Campaigners claim library redevelopment will rip the heart out of Willesden Green
Brent Council receives planning application for controversial proposals
The heart of Willesden Green will be ripped out if a building dating back to 1894 is demolished, campaigners say.
This week developer Galliford Try submitted a planning application to Brent Council which includes knocking down the much-loved Victorian library in Willesden High Road.
The council wants to flatten Willesden Green Library Centre, as well as the old building, to construct a new cultural centre.
It plans to hand the land to the developer who will build the centre at no cost to the council, and in return build and sell properties on the site.
The developer confirmed this week that it had no plans to retain the old library in its designs. The council said the decision not to incorporate the old library was not taken lightly.
A statement released by the local authority reads: “The project team has considered whether it could be retained but has concluded that if the public realm is to be significantly enhanced and the new cultural centre is to make a real connection with High Road, the old library building cannot remain.”
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If the council grants permission, the application will have to go to the Secretary of State.
Campaigner Kate Spence said: “Retaining the Victorian library building at the front of the new cultural centre would show that Brent Council respects the neighbourhood.
“Demolishing it would be an act of vandalism. We will also lose the heart and central gathering place of Willesden Green.”
The council says there have been changes to the designs following concerns, which include increasing the public space at the front – redesigning the layout and adding space for a bookshop.
But Mrs Spence said: “This is an overscaled and insensitive intrusion into the High Road Conservation Area, which instead of reflecting the charm of the well-loved area will overshadow and destroy the rhythm and local vernacular.
“This dreadful scheme would never have reached the drawing board let alone the planning department if residents had been consulted properly.”
Nearly 80 per cent of people who took part in a public consultation are against the designs.
Cllr Crane said the decision will be made by the planning committee, which is independent to the Labour Executive despite it being made up of seven Labour councillors, three Liberal Democrats and one Conservative.
The council plans to set up a steering group which will continue to develop the plans. More consultation is promised.
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