Writers Maggie Gee and Nick Rankin back plans for community-run library in Kensal Rise

Two novelists who actively campaigned to save Kensal Rise Library have thrown their support behind plans to open a community-run reading room in its former site.

Dr Maggie Gee OBE and Nick Rankin back proposals by developers to give Friends of Kensal Rise Library (FKRL) two-thirds of the building’s ground floor space to use rent free.

Both writers had both spoken out against Brent Council’s decision to close Kensal Rise, Neasden, Tokyngton, Braham, Cricklewood and Preston libraries in 2011 to save £1m a year.

Platinum Revolver Limited, the company which bought the building in Bathurst Gardens from All Soul’s College, and FKRL had previously been locked in a feud over the amount of space to be allocated for a community library.

Last week both parties came to an agreement and FKRL have pledged to back plans to develop the site which have been submitted to Brent Council.A decision is expected to be made next month.

Today, Dr Gee, who has lived in Kensal Rise for more than 25 years, and Mr Rankin released a statement in support of FKRL’s decision.

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They say: “No war ever achieves all its objectives. Ideally we would all like to keep the whole building for community use. But a moral victory is useless if there is no library at the end of it. The Friends of Kensal Rise Library have now taken the very difficult decision to support the planning application.

“After years of saying ‘No’ to an Oxford College, a council and a developer, it is hard to say ‘Yes’. But what were we fighting for? A library. Not an embattled plastic tent, brilliant as it was, but a warm, dry space where books, company and computers are free. A space where parents can bring young children, where older school children can do their homework. The end-game was always a peace, not a war. Nick and I believe it is time to win the peace.

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“It is to some extent an act of faith. But every library is an act of faith that when people work together, good things can happen that are not just about profit or advantage.

“We want Kensal Rise to have a real library back and we think the best chance of it now is to support the planning application.”

Earlier this month ASC were forced to reveal the sales agreement of the building by the Information Commissioners Office following a request by Islington-based campaigner Meg Howarth.

The details revealed FKRL will be obliged to spend money in repair damage and pay for the maintenance and fix damage that may occur to the building’s exterior, as well as its insurance.

Margaret Bailey, chair of FKRL, said: “The proposed terms of the lease are what we expected. We would expect to pay our proportionate share of repair and maintenance works to the building and we will plan for these costs when budgeting.

“If we were taking on the whole building we would be responsible for all of the repairs and maintenance which would be a much greater expense and responsibility.”

Last year a planning application to convert the site into six flats, a cottage and a smaller space for a community library was marred by claims that emails supporting the plans were faked.The proposals were rejected by the council and the police are currently investigating the suspected ‘fraudulent’ emails.

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