St James St Library Campaign

Great news for Walthamstow!
February 20, 2011, 7:55 pm
Filed under: latest news, walthamstow

St James Street Library Campaign and local residents association Blackhorse Action Group are delighted to announce that they have together won a major grant from the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA).

This is a huge step towards bringing St James Street Library building, in Coppermill Lane, back into community use.

NESTA’s Neighbourhood Challenge received more than 600 applications for community projects around the country. Ours was one of only 17 winners — thanks to terrific work by everyone involved, especially Alison Griffin who put many hours’ work into meeting every requirement of the application.

We plan to create a community centre in part of the library building, bringing back a welcoming space for old and young that has been deeply missed since the library closed in April 2007. The funding will bring twelve months of funding and expert support to the neighbourhood. We hope to engage the whole community, using local talents and creativity.

The closing of our library remains a real loss to our community.  Residents, library-lovers and campaigners across the borough are starting to respond to further threats to library services.  Having seen how much harm it has caused to our part of Walthamstow, the St James Street Library Campaign and BAG urge the council not to close any more libraries.

But after nearly four years of effort and campaigning — with, in recent months, backing from Cllr Clare Coghill and Stella Creasy MP and a new spirit of cooperation from the council — we have won the chance to create a new community centre.

We’ll have lots of work to do over the next 12 months, and we look forward to welcoming you as volunteers, community members, with whatever skills and enthusiasm you can share!

Soon, St James Street Library campaign wont’ be needed for that specific building anymore, but we hope to set up a network to help share experience with other library campaigns around the borough.  We don’t want to see any more libraries closed.

Fantastic News for the St James Street Library!
December 14, 2010, 9:18 pm
Filed under: latest news

Blackhorse Action Group (BAG) and St James Street Library Campaign have been shortlisted for a grant from the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts!

More than 600 community groups applied for NESTA’s 10 Neighbourhood Challenge grants. Only 40 have made it through to the next round.

The NESTA shortlisting is a terrific achievement, and it shows how strongly we made our case. We’ve not only shown that our community needs the library building. We’ve also proved that we have the ideas, energy and expertise to make a success of it.

It’s the second exciting piece of news this month, in our efforts to bring the former St James Street Library back into community use.

BAG – the residents’ association covering the area – had a meeting in October with Cllr Afzal Akram, who is in charge of Waltham Forest council’s properties and was planning to put the closed library up for auction. We persuaded him to give us a little time to find an alternative. Then we sent out a call for a public-spirited tenant or buyer to take over the building and let us use part of it. Our call was answered by Alert Ltd, the owners of Community Place in Leyton.


Alert Ltd have approached the council to lease the building for at least five years, sub-letting to community groups and charities. So we already have a chance to be back in the building early next year.

As long as the council accepts Alert’s offer, we’ll be able to work on creating a new community space in the St James Street building.

And the NESTA funding, if we get it, will help to bring it back to life as the heart of the community.


St James Street Library, in Coppermill Lane, Walthamstow, was closed in April 2007. It was scheduled to be sold at auction. A huge local campaign sprang up to reopen the library – the only community facility for everyday in use in a deprived area. Although Waltham Forest council has ruled out reopening a library, it has recently started talks with local people who want it reopened as a community space.

Dont’ let the council sell the building! Urgent action needed!
December 9, 2010, 4:15 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

URGENT – please lobby your councillor to rent St James Street Library instead of selling it!  And please forward this to your networks and anyone else who may support us.

The owners of Community Place in Leyton have put in a bid to rent the former St James Street Library for five years, sub-letting to community and charitable groups.

Waltham Forest council has long refused to reopen the public library. But we’ve persuaded them to consider renting the building out instead of selling it to a developer. The Community Place tenancy would keep the building in public hands and give us our best chance of creating a community space there

Please ask your councillor to support the proposal from Community Place, and let your MP know your concern too.

There’s not much time before the council plans to auction the building, so please write them an email or letter (details below) and show them that we still care about St James Street.  We’ve suggested some wording, but feel free to use your own.

Thank you,

St James Street Library Campaign



Dear Councillor

I have heard with interest that the St James Street Library building has received a bid to be rented on a long-term lease to Community Place, who propose to sublet it to charitable and community groups, with office space and space for the arts.  This gives the community in the western end of the High Street a chance to have the community space that it so desperately needs, and provides a much needed boost to the regeneration of the area.

I urge you to support this bid, instead of letting the building go to auction.   A private developer may turn it into flats (causing further overcrowding without infrastructure) or leave it derelict until the property market strengthens, blighting the community.

The Community Place proposal could be a win-win for the Council and the people of the St James Street and Coppermill Area.

Please inform me of how you intend to vote on the proposal.  I look forward to your response.



Look up your local Councillor and contact details here:


Find your MP here:



You can write to all councillors at:

Waltham Forest Town Hall, Forest Road, Walthamstow, London E17 4JF.



If you email them, please copy in the following people:


Cllr. Chris Robbins, Leader of the Council,


Cllr Afzal Akram, Cabinet Member for Corporate Resources (including property)


Cllr Geraldine Reardon, Cabinet Member for Leisure, Arts and Culture,


Martin Esom Chief Executive,


Mimi Konigsberg, Executive Director, Adults and Community Services,


Clive Morton, Head of Cultural Services,


Lorna Lee, Head of Libraries, Museum, Gallery and Archives,


Shifa Mustafa, Acting Director of Environment and Regeneration.


Moira Bishop, Assistant Director Property,



If you do not hear back from the Council or have an unsatisfactory response, please fill in a complaints form, available from any council office or via the Council website,


Spread the word!

Please forward this email to anyone who may support our cause, tell the people you know — spread the word to friends and neighbours.


More information:

St James Street Library in Coppermill Lane building has been empty since it was closed without warning in April 2007.  Local residents have been campaigning since then to have the building returned to community use, though the council wanted to sell it — probably to a property developer.

The council announced earlier this year that it intended to auction the building before April 2011. But the council also started talking to campaigners for the first time. At a meeting with St James Street Library Campaign in October, Cllr

Afzal Akram agreed to consider renting out the building if a potential tenant came forward before Christmas to take it on a five-year lease, which is what the owners of Community Place are proposing to do.

St James Street Library Campaign welcome what has been made public about the proposal so far, while waiting to hear further details.

“This proposal meets the requirements Cllr Akram made at our meeting,” say campaigners. “We wanted the building to reopen as a library and the council wanted to sell it, so this could be the best possible compromise. We look forward to hearing that the council will honour Cllr Akram’s offer.”


Public meeting report, 28th Nov 2010
December 9, 2010, 4:13 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized
Many thanks to everyone who turned out on a cold Sunday evening yesterday, to the St James Street Library Campaign and Blackhorse Action Group public meeting. For those who couldn’t make it, there’s a summary below. Welcome to those who added their names to our email list and are receiving their first SJSLC update.
Special thanks to all who contributed ideas and contact details for anyone who could help our campaign. For example do you have knowledge or expertise in community asset transfer or any of the other possibilities we’re researching for the building?
We would welcome any further ideas or contacts, so please email if you have any — thanks.
The meeting heard from representatives of both groups and from High Street ward councillor Clare Coghill who is supporting our campaign.
The council has ruled out reopening it as a library. But we don’t want it sold to a developer. Our plans have to be flexible, depending on what kind of access we can get to the building. The possibilities range from taking it over as a community space, to using one small part of it.
We said it’s great that Cllr Afzal Akram (the Cabinet member with responsibility for property) is now talking to us about our ideas for saving the building for the community; more details below. We believe we can get funding, or an alternative buyer/tenant. But we’ll need several months to do it. The building has been empty since 2007, so it’s only reasonable to give us a realistic deadline.
Cllr Liaquat Ali, who also represents High Street ward and is Cabinet member for Communities, was at the meeting. We asked him to use his influence, as a long-time councillor and former mayor, to get us more time to develop our plans.
Other councillors and former councillors came forward to pledge their support for our campaign, including Cllr Mahmood Hussain, Bob Wheatley and Johar Khan. The fact that we’ve kept the campaign going for over three years seems to be winning us support among the people who can make things happen.
We broke into smaller groups to discuss the skills and ideas people could offer to help us get into the building — through buying, renting, community asset transfer or as sub-tenants to a community-minded organisation.
We watched Neil’s film of the Love St James Street Library event in July. That day showed us all how much commitment and energy there is in our local community and how much we want this building back. You can also find it on YouTube:

Campaign progress report, Nov 2010
November 29, 2010, 8:11 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Janet Wright of the St James St Library Campaign gave this report on what progress has been made, in the public meeting on 28th Nov.


I’m glad to say St James Street Library Campaign has already made a lot of progress since the summer.

For a start, we’re now working with local politicians, including our new MP Stella Creasy (who sent a message of support this evening) and our new councillor Clare Coghill.

We’ve had a meeting with Cllr Afzal Akram, who was planning to put the library building up for auction. That would have meant a cheap sale, probably to a developer. But as a result of our meeting, Cllr Akram has given us a bit of time to seek a tenant for the building, or a more suitable buyer.  This is already a big step forward after our years of trying to talk to the council, and we hope to continue this dialogue with further negotiations.

After the meeting with Cllr Akram, we sent a message out far and wide, and have had some very positive responses, including at least one potential purchaser who would be good news for the area. We’re not putting all our eggs in one basket, so we’re also looking into several other options.

We’ve been in touch with groups that might be interested in sharing a tenancy of the building, or in being lead tenants with us with us having use of some of the space.

Our ever-growing network reached an urban-regeneration organization in Brussels. We’ve already had one meeting with its director, who gave us some helpful leads for possible funding and resources. He was very supportive and we hope to have further meetings.

We’ve put in an application to NESTA (the UK National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts). It’s an independent organization that promotes innovation in the UK, and we are waiting to find out if we have been shortlisted.

David Cameron is talking about The Big Society Bank. The money is apparently meant to fund community projects. We’re inviting him to put his money – our money — where his mouth is and send some of it our way. We reckon we’re out ahead because we’re already set up and ready to go.

Stella Creasy has organized us a meeting in December with Bert Provan, deputy director of the government’s Department of Communities and Local Government, to find out about the potential for government funding or support with our search for other sources of money.

We’re also doing research into community funding models such as bond issues, which might enable us to buy the library building ourselves.

And we put in a bid to the council for a survey to map community needs. This application was successful, and we’re now pushing the council to get the mapping carried out. Having these official statistics will support us in our further applications to other organisations.

So as you can see, we’ve not only done a lot of work on keeping the building from being sold to developers. We’ve also made progress on funding it for the uses we all want to see in our reopened library building.

And now we need help from you on the next steps towards making that happen.

Thank you,

Janet Wright

Public Meeting – tell your friends!
November 20, 2010, 9:49 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Public Meeting

The future of St James St Library building?

What do you think should happen to it?

•Come and share your views with St James Street Library Campaign, Blackhorse Action Group, MP Stella Creasy and  Cllr Clare Coghill, Senior Citizens Asian Group.

Sunday 28th November 2010


Blackhorse Road Baptist Church Hall

(Corner of Southcote Road & Blackhorse Road, entrance on Southcote Road)

•Waltham Forest Council want to sell it to the highest bidder and it may never be a community space again.  What do you think?

•St James Street Library are campaigning to keep the building open as a community centre, and are looking to raise funds to buy the building.
•Your views are important, and will show the Council that the local residents really care about what happens in their area.

It’s the last chance to save the building

The people of St James & Coppermill community speak
November 8, 2010, 2:53 pm
Filed under: campaigning

The people of St James & Coppermill community speak:

“What we think should become of the St James Library building”

Compiled Sat 3rd July 2010 by St James Street Library Campaign


“OAP groups, teenage group space, toddler groups, single parent associations, special needs groups, Citizens Advice, party rooms”  Karen Reed, Haroldstone Road E17

“I want to use it as a community centre, because there is nothing around here.  And we need something for the whole community to benefit.  Especially young people”   JK Mensah, Coppermill Lane

“It  could be a place to share ideas and knowledge about different religions and cultures”  Shamin Aktar, Glenthorne Road

“We would like this area used for the community.  An area where children can come, especially for classes or groups such as toddler groups, reading area or for classes such as yoga.  Definetly for all the community”   The Walsh family

“Community centre- things for everybody- exercise classes, childrens parties, events for the elderly” Hargreaves family

“Important to keep it as a community building, for yoga studio, food co-op, art workshops or community support”    Anna Bushan, Riverside Close

“Reading room, toddler group, computer training, meeting place for the community”    Mohebat Ali, Hazelwood Road

“Would like to see the library re-opened and used as a library and other community engagements such as local surgeries”   Justine and Matthew Wilkinson  Haroldstone Road  E17

“Toddler groups, young people community group, rooms for rent for meetings or parties”  Chad Leonce, Rensburg Road

“A library”  Christine Roberts, Hervey Park Road

“A library or community centre”  Steve and Sharon, Edward Road

“St James Street needs all the help it can get.  Closing the library was the nail in the coffin.  No community facilities will not help the community”  L. Haukim*


“Would love to see library re-opened, my exams are coming up and I would love a space to revise in” Vernisha Campbell

“A community centre, maybe a youth group for children 11+, a homework or quiet study zone.  Hold exercise classes or yoga for all ages.  A venue to host a club for the elderly”    Rachel and Kier Lawson, Salop Road

“Playgroups, arts& crafts, youth clubs, space for parties, teaching rooms to help kids with maths and English” Dee Mistry, Morland Road E17

“Community centre not a drug centre, a space for the local children and young teenagers” April Beeson, Rensburg Road

“Library and somewhere for various clubs for young children”  Louise Mitchell,  Cazenove Road

“Reading for teenagers.  Could be based on computers as part of the scheme so they don’t feel threatened or self conscious.  Teenage material of course.  Maybe with some music in the background”

“Homework club that kids need somewhere on the weekend.  Some younger secondary school students and older primary not allowed to go to central library on their own as they are worried about gangs”

“It’s a real strain going to central library.  Its too far for the kids to go by themselves to Central.  It would give them independence if they could go to the end of Coppermill Lane. Also a space for older people”  Coral Jepson, Chester Road



“A space for the Community Council to meet, could hold it more regularly or during daytime for elderly people, like they do in Priory Court”   B. Marsh, Pretoria Road

“OAP centre, reading room, council meeting centre, toddler group, arts and crafts”    Mussarat Butt, Coppermill Lane

“A friendly home from home for people who are old or disabled and don’t have chance to go out much”*

“My father is 85 and he used the old library a lot as he lives in Hazelwood Road.  This gave him the opportunity and reason to come out of the house”  Zahoor Ahmed, Markhouse Road*


“Would love library back or rooms opened for community space- yoga, reading room, arts and crafts, toddler groups, play sessions in school holidays, computer and internet basic training and teaching” Amanda Simonson and daughter Azrael

“Use it for craft classes and have sewing machines.  I could show people how to use the sewing machines”   Florrie Cleary, Leucha Road

“Sewing and Cake making classes”

“Music venue- one off gigs, folk club, lessons, jam sessions” Chloe, Lloyd Road

“It should be a library, or have fitness centre, mini-cinema or language centre”  Jasmin Begum

“The library helped me a lot when I just arrived to the country, when I didn’t know the neighbourhood at all. I got all what I needed from it, information, culture, leisure”  Lamia Berrant Hazelwood Road*

Other ideas for community uses we collected by email submissions in July 2010:

  • Local artist exhibition space
  • Community language schools
  • Space for job finders
  • Welcome new arrivals to the community
  • Councillor surgeries
  • Adult education classes
  • Homework club
  • Computer and internet centre
  • Gardening clubs
  • Photography clubs
  • Bike maintenace and repairs
  • Food co-op distribution centre
  • Community toilets
  • Baby change
  • Arts and crafts


*Quotes compiled in 2007

Love St James Street Library event
November 8, 2010, 2:52 pm
Filed under: press releases

4 July 2010

Walthamstow residents turned out on Saturday [3 July] to celebrate a much-loved building and call on the council to bring it back into community use.

“It was a beautiful sunny day,” said Mo Gallaccio, who organised the ‘Love St James Street Library’ event. “We promised to provide a fun day for all the family and we did!”


St James Street Library, closed since 2007, was decorated with flowers and artworks, including a mobile of toy animals reading books under a colourful umbrella. Supporters brought homemade cakes to share and musicians entertained the crowd. Among the decorations were banners including residents’ many ideas for community use of the building.


The ‘open-air library’ – a book-swap stall run by a group of library-lovers with donated books – attracted readers of all ages, just as the real library used to. Children who hadn’t brought a swap ‘paid’ for their books with drawings which were then displayed.

New MP Stella Creasey joined in the ‘Love St James Street Library’ event, as did councillors Clare Coghill and Liaquat Ali.

“To have two ward Councillors and an MP join us was encouraging,” said Ms Gallaccio. “We were able to make the point that there is very strong local feeling about the need for a space which serves all the community.”

Sale would be another scandal
November 8, 2010, 2:51 pm
Filed under: press releases

5 October 2010

Council plans to sell St James Street Library would create yet another Waltham Forest scandal, warn campaigners.

“With the town-centre arcade site vacant for over a decade, the EMD cinema neglected since 2003 and Walthamstow stadium still empty, surely Waltham Forest doesn’t need the anger caused by another boarded-up public building?” says Janet Wright, a member of St James Street Library Campaign.

The council admitted on Monday [4 October] that it intends to sell the library, despite Cllr Afzal Akram’s recent promise to consult local residents before putting the building on the sales list. It was closed without warning in April 2007, to save £70,000 a year towards a pay rise of £230,000 for councillors.

“The buyer would be the only person to benefit from this fire-sale of public property,” says Janet Wright. “The council has been wasting £20,000 a year on guarding the empty building, while the exterior becomes derelict. We have been asking the council to do its duty, find a tenant for the building to cover running costs in the short term, and allow part of it to be used by the community.”

The densely populated Coppermill Lane area has few facilities, so plans for yet more flats with no added infrastructure would be strongly opposed by residents.

Instead, residents have been asking the council to co-operate in putting the library back into community use. Experienced local fundraisers have offered to help reduce the council’s costs still further. Detailed proposals to form a community trust (which could bring in external funds to cover community projects in the building) have been put forward to Cllr Akram and to ward councillors, who say they would be enthusiastic.

November 8, 2010, 2:46 pm
Filed under: latest news

St James Street Library Campaign press release 7 Nov 2010

Walthamstow campaigners are racing against the clock to save their former library. And they’re calling on David Cameron’s planned Big Society Bank to back them.

Waltham Forest council wants to auction the St James Street Library building, valued at £350,000. But it has given protesters till the end of the year to offer an alternative. If they find a tenant who will let them share the building, the council will consider renting it out.

New Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy is taking campaigners to meet communities minister Greg Clark, who will be overseeing the Big Society Bank. With a cooperative lead tenant using the office space, campaigners hope to create an arts and community centre. And, they say, they have realistic plans.


“There are so many things local people want to do with the space,” says Janet Wright, of St James Street Library Campaign. “No one would consider funding us till we had use of the building, but the council wouldn’t even speak to us until last month. Being offered the chance of renting it is a breakthrough – if we can do it in the time.”

Local estate agents say the 395-square-metre building is worth about £30,000 a year in rent.

“There’s a huge unmet need in this area,” say campaigners. “The building is at the heart of a densely populated area with few public amenities. The library offered books and a social space and so much more. We can recreate part of that, and add some of the new ideas local people have come up with.”


St James Street Library was closed without consultation in 2007, sparking a campaign that has fought off earlier efforts to dispose of the building. The library was used by many old people during the day and by parents with children on the way home from primary schools. Students living in overcrowded housing did their homework there.

The council has ruled out reopening the library, which cost £70,000 a year. But local people have drawn up plans for an arts and community centre including a reading room, meeting rooms, workshops and a gallery — the borough has a large number of artists and the last council-owned artists’ workshops are currently being demolished.

“The economics of selling it to developers don’t make sense,” says Janet Wright. “We would lose an irreplaceable asset and whoever bought it would get a bargain, subsidised by the public. We don’t need more flats. We need facilities for the people living here. Leaving it empty costs at least £20,000 a year in security. If we had use of the building, we could provide many of the services that have been missing since the library closed.”

The campaigners are looking at various financing options and welcome all offers of practical and financial support from the community.


Contact Alison Griffin, or

Janet Wright,