s libraries open and develop the service in innovative ways to help the most disadvantaged in the borough.
The people of Lambeth have spoken for this alternative, many times and in their thousands – is the Committee going to ignore them yet again?
More info and background:
Defend The 10 website
Take a look around the library in our photo feature.