Friends of
North Kensington
Library

A campaign group concerned with
keeping the historic and much loved
Library building on Ladbroke Grove
open to the public.




History

History

The Grade II-listed North Kensington Library was the first publicly funded library in Kensington and opened to the public in 1891. The library provided a vital space where poor, working class people could get an education and progress in life. It was the first purpose-built Library in the borough and the only one of the early buildings still in use as such.

North-Kensington-Library-campaign
North Kensington Library campaign speakers

Campaign

North Kensington Library campaign group was set up in objection to the council's decision to lease the historic Library building on Ladbroke Grove to a private school. Our main concern is to keep the Library Building in public use.

We have questions about the decision to lease the building in the first instance; the process by which the lease was offered to the school; and the council's reading of the law in relation to community value.

We see the Library in the context of a broader council agenda to divest themselves of public assets in the interests of private investors. We see their preference to consolidate services on larger single sites as motivated by a lack of fundamental commitment to the public sector rather than an interest in accessible and high quality services to the community.

north kensington library petitioning
North-Kensington-Library-petitioning-0

Petitions

  • Notting Hill Prep
  • Council

Notting Hill Prep School is planning to lease the much loved library on Ladbroke Grove. The Library is 125 years old and the first public library built in the area, built to advance educational opportunities for the whole community.

In our recent petitions, we have collected over 3000 signatures supporting our campaign to leave the Library building in public use, in order that it can continue to further the enjoyment and education of the whole community for years and decades to come.

We the undersigned now appeal to Co-Chairs of Governors of Notting Hill Prep, Mr John Morton Morris and Mr John Mackay, not to sign the lease offered by the Council, who have offered the building without consulting library users and the wider community, and to find other ways in which to accommodate their expansion.

Sign the petition here.

We the undersigned call on the Council to keep North Kensington Library building on Ladbroke Grove in public use.

Additional demands

We call on the leader of the Council to:

  • Attend a public meeting to hear our concerns about the aforementioned lease; to answer questions over plans and dealings with ALL public and community space in North Kensington; and to address concerns about the lack of consultation and transparency in the decision making process.
  • Hold a public consultation on how the building should be used if it is not to continue as a library – giving us the chance to put forward our own proposals for the building making use of the long history of creativity in the area.

We demand that:

  • The council's cash reserves are used to keep a historically important building in public use.
  • The council's planning committee considers 'community access' as a factor in ascertaining 'best value' in their application of section 123 of the 1972 Local Government Act which requires that 'a council shall not dispose of land under this section …. for a consideration less than the best value that can reasonably be obtained'.

Background:

The council has justified its decision on grounds of disability access and structural defects. We reject both these grounds:

* The building has disabled access and lifts and we believe public funds should be used NOT to build a new library, but to update the current library AND repair any structural defects.

* The Council has yet to present any evidence that the building cannot be upgraded and used as an up-to-date library facility and community hub; it is unlikely that the Prep School would be prepared to take on the lease of a building that they were not able to upgrade.

The Library is reportedly used by over 15,000 (1) visitors a month;

The building – the first public library to be built in Kensington – is a shining symbol of community life. Its key location provides a vital sense of belonging and social cohesion to people in the area.

There was NO consultation with the public about the decision (2) to transfer the library services and close the building to the public.

We think the building an asset of community value, which since the Localism Act 2011, is a status that can be recognised in law.

1. “well-used facility with over 15,000 visitors a month” Cllr Emma Will, the Royal Borough’s cabinet member for libraries

2.“Residents were not consulted specifically about the provision of a new library” Martin Mortimer Senior Development Surveyor

north kensington library march
north kensington library march
North Kensington Library march
north kensington library march asset-stripping
North Kensington Library march

March

We came, we saw, we had a look around...

As we made our way up to the town hall, we were greeted by motorists and pedestrians with smiles, people wanting to know what it was all about, interested in and supportive of the campaign to retain North Kensington Library as a public building.

North Kensington Library birthday cake stall
North Kensington Library birthday projection

Birthday Party

North Kensington Library celebrated its 125th birthday on Saturday 29th October. We gave away a free commemorative zine to the first 125 people who visited their library on the special day. Celebrations continued across the road at the KPH which included book readings, cake, and poetry.

“Locals gathered to celebrate the 125th birthday of the grand old building.

Ladbroke Grove residents who have protested against the council’s decision to close the library and rent the building to the Notting Hill Prep School were fancy-dressed in Victorian outfits for the occasion.

“The building was decorated with banners painted by local children, bunting borrowed from market traders and balloons donated by the Party Shop on Kensington High Street,”A said party organiser Sophie Lodge.

There was a memory book for people to record their memories of the library and everyone enjoyed a sumptuous birthday tea laid out upstairs at the KPH, followed by a series of talks and thoughts about the beautiful Grade 2 listed building, with a slideshow showing photos of the area through the years.

The final birthday present to the building was to see it lit up by a wonderful lightshow and series of projections arranged by local residents. The council had kindly agreed to turn off the large streetlight outside the building on the evening, in order that the projections could be properly seen.

This was a completely uplifting event brought together by the local community to celebrate a beautiful building that has belonged to everybody for 125 years. Whatever the future of the building, it is so heart-warming to know there are so many people who care.

Huge thanks go to the KPH for allowing us to use their space - and Nuline, whose generous donation showed everybody that the heart continues to beat strongly in this community.”

London Weekly News

Council speech

Council speech

Councillors, I am here to present my petition Save North Kensington Library for Public Use. We have had many discussions as a group about what I would say when I came here today. The first version that I wrote of this speech was full of our willingness to work together with you on all the issues at stake in this particular move. We appealed to your consciences, we appealed to your sense of vision, we appealed to your Conservative values. But everybody here knows that no matter how carefully our arguments are parsed, you have already taken a decision on this matter. That decision has been taken by a few people in the majority party, and the whip has informed the rest of you how you will vote. Whatever I say to you now, this is a foregone conclusion that doesn’t represent the interests of the people of the community and in fact is about a few Councillors doing a few favours for people they know. The case of the library is the latest in what Cllr Nick Paget-Brown has smugly described as a hard-nosed approach to property management, but to everyone else looks like the loss of yet another community venue. This is blatantly an attack on working class people: this building was built by public donation for advancement of working class education. Handing it over to a prep school with fees of over £6000 a term is an absolute insult to the people of the area. It is hard to imagine a more offensive way to manage this building. Also hugely insulting in this case is the council’s derisory ‘consultation’ process. Choosing where the toilets go in the new building is not genuine public engagement and you know it. The architect’s proposals for the new building are an absolute embarrassment. They describe taking the account of the surrounding area by leaving a similar gap between buildings and building to a similar height. That’s it. The increased floor space they claim for the new building depends on ignoring the unutilised floor space of the current library. They report hoping that they can fit in as many books as the old library, but this is not guaranteed. The most used room of the current building, the computer room, will not be recreated in the new building. With serious and unanswered questions about how all the library users, including children, will share their space, and about integrated access for the youth club, but only a single lift to transport large groups of wheelchair users to the club, RBKC is setting up user groups for conflict. All no doubt convenient when you decide you want to close youth services all together. In the original speech I wrote we spent some time addressing your bad faith arguments about disabled access, an issue which is so unimportant to you, that you have contacted precisely no disabled peoples’ groups to discuss arrangements, at the old library or the new. I also responded to your sleight of hand about the old building’s listed status where you both argued that it made the library un-upgradeable and funded that same upgrade for the new tenant with concessionary rent rates. I politely questioned whether an £11-million-pound new building was really a fiscally sound response to such issues. But let’s be honest about what is really going on here. The decision to consolidate the library and the youth club onto one site is not because of a visionary new strategy in which we finally persuade disaffected youngsters to go into the library. Council officers pretending this is about anything but facilitating private interests insult everyone’s intelligence. This is about freeing up the old library for the neighbouring prep school, and building a new building whose top two floors will also be leased, to whom planners euphemistically describe as third party users. These third party users will be primary school children from schools who can afford to lease the space. To pretend that this means anyone but private schools is disingenuity that borders on fraud. Surprise, surprise, Cllr Fielding-Mellon’s children are on the list for the schools involved, a conflict of interest he wasn’t minded to announce when he proposed this strategy. The whole project is about the expansion of private schools into what are currently public spaces. These schools – Notting Hill Prep and Chepstow House – already treat people who can not afford their fees with contempt. Notting Hill Prep refuse to answer community requests to discuss their expansion plans, and Chepstow House will not even answer emails from the Youth Centre about the Centre possibly hiring their football pitch. So we are not expecting much from the supposed multi party use of the new sports facilities, the management of which planners are already dodging questions on. Go ahead and help these well-funded and elitist institutions if you must, but do it without giving them our library building. It’s not yours to give, it belongs to the community and you should have consulted us. We have plenty of ideas about how you might manage the building – this is the community whose creative interventions are responsible for example for Westway Trust, Westway Community Transport, the opening of Powis Square Gardens and so on. We have a history of transforming unimaginative and neglected private space into opportunities for the whole community. And since you are happy enough to slap compulsory purchase orders on council and social tenants – why not slap a few on those empty houses owned by off shore banks, and hand them over to the prep school? Councillors. You are happy to trade on the artsy, bohemian and creative reputation of this area. But while you happily congratulate yourselves on your house prices, you should stop to think about how much of that value is to do with the rich history of community partnership that you are turning your back on here. What a disappointment you are and what an embarrassment to democracy this whole process has been.

Written by Eve Wedderburn and read by Jacob Rety to a full council meeting on October 19th 2016 on behalf of Save North Kensington Library Building for Public use campaign group.

Film

A short film about the North Kensington Library campaign to keep the historic and much loved building open for public use, filmed in February 2017. Thanks to all those who contributed to the making of this film.

Open Letter

Open Letter

Dear Governors,
We write to restate our request that you do not sign the lease for 108 Ladbroke Grove, the first purpose-built public library in the area, proudly serving the community for 125 years. We write to you in this forum, because you have recently made clear that you have nothing to say to us, and that you believe that our whole campaign should be directed solely at the Council.

Friends of North Kensington Library have been campaigning for some time to keep the historically important library building on Ladbroke Grove in public use. In the past year, we have held public marches, petitioned the Council, spoken to a full Council meeting, contacted Councillors, engaged with the planning and consultation process, and scrutinised the decision-making process, all in order to open the public dialogue about the future of the building that the Council has offered to you. We think it important to point this process out, as in communication with your Head, Jane Cameron and John Mackay, (registered director of the company, and Co-Chair of your Board of Governors), you have suggested that we take up our cause with the Council – as indeed we have. We write to you once more, to give you the opportunity publicly to weigh in on the only issue over which you have agency: signing the lease for North Kensington Library.

Our members are currently collecting signatories to a petition directly calling for you to refuse to sign the lease that you have been offered on this building. In our communications with you, we have invited you to engage in dialogue with the wider community about alternative options for the expansion of your business; we have recalled your own publicly stated commitments to be a School engaged with the local community; we have made suggestions as to how to move forward with your plans; and even offered our support in proposing that you lease the whole of the new £11m building proposed on Lancaster Road. Our petition requesting that you refuse the lease offered is in no way a demand that your business cease to expand. We merely ask that you seek to expand in ways that do not further reduce the wider community’s access to the much-loved building on Ladbroke Grove in particular, and in ways that do not support the loss of public space and community assets in general. We do not ask you to intervene on the Council’s process or argument: we simply ask you to do what you can do, which is to refuse the lease you have been offered.

It is tiresome here to have to refute the arguments offered by the Council about your business’ take up of the lease of North Kensington Library, because clearly these are arguments that we have made, and continue to press, to the Council itself. However, as you continually refer us back to the Council in our communication with you, it is worth précising our case to them for your own records; and to clarify to you that in fact, we do not ask you to comment, respond to, or defend the Council’s own disingenuous and outright misleading narrative about the ‘necessity’ removing the building on Ladbroke Grove from public use. In fact, we ask only that you do not sign the lease – which is clearly something you do have agency over, despite your repeated assertions to us that the entire decision is in the lap of the Council.

  1. In the first place, the decision to take North Kensington Library building out of the public realm should be a decision for the wider community, who were not consulted about any aspect of this proposal until after you had been approached and offered the lease on the building. We do not ask for you to defend this.
  2. Secondly, you were offered the building in a closed process, effectively disabling the community’s ability to offer alternative plans for the use of the building. We do not ask for you to defend this.
  3. Thirdly, the head of the Council committee who took the decision, Rock Feilding-Mellen, has his own children’s names down for places on your school, a clear conflict of interest that he only begrudgingly declared after pressure from our campaign. We do not ask you to defend this.
  4. Fourth, you have been offered a lease which requires the tax-payer to foot the build of the Grade 2 listed exterior, meaning that the tax payer is not relieved of the cited expense of the upkeep of the building under the proposals. We do not ask for you to defend this.
  5. Fifth, you have been offered a discount on the lease over the first five years to offset the cost of internal upgrade and repair work. This means that the tax payer is effectively funding the upgrade and repair work that the Council have claimed was unaffordable for the tax payer. We do not ask for you to defend this.
  6. Sixth, the building could not be turned into flats or coffee shops if it were not offered to you, as it has D1 status, it would need to remain an educational institution. We do not ask for you to defend this. Seventh, the revenue stream that leasing the current building to you (at £365k a year) for the proposed 25 years will not offset the cost of moving the current library (£11m). We do not ask for you to defend this.
  7. Eighth, the new library will not be ‘bigger’ unless you discount the unused space in the current library (unused because it requires the repairs that the tax payer will be paying for you to have). We do not ask for you to defend this.
  8. Ninth, the new library will not be ‘better’ as it will not have a designated children’s library, as the current library does, it will not have separated computer rooms for study, and is not even guaranteed to house the whole collection of the current library. We do not ask for you to defend this
  9. Tenth, the current building is fully wheelchair accessible, according to the only research ever conducted on this issue by the Council. The Council are therefore being disingenuous in citing lack of accessibility as a reason to move the library. We do not ask for you to defend this.
  10. Eleventh, ours is the richest council in the country, with close to half a billion pounds in reserve, who nevertheless intend to use recent changes in the law to raise the extra cash for front line services, particularly social care, that they say they need. It is therefore disingenuous to suggest that the money from this lease is intended or required, for front line services. We do not ask for you to defend this.
  11. Twelfth, the Council’s spending plans have reduced spending on adult social care, year on year, and so the claim that extra is required for adult social care, is not borne out by the Council’s own figures, and means that the lease on the current library building is unrelated to the costs of adult social care, as has been claimed. We do not ask for you to defend this.
  12. Finally, the new building is not a new library but a new multi-use space, some of which will house consolidated library services, but the majority of which is earmarked for the use of private schools.

We think you are probably aware of this last point, given that your own private school business has been offered a chair on the steering committee of the new building, alongside your old frenemy, Chepstow House School. We do not ask for you to defend this, although, we cannot help but wonder why you would not offer to lease a bigger portion of the new building, producing the revenue stream the Council (disingenuously claim) that they require?

To be clear: Friends of North Kensington Library appeal to the Governors of Notting Hill Preparatory Ltd to refuse the lease of the current building on Ladbroke Grove, and seek to expand their business premises elsewhere. We have collected hundreds of signatures of people who support this appeal, including parents of children at the school. Friends of North Kensington Library understand and are aware of the arguments made by the Council about their actions in this process, and do not hold Notting Hill Preparatory Ltd responsible for the disingenuity, inaccuracy and corruption of the process which has led to RBKC offering the lease at 108 Ladbroke Grove to Notting Hill Preparatory Ltd. We do not ask you to engage in those arguments or defend them. We simply ask, with the voice of hundreds of your neighbours, friends, and parents of your school, that you do not sign this dishonourable lease.

ACV Dispute

ACV Dispute

The Council's Corporate Services have already stated, the designation of Asset of Community Value (ACV) can be understood as a breach to the pre-lease agreement that the Council refer to. This pre-lease agreement is precisely what is brought into dispute by the designation of ACV.

Councillors should also note that 'disposal' of the building is the issue at hand, and not 'coming to market'. The Council do intend to dispose of the building as defined by Section 88 of the 2011 Localism Act, which defines disposal as an intention to sell or lease the building for a period of 25 years plus. Because they intend to do so, they are obliged to notify the community with provisions for community expression of interest, and a further moratorium period on this decision. That the Council are not putting the library on the market is a qualification that is not supported by the legislation. This disposal is subject to Section 88 because it is not an exception designated under Section 95 (5).

In addition, the new building has not got planning permission. The pre-lease agreement has been made at a point when the Council is not in a position to guarantee that library services can and will be moved. It is therefore an agreement that is subject to planning restrictions. We argue that ACV status constitutes a planning restriction in this case.

Get involved

Get involved

We welcome people who want to help keep North Kensington Library Building open for public use. Below are some suggestions on how you can help.

  1. Collect signatures Petition PDF
  2. Write to your local councillor (list below).
  3. Write to Victoria Borwick MP.
  4. Make your feelings known at an Ask Nick meeting.
  5. Write about your experience and feelings about the library on our Facebook page.
  6. Sign our petition and share it on your social media/ through your networks.
  7. Write to the Mayor.
  8. Come to our upcoming events.
  9. Write to the private school personally (headteacher) and (chair of governors).

Points you may wish to include in your letter/s

  • Council offering lease without public consultation.
  • The council's own mystery shopper exercise report shows North Kensington Library does better than Chelsea Library on all fronts.
  • The increased floor space the council claim for the new building depends on ignoring the unutilised floor space of the current library.
  • The Council have contacted precisely no disabled peoples’ groups to discuss arrangements, at the old library or the new.
  • The top two floors of the new building will be leased to third party users, this will undoubtedly be primary school children from schools who can afford to lease the space.
  • Cllr Fielding-Mellon’s children are on the list for the schools involved, a conflict of interest he wasn’t minded to announce when he proposed this strategy.
  • Is an £11-million-pound new building really a fiscally sound managment of Library services?
  • Council report hoping that they can fit in as many books as the old library, but this is not guaranteed.
  • Integrated access for the youth club, but only a single lift to transport large groups of wheelchair users to the club.

Select a councilor by ward

Wards

  • Dalgarno
  • St Helen's
  • Golborne
  • Notting Dale
  • Colville
  • Norland
  • Pembridge
  • Holland
  • Campden
  • Abingdon
  • Queen's Gate
  • Earl's Court
  • Redcliffe
  • Courtfield
  • Brompton and Hans Town
  • Stanley
  • Chelsea Riverside
  • Royal Hospital

Councilors

Cllr Pat Healy
Cllr Robert Thompson
Cllr Eve Allison
Cllr Mohammed Bakhtiar
Cllr Emma Dent Coad
Cllr Pat Mason
Cllr Bevan Powell
Cllr Robert Atkinson
Cllr Judith Blakeman
Cllr Beinazir Lasharie
Cllr Monica Press
Cllr Andrew Lomas
Cllr Harrison Littler
Cllr David Lindsay
Cllr Julie Mills
Cllr Barbara Campbell
Cllr David Campion
Cllr Deborah Collinson
Cllr Rock Feilding-Mellen
Cllr Warwick Lightfoot
Cllr Tim Ahern
Cllr Catherine Faulks
Cllr Robert Freeman
Cllr James Husband
Cllr Anne Cyron
Cllr Sarah Addenbrooke
Cllr Sam Mackover
Cllr Daniel Moylan
Cllr Matthew Palmer
Cllr Fenella Aouane
Cllr Malcolm Spalding
Cllr Linda Wade
Cllr David Nicholls
Cllr Charles Williams
Cllr Marie-Therese Rossi
Cllr Anthony Coates
Cllr Quentin Marshall
Cllr Elizabeth Rutherford
Cllr Timothy Coleridge
Cllr Nicholas Paget-Brown
Cllr Mary Weale
Cllr Kim Taylor-Smith
Cllr William Pascall
Cllr Paul Warrick
Cllr Adrian Berrill-Cox
Cllr Maighread Condon-Simmonds
Cllr Gerard Hargreaves
Cllr Elizabeth Campbell
Cllr Emma Will
Cllr Andrew Rinker

Further resources

Hand Book for Library Friends and Users produced by the Library Campaign.

Grenfell Action Group's blog has revealed some of the underhand and undemocratic ways that the council has pursued this course of action.