St James St Library Campaign


CAMPAIGNERS ARE BANKING ON THE BIG SOCIETY
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.

Ends

Contact Alison Griffin, alison_griffin@hotmail.com or

Janet Wright, jwright@freelance-journalist.co.uk

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