Thursday, 19 April 2012

The Council response to Willesden Green library issues

Brent Council published the following response to the 18th January  Soapbox by Sophia MacGibbon in the Feedback notes  of the Willesden Consultative Forum last night:

We note your concerns that the proposals include the demolition of the 1890s library building at the front of the site. The decision not to incorporate the Old Library has not been taken lightly. The project team has considered whether it could be retained but has concluded that, if the public realm is to be significantly enhanced and if the new Cultural Centre is to make a real connection with the High Road (unlike the existing Library Centre), then the Old Library building cannot remain.

Whilst it would be fair to say that the majority view from the consultation which has been carried out is that the new building should be retained and incorporated into the new Cultural Centre some residents have agreed with the project team and have told us you can miss the Library on the High Road and that the 'no man's land' is a haven for anti-social behaviour. In urban design terms we believe that the library does not work where it is.

The Old Library does sit within the Willesden Green Conservation Area, However, our Conservation Statement notes the results from the historic building survey: substantial alterations have taken place both to the external elevations and internal spaces to leave it with little architectural value.

Externally, it appears that much of the southern side was constructed in the 1980s when the current Library Centre was developed. At that time, the wings were truncated and the former main entrance to the south filled in. Indeed, there has been so much consolidation that the original fabric in the elevations is to be found in the facade on the High Road side. Internally, much of the original fabric, fixtures and fittings have gone and the space has been dramatically altered, with a large steel staircase leading to offices on the first floor.

The building is certainly valued by the community for its historic and aesthetic contribution to the High Road but the historic integrity has been compromised. With the interior being devoid of fixtures and fittings, and the layout having been altered so much, it does not retain significant architectural value.

The new development for WGCC will be car free. Residents and visitors will be encouraged to use sustainable forms of transport including walking, cycling and public transport. The new cultural centre will be extremely well connected, the site will be serviced by Willesden Green Tube Station and seven (7) bus routes -nos 52,98,206,260,266, 302 and 460.

A vehicular pick up and drop off bay will be provided. There will also be a small amount of designated disabled car parking spaces and baby car parking spaces.

Some residents have expressed concern about the future of the Willesden Bookshop and a desire to see the business incorporated within the fabric of the new Cultural Centre. There are currently no plans to do this: the bookshop does not provide a core Council service. However, the project team has heard what people are saying and will be broadening the scope of what could be in the retail space so as not to exclude a bookshop. It needs to be stressed, however, that this retail space will not be providing a core Council service and would therefore be let at market rent.

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