Brent Council hands back Kensal Rise and Cricklewood Library to All Souls College in Oxford

Furious campaigners claim the council has tried to block the community taking over the branches

Hopes that campaigners could take over two of the closed library branches in the borough have been thrown into doubt after council chiefs handed back the buildings to their owner.

Crusaders who had fought the controversial plans to close Kensal Rise and Cricklewood libraries had proposed taking over the buildings and running the branches as a community project at no cost to Brent Council.

The buildings were given to the council by Oxford University’s All Souls College in 1854 and campaigners claimed they had no objections to the community taking over the buildings.

However, it was confirmed today (Wednesday), the two sites in Bathurst Gardens, Kensal Rise, and Olive Road, Cricklewood, have been returned to All Souls College.

Furious campaigners claim that they would now have to pay to use the building at commercial rates or lease it out.

Margaret Bailey, part of the Save Kensal Rise Library campaign said the council were ‘determined’ to not let Friends of Kensal Rise group run a library service.

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She said: “Brent Council has consistently tried to block the community’s efforts and its actions can only be seen as vindictiveness and a disregard for the residents of Kensal Green and Kensal Rise.

“It is extraordinary that the council has seen fit to dispense with a community asset when a community group is willing to run the library at no cost to the council, especially when All Souls has indicated its approval of the group’s Business Plan.”

The resource centre was opened by American author Mark Twain 111 years ago but was permanently shut last year alongside Cricklewood, Neasden, Barham Park, Tokyngton and Preston libraries.

The move will save the council �1m.

She added: “Their arrogance and mean spiritedness is remarkable. We will be seeking legal advice.”

However, Cllr James Powney, lead member for environment and neighbourhoods, said the handover was always going to take place since the decision to close the library was announced.

He said: “All Souls’ position to us has always been that once the building ceased to be a library the land would go back to them and under their control. However, due the court cases it has taken longer than usual to resolve it.

“The building is now not council run anymore and any plans that Friends of Kensal Rise or other groups have to use the buildings would need to be verified by All Souls.”