The council's cabinet member for community services Cllr Jonathan Cook has written to residents living in this part of Battersea. Here is the text of that letter.
You may be aware of proposals to build a new Northcote Library and improved new community hall, ensuring local people have upgraded facilities better suited to meeting local needs.
Unfortunately there is some misinformation circulating locally that misrepresents what is being proposed. I am therefore writing to encourage you to look at the project website at www.northcotelibrary.co.uk
or visit the exhibition at the library before March 11 so that you can judge these plans for yourself.
The aim is to build a bigger and better local library with an improved children’s section, alongside a new and improved community centre, able to offer much better accommodation to the groups that currently use it.
The existing library was built in the 1960s and is nearing the end of its natural life. It has many design flaws, offers no ground floor space for computers, is poorly ventilated, has inadequate natural lighting, obsolete toilet and baby changing facilities, no “parking” space for buggies and restricted shelf space.
The proposed new library would offer 697 square metres of usable space compared with the existing 605 sqm. The new children’s section would be 30 sqm larger than at present while the general library area would be about 40 sqm larger than is currently available. It would also have dedicated space for buggies.
The community space at Chatham Hall is contained within a much older building and will soon require extensive refurbishment to prevent it falling into a state of disrepair. The proposed improvements would see the building revamped, with its main hall remaining the same size, with an upgraded kitchen and new toilets.
The council is working with all the groups that currently use Chatham Hall and those who rent the adjacent garages to identify alternative accommodation - should these plans proceed. Our expectation would be for all the groups who use the community hall to return once the building works were finished, if they so wish.
The cost of construction would be met by building homes on the upper levels of the two sites, meaning local residents would not have to fund these improvements through increased council tax bills. The scheme has been drawn up to be cost neutral, generating sufficient money to fund the construction costs. The council would not be making any profit from the scheme.
We calculate that in order to raise these funds, nine flats would need to be built as part of the new library development while another eight, plus retail space for two small shops, would be needed on the existing library site. These new homes would be built to the same size and scale as their neighbours. People purchasing or renting these flats would not be eligible for parking permits, so that there is no added pressure on parking provision in the area.
We have also considered whether or not the existing library could simply be refurbished to bring it up to modern standards, but this would be prohibitively expensive and would still leave a small, cramped building with sub-standard amenities. There is no budget available to pay for such a project.
These proposals are at a very early stage and nothing has been decided. Whether or not this scheme proceeds will depend largely on the results of the public consultation, and I would therefore strongly urge you to contribute to this process. To make sure your voice is heard please visit www.northcotelibrary.co.uk
In summary, at a time when other councils are axing their library network, we want to improve and expand our facilities in a building that’s fit for the 21st century.
Councillor Jonathan Cook
Cabinet Member for Community Services