St James St Library Campaign

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

Buy or rent the library!
November 8, 2010, 2:43 pm
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At a meeting with St James Street Library Campaign last week (20th Oct 2010), Cllr Akram said that if we can find someone who will buy or rent SJS library and allow us to use part of the ground floor, he’ll consider their offer. Otherwise he’ll put it into auction in January.

At last we’ve got a chance to make the library a well-used asset again, as it was up till the closure in 2007. It will be good for everyone if we can do it. The council will be getting income instead of paying to keep it empty. Local people will have a place to drop in and children will have space to do their homework. After three and a half years, people are still asking us when they’re going to have it back in use.

If it’s sold, it will be a bargain to the buyer. So it’s best if that’s an organisation that will at least provide community space in return for the loss of a public building.

It’s a bit frustrating to be given just over two months to accomplish this, after years of trying to persuade the council to let us show what we can do. We have supporters with professional fund-raising skills. Once we have access to the space, we’ll be able to show potential funders what we can do and how popular it is with the community. It’s harder now than if the council had let us start this before the credit crunch, but it’s not impossible.


So now we’re asking everyone to put the word out and try to get a community-friendly tenant or buyer before Christmas!


consultation – get it back quick!
July 10, 2008, 6:45 pm
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well after months of excuses, broken promises and chasing (the latest excuse was heavy rain!) the consultations have finally been delivered to houses in the st james st area. The council refuses to ask the right questions and they refuse to extend the deadline past 18th July despite the fact most people only received their survey today. Rest assured we’ll stay on their case about this!

In the mean time, i thought people might be interested to know how i have filled in my survey. Of course these answers are just my personal experience but thought you might find some of this useful.

q1 – more than a month ago but less than 6 months ago

q2 – no set time

q3 – no set day

Have added ‘libraries should be open mornings, afternoons and weekends’.

q4 – have ticked ‘other’ and added ‘to attempt to use reference books and borrow both fiction and non-fiction books – unsuccessfully, as reference library was closed and the books i wanted weren’t available’ AND ‘to ask librarians for assistance with looking up reference materials’

q5 – Have ticked ‘other’ and added ‘St James St Open Air Library’

q6 – have ticked ‘other’ and added ‘St James St Open Air LIbrary’, have also ticked ‘library outside borough’.

q7 – have ticked ‘other’ and added ‘St James St Open Air Library has a sense of community and a love of books that is becoming all too rare. I cannot use Central as it is too difficult to access, it has a poor range of books since most were dumped, and it is exceptionally understaffed’.

q8 – I have ticked ‘too far away’ and ‘other’ and added ‘because my local library was closed down’

q9 – i have ticked ‘other’ and added ‘re-open st james st’, ‘BETTER range of books’, ‘better trained and experienced staff’, and ‘more staff’.

q10 – i have ticked ‘very likely’

q11 – i have ticked ‘other’ and added ‘possibly, a community centre in the St James library building with a reasonable size library section. No other option is appropriate.’

q12 – I have had my little rant here. This is what I have said (I am sure you can think of your own rant!!!)

St James St Library was a great community library, value for money, staff who were knowledgable and friendly, always full of kids, people of all ages and races, and packed with a good range of books. IT was the only place to go and not spend money in this whole area. Closing it to save £70,000 is a travesty. Wasting millions on buildings whilst destroying 60% of the borough’s library books and cutting experienced staff is an outrage. The silly questions in this questionnaire seem designed to justify these outrages. No I do not want a book drop off point in a doctors surgery – I want my library back! Please ensure you take all my additional comments into account and include them in the analysis of this consultation.

the mystery of the disappearing consultation!
June 30, 2008, 4:32 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Those funny folk at the council are supposedly undertaking a consultation into the future of library provision in the st james st area.  Mysteriously, though, none of the campaigners or people we’ve asked so far, have received a consultation, even though Lorna Lee (head of Library Service) told us she sent them out to every resident within about a half mile radius of the library, about 2 weeks ago.

Have YOU received a survey? Please let us know if you have, or haven’t! (email

Please note – the st james st library campaign does NOT endorse this survey, and it is totally up to you whether you return it.  If you do return it,

The council refused to amend the survey to make it a genuine consultation exercise.  We have seen the final draft and it does not allow people to express their views about the closure of st james st, the impact that had had on their library usage, nor people’s views on the importance of a nearby library, a good range of books to borrow, childrens books and reference books, and the importance of well trained staff (there is a question about ‘customer friendly staff’ but that sounds to me like another way of saying staff that don’t have any library training, which the library managers seem to think is fine).  By asking if you would be ‘more likely to use a library if you could return books to a GP surgery’ etc, please note what they are really asking is if this is a suitable replacement for a library, so be very careful if you answer this question!!  Also when they ask what time you use a library, be aware that the council is keen to try and replace a full time library with a weekend only library.

Our own survey of over 300 local residents, showed these were the most important things to local residents, who also wanted the existing building re-opened as a library by a majority of over 9 to 1.

The council’s survey seems designed to allow them to ‘spin’ people’s views rather than genuinely reflect them. Therefore we’d encourage anyone who HAS received a survey, and who wishes to fill it in, to ignore the council’s tick boxes if they do not seem to reflect what you want to say about libraries, and to write in other answers on the form where appropriate.

Please please do let us know if you have received a survey – seems like there is something a bit fishy going on here!  We are meeting the council again on 9th July so we will be sure to get to the bottom of this as well as to press the case for re-opening of St James St Library.