July 23 2014 Latest news:
Myron Jobson, Reporter
Wednesday, March 12, 2014
The former owners of Kensal Rise Library have been ordered to make public details of its sale to a property development company or face court action.
The Information Commissioners Office (ICO) has issued the warning to All Souls College, after they refused to release a copy of the sales agreement under the Freedom Of Information Act.
The ICO is an independent public authority set up to uphold information rights.
The Oxford-based college, which is also a registered charity, sold the building to Platinum Revolver Limited (PRL) after it was handed back to them by Brent Council when they closed the library in 2011. The deeds to the building in Bathurst Gardens were officially handed over to Andrew Gillick, PRL director, in late January for an undisclosed fee.
Margaret Bailey, chair of the Friends of Kensal Rise Library, a group established to save the reading room, and campaigner Meg Howarth were behind the FOI request, which was rejected
However an undeterred Ms Howarth took the issue to the ICO, who ruled that the sale is in the legitimate public interest as the building is an ‘Asset of Community Value’ .
The status means the building is subject to additional protection from development under the Localism Act 2011.
ASC has told the Times they will comply with the order, which has a deadline of April 8.
Ms Howarth said: “I am delighted by the outcome and I am not surprised ASC have announced they’ll comply with the notice. It would be embarrassing for them to be found in contempt of court.
“It is important for campaigners to know what the backroom shenanigans of the deal were.”
Ms Bailey, who lives in Kensal Rise, told the Times the ICO were correct in their judgement.
She added: “Not only because the building is an Asset of Community Value and the public have a right to know about the disposal of the assets they value, but also because public bodies and charities, such as the college, should not have financial arrangements that need to be hidden from public scrutiny.
“If the college and the developer have nothing to hide with regard to the sale of the library, this call for transparency should not be a problem for either.”
The news came as PRL submitted a new application this week to convert the building into five flats and a community space.
Under the terms, which have yet to be fully made public, PRL must provide rent-free space for the community.
Last year a planning application to convert the site into six flats, a cottage and a community hub was marred by claims that emails supporting the plans were faked.
The application was rejected by the council and PRL were forced to return to the drawing board.
PRL also own Cricklewood Library which was closed alongside Barham, Preston, Tokyngton and Neasden branches to save £1million.