CARNEGIE LIBRARY – VIEW FROM THE GALLERY
Anyone who turned up to Tuesday night’s planning committee in the wilds of Vauxhall would have found three police officers outside, four more sitting behind a screen in the foyer and between 10 and 12 security guards who allocated seats on a ‘sit here’ basis.
Placards outside included: “Librarians make a library. Don’t muscle them out”, “Exercise books not exercise bikes” and “Crime scene. Four libraries killed”. (Maybe that’s why the police were there).
The occasion was the planning committee meeting to rubberstamp Labour’s unwanted proposals for a gym in the basement of the Carnegie library.
As it turned out, the main confrontation came from Cllr Bernard Gentry (Con) the only opposition councilor on the committee. He interrupted the hugely unpopular Herne Hill ward Cllr Jim Dickson who was speaking in support of the application.
Speaking on behalf of himself and his fellow Herne Hill ward councillors he began: “If agreed by committee it will be a major step to re-opening the Carnegie library (Laughter). “In the face of huge Government….”
Cllr Gentry interjected: “I don’t think it’s appropriate for a councillor to make political statements. “If you wish to discuss the issue of the council’s budget we’ll do that on February 22nd (date of the next council meeting- Ed.).” (Applause from the gallery).
Cllr Clair Wilcox, chairing the committee, said: “It’s inappropriate for anyone to interrupt anyone talking…. “Cllr Dickson can make any point he desires.”
Cllr Dickson started again. (Jeers). Cllr Gentry said if Cllr Dickson still insisted on making provocative remarks….. Cllr Wilcox threatened to adjourn the meeting. Cllr Gentry said he wasn’t going to be bullied. Cllr Wilcox then adjourned the meeting for five minutes.
There were three objectors allowed to speak to the committee for two minutes each. David Taylor on behalf of the Herne Hill Society’s planning committee, Jeff Doorn of the Friends of Carnegie Library, and resident Sarah Bredemear on behalf of residents.
Jeff Doorn said all of the ground floor was labelled as ‘community space’. The garden, enjoyed by people of all ages, would be reduced to a narrow strip. The building had been registered by the Friends as an Asset of Communuty Value to further the wellbeing of the local community, not for people paying £20 a month to use it as a gym.
Sarah Bredemear, on behalf of the residents, recalled how Cllr Dickson, at a public meeting on October 12th 2015* had secured an amendment on behalf of residents to resolve that the council would work with people.
“No such consultation has taken place” she said.
Sarah Bredemear also highlighted how people living in the area would have to park further away because of drivers using the gym, and that the number of accidents on Herne Hill Road near the library would increase.
The gym would be open for 15 hours a day but, again, there had been no consultation. The library had in the past been closed on Sundays and Bank Holidays to safeguard local residents.
“These have been totally disregarded in this application.” (Sarah, an actress, got continued, and the loudest applause of the night.)
The application also had three supporters. Supporters? From the local community? Er – No.
One from Icon Consultants on behalf of Greenwich Leisure, a bloke called (possibly) Simon who no-one could hear, and a woman called Sandra Roebuck who is “assistant director of investment and growth in relation to libraries and healthy living centres”.
And for whom does she work?. Pause. Er – Lambeth council. (Wonder what salary she’s on in what appears to be a newly-created Lambeth post?).
Two groups were notable by their silence and apparent absence on Tuesday night – applicants Greenwich Leisure and the so-called Carnegie Community Trust.
To be fair, Labour councilors on the committee did ask some pertinent questions.
Why wasn’t the Victorian Society consulted? asked one. That only happened with total or partial demolition, said officers.
But Labour councilors have to vote the way they are told. Dissent, in any form, is not tolerated. Dissenters get sent to the Lambeth equivalent of Siberia.
The main problem is what they actually voted in favour of:
“Agreeing to delegate authority of the Director of Planning and Development to finalise the recommended conditions as set out in this report.”
But if Greenwich Leisure don’t like condition 13 – which says D1 use on the ground floor and part of the first floor shall only be used as a library and for no other purposes – does this mean the officers can agree whatever they want with the secretive Greenwich Leisure Ltd?
Does this mean the gym use can encroach into the ground floor of the library like Japanese knotweed?*
Back in October 2016** News From Crystal Palace highlighted design illustrations by Icon for the ground floor of the library. These would have confined the library to what was the children’s library and art gallery.
And News From Crystal Palace understands that at one “consultation” exhibition Greenwich Leisure told at least one visitor they wanted the ENTIRE ground floor of the library for more gym space.
Outside after the meeting Cllr Dickson – who was challenged for smiling after the committee approved the plans, was challenged by one protester. The exchange was on the lines of: “You didn’t come and talk to me” with Cllr Dickson saying he would.
Unfortunately that’s something that doesn’t happen if the ruling Labour group have made their minds up about something.
Yesterday morning Herne Hill ward Cllr Jack Holborn, a former member of what is now the Carnegie Community Trust, who attended the meeting in silence with the third ward Cllr Michelle Agdomar Tweeted: “Good news for reopening of @CarnegieLib-planning permission through with added condition that ground floor is library & community space only”.
And who fought for that? Certainly not you.
Also yesterday morning Cllr Dickson Tweeted the following Twaddle on Twitter: “Good 2 see @CarnegieLib plans agreed; time 4 council & community to work together 2 deliver a great library alongside new activities for all”
What planet of the Klingon empire is he living on?
The only ‘community’ Lambeth Labour have been working with – and in secret – is the Carnegie Community Trust which is regarded as many library users as just a Labour ‘front’.
No-one trusts Lambeth. No-one believes anything Lambeth say. Any comment or decision they make is now being microscopically examined.
Planning committee members may not have gone against whoever’s actually running Lambeth council at the moment. But they did ask some pertinent questions.
Officers appear not to have realised / been told the hymn sheets had been changed. Which is why they suddenly found themselves being asked where the traffic plan was, etc. There are other questions they need to answer which they did not fully answer on Tuesday night.
Lambeth council, in the wake of Tuesday night’s meeting, issued the following: “The conditions were agreed by the committee on Tuesday and the planning permission will be issued subject to those conditions. “Officers can’t change what was agreed by the committee.
“If Greenwich Leisure want to vary any of the conditions after the planning permission has been issued they can make an application under Section 73 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 to the council to do so.
“If they do make such an application it will be dealt with by officers under delegated authority unless called in to PAC (planning applications committee) at the request of a councillor.”
So it will be up to Lambeth’s four opposition councilors – three Conservatives and one Green – to call in any amendment.
Because, as things stand, there’s no way any Labour councillor would be allowed to. Unless there has been an absolutely seismic shift change within the Labour group and someone has finally woken up and smelt the coffee – or they have suddenly realised the next council elections are in May 2018.
*Further reading: “IT’S A LIBRARY, JIM – BUT NOT AS WE KNOW IT” News From Crystal Palace October 16, 2015 Reporter’s log, stardate 121.02.015 Dunraven school, London, Planet Earth.
**Further Reading: CARNEGIE GYM WITH ‘LIBRARY’ PLANS – THE HORRIFYING TRUTH:
‘LIBRARY’ WILL BE CONFINED TO EXISTING CHILDREN’S LIBRARY AND ART GALLERY
TREES TO BE FELLED IN READING GARDEN SO GREENWICH LEISURE CAN BUILD A BOILER ROOM – AND MORE…AS ‘EXHIBITION’ FARCE IS SET TO CAUSE UPROAR News From Crystal Palace October 11, 2016
Readers may like to see comments posted on the Herne Hill Society website via Twitter while the meeting was in progress. These included:
Now it’s about baby changing, cycling and trees. Not libraries (Herne Hill Society)
Shameful. Call yourselves representatives of the people. Not these people. Not your community. (Shelley Silas)
Plenty of security staff. Pity they couldn’t have fun to having an AV technician so we could hear properly (Herne Hill Society)