New community library for Kensal Rise after campaigners shake hands with property developer
PUBLISHED: 12:00 24 March 2014 | UPDATED: 12:07 24 March 2014
A new community-run library is set to open on the site of the axed Kensal Rise branch following an agreement between campaigners and the building's new owners.
Andrew Gillick of Kensal Properties Ltd will give the Friends of Kensal Rise Library (FKRL) two-thirds of the building’s ground floor space to use as a reading room as part of plans to redevelop the sit in Bathurst Gardens.
The site has been vacant since it was closed by Brent Council in 2011 alongside Barham, Tokyngton, Neasden, Cricklewood and Preston branches to save £1million.
FKRL had campaigned to stop the closures and proposed to the council that they take over the building and use it as a community-run library.
However the council handed the building back to its owners All Souls College in Oxford, who subsequently sold the site to Mr Gillick.
Margaret Bailey, Chair of FKRL said: “It has been a long road and we’ve had many setbacks over the last few years. Since Brent Council announced the plan to close local libraries in 2010 we have fought every step of the way: in the high court, in the council chamber and in the streets outside our library. We now hope this agreement will eventually enable us to restore a sorely-missed focus of our neighbourhood.
We have not taken lightly the decision to enter into the agreement. However, we think it is the best chance we have of ensuring that a library continues to function in the building for the community of Kensal Rise and Kensal Green.”
Earlier this month Mr Gillick submitted a second planning application to convert the Victorian property in into five flats and a community space.
Last year a rejected proposal to convert the site into six flats, a cottage and a community hub was marred by claims that emails supporting the plans were faked.
Brent Police are currently investigating the allegations.
If the new plans are given the green light FKRL, a registered charity, expects to operate a community library in the space once the building is redeveloped.
Ms Bailey added: “We are glad that the developer and All Souls College have committed to allowing a larger space to hold a volunteer-run, community library. If we can rebuild some goodwill on both sides we believe we can work together to re-establish the library service and make it better than ever. That is the least this community deserves and the Save Kensal Rise Library campaign will continue until we reach this objective.”
Cllr Roxanne Mashari, Brent Council’s lead member for environment and neighbourhoods, said: “I commend the Trustees of FKRL for the perseverance and courage they have shown along this journey and it has been my pleasure to help and support them wherever I can.
“The FKRL continue to have my full support and I look forward to working with them to establish and maintain a sustainable community library in Kensal Rise”.
The Times has contacted Mr Gillick for a comment.