Campaigners’ joy after Kensal Rise Library development plans are rejected by Brent Council
- Credit: Archant
Controversial plans to convert Kensal Rise Library into flats were rejected by the council yesterday.
Library campaigners are celebrating after a planning committee followed the recommendation of council officers by refusing the plans.
Andrew Gillick had applied for permission to convert the branch in Bathurst Gardens into six flats, a cottage and a community hub.
After the council announced it intended to close the branch, residents formed a campaign group called Friends of Kensal Rise Library (FKRL) which has been fighting to retain the building as a community library.
FKRL held a series of fundraisers and tried unsuccessfully to stop the closures of six branches through the courts.
Brent Council had also closed Cricklewood, Neasden, Tokyngton, Preston and Braham libraries to save £1million in 2011.
Margaret Bailey, chair of FKLR, said: “The Friends of Kensal Rise Library are very pleased that the planning committee have voted to reject the proposals of the developer.”
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Mr Gillick, the director of developers Platinum Revolver Limited, and FKRL have clashed over the future of the building.
It was originally given to Brent Council by Oxford University’s All Soul’s College (ASC) and opened as a library by American author Mark Twain in 1901
The building came with a covenant which stated it must be kept as a library so when it was closed campaigners launched a bid to take it over which was snubbed by the council who handed the site back to ASC.
Mr Gillick, who also plans to develop the site of the axed Cricklewood branch in Olive Road, has maintained he owns the building but campaigners claim he is in an ‘option-to-buy contract’ with ASC which has yet to be finalised.
Land Registry records show ASC as the owners of Kensal Rise Library.
As part of their fight to stop the building from being developed FKRL successfully listed the building as an Asset of Community Value meaning it should be used for community use.
Mr Gillick told the Times he has offered FKRL a £1m rent-free community hub measuring almost 1,900 square feet which they turned down.
FKRL said it is an inadequate space as according to recommendation from the Arts Council the space should be 4,000 sq ft.
Mr Gillick and FKRL have also clashed over claims of fraud from both parties.
Campaigners claim a number of emails supporting the plans were faked while Mr Gillick made a counter-claim.
On Wednesday the council published a report which stated ‘a large proportion of the supporting emails appear to have been fabricated’.
They have launched an investigation into the claims after a number of residents including Kirsty Slattery, owner of Graceland Yards, in Liddell Gardens, claim their details were used to support the plans without their permission.
Ms Bailey told the Times she hopes the police are called in as part of the probe adding: “We now intend to work with the council to assist in whatever way we can to uncover the source of the fraudulent support for the developer.
“There are serious implications for local democracy if processes can be abused in this way, and serious consequences for the perpetrator as fraud by misrepresentation is illegal.”
Cllr Roxanne Mashari, Brent Council’s lead member for environment and neighbourhoods, said: “I hope to work with ASC and the FKRL to find a proposal for the building that meets planning requirements as well as reflecting the needs of the local community and I am keen to restart that dialogue.
“Brent Council continue to remain committed to assisting community groups in any and every way we can to start up and maintain a community library.”
Mr Gillick told the Times he will be appealing against the decision.
He added: “We are committed to this mixed use development and are pleased the concept of residential development on the site is accepted.
“We know nothing about any fraudulent comments and we have reported our concerns to the council.
“We are willing to assist in any investigation into any fraudulent comments of support or objection.”