“Application appears to hive off rooms for separate commercial purposes, further shrinking and marginalising the library and community uses” – Carnegie Library Association.
In their letter of objection Carnegie Library Association say they are a charity with over 300 individual members and several community organisations comprising Carnegie Library Users Consultative Group:
We submitted a business plan for asset transfer to develop the building and grounds holistically for library compatible uses. Our plan was informed by public meetings and extensive surveys to determine what local people wanted and would support.
The Association trustees OBJECT to the application as the proposed change of use of two rooms is incompatible with the agreed use of the building as a library and community asset. Some years ago, Carnegie Library was designated a ‘community hub’.
It is Lambeth council policy that all developments in designated hubs must be community led.
In the wake of installing a gym in the library’s basement, it was confirmed that the rest of the building would continue its D1 classification as a public library with flexible community use. To designate two rooms as offices would disconnect them and exclude the community; it could also allow any commercial renting to firms with no library or related activities.
In the period leading up to closure in 2016, two rooms were temporarily re-classified as offices. However, those local people who took desks there were creative writers, artists, illustrators and the like who enjoyed working in a library, engaging with the space as a communal creative studio rather than an office. If the Association took asset transfer we would offer flexible spaces to be creative, not private offices.
The proposal to increase the previous maximum of 28 places to 40 desks would make for a cramped and thus less happy working environment. The applicant admits that demand for ‘enterprise zones’ is no longer greater than available supply. In fact, one such facility has recently opened in Loughborough Junction, the applicant’s main target area. Recruitment from further afield would be needed to fill all the desks. This would put further strain on neighbourhood parking and air pollution. Clearly, a more imaginative approach is needed.
Carnegie Library was designed for interconnection of spaces and functions. Since reopening in 2018, the public library has been reduced by 1/3 of its former size, and previously well-used areas rendered largely inaccessible. This is exacerbated by the applicant proposing to charge community groups, even those who previously met in the library for free.
The present application appears to hive off rooms for separate commercial purposes, further shrinking and marginalising the library and community uses. It also ignores the fact that the building is an Asset of Community Value, a factor which must be taken into account in considering planning applications.
On behalf of our membership and associated user groups we strongly recommend you reject the application.
FRIENDS OF CARNEGIE LIBRARY
The Friends object to the grant of permission for B1 use without conditions restricting the use to hiring out desk spaces and we also object to the grant of a permanent permission. We submit that the permission, like the previous permission, should be limited to a maximum of two years.
The rooms concerned used to be let to London Arts Base who furnished them as 28 desk spaces which they managed very successfully, eventually hiring out 24. The users got on well with each other and formed themselves into a group called the Carnegie Creatives. The Carnegie Creatives were very much involved in the library.
Along with eight other local groups having an interest in the library, they formed the Carnegie Library Users Consultative Group to represent library users’ views to the Council. They were predominantly visual artists and some had exhibitions in an art gallery created by the Friends as part of the library.
Although London Arts Base had access 24 hours of every day of the year, there were never any complaints from neighbours whether in respect of parking or of other matters. Indeed, the neighbours were unaware of the Carnegie Creatives unless they knew of them through connections with the library or the arts.
We would like the previous use to be replicated.
The Carnegie Creatives will not return. In flagrant breach of their legal rights, they and London Arts Base were locked out of the building by Lambeth council on 31st March 2016 without notice.
A restriction to desk space hiring is indispensable.
A restriction to two years is appropriate to give the Trust a further opportunity but allow for the planning use to be reviewed at the end of that period.
Although this is not directly relevant, we feel obliged to make the following corrections to the Planning Statement:
- Lambeth closed the library on 31st March 2016, being the end of its 2015/16 financial year. The closure was ostensibly for financial reasons. The library was then re-opened ten weeks before the 2018 borough council elections in response to an ongoing campaign by library users and UNISON. There was building work to the basement and some other parts of the building but this did not start until 17 months after the closure and it continued after the library re-opened.
- The normal consultation processes were followed in connection with the application for the basement etc. Community groups and a large number of local residents responded.
- The Trust appears to be claiming that it has the prospect of becoming a community group at some unknown future date. We doubt this. Its constitution prohibits it from having voting members other than the trustees.
For the sake of completeness, we also comment on the risk of parking stress. There is so much competition from other desk space hire venues that ones at Carnegie Library are unlikely to appeal to anyone who does not live within easy walking distance.
There are rarely more than two or three people using the gym at a time and these appear to be local residents who walk to and from it. These comments on the application are submitted on behalf of the Friends of Carnegie Library by its elected chair. (Parts of both the Carnegie Library Association and Friends of Carnegie Library statements redacted for legal reasons. Words placed in bold type by News From Crystal Palace – Ed.)