Plans to temporarily close Willesden library sparks fears for vital services

Under redevelopment plans, the library will close from 2012 until 2014

Brent Council is pushing ahead with controversial plans to redevelop Willesden Green Library – despite fears that it could disrupt vital community services.

Under the plans, approved in principle by the Labour run council, land at the back of the library in Chambers Lane will be sold off, and the site will be redeveloped to include a new library, museum, offices and housing.

But while the council says the plans will allow them to create a new ‘flagship cultural hub’, critics warn that the development will leave the south of the borough with virtually no library services.

Margaret Bailey, co chair of the Save Kensal Rise Library campaign, said: “When Willesden Green was first opened, at great cost, it was supposed to be a ‘flagship’ library, but just 20 years later it is a sad and quite rundown library. The closure of the cinema and cafe suggest that its position may not be so good after all.

“The council’s projections for the library service seem to be based totally on cost cutting solutions rather than providing a good local service that responds to a community’s needs.”

If the project goes ahead, the library will close from 2012 until 2014. Council chiefs have pledged to relocate its services elsewhere in the borough, but have remained tight lipped about where.

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These redevelopment plans come after Brent Council announced its intention to shut half of Brent’s libraries in a bid to chop �1million from their budget.

Rob Dyke, a member of North West Two Residents Association, said: “As a Cricklewood resident facing the loss of my local library, it is concerning that my next nearest library will be shut for an amount of time.

“I strongly question whether or not that strategy will meet the statutory requirements for a comprehensive library service in the borough.”

Councillors say the relatively new Willesden Green library building is not fit for purpose, that the site can be better utilised, and could spark wider regeneration in Willesden.

Cllr George Crane (Lab: Fryent ward), lead member for regeneration, said: “There is a huge amount of wasted space around it and regarding the building itself, the actual fabric needs a lot of money spent on it.

“We are damned if we do and damned if we don’t.”

The council will now look for a private development partner to undertake the project at no cost to the tax payer.