A new library for Camberwell in 2014?

Something I missed but which will have a great impact on Camberwell is the new library which finally, it seems, is on track, not without controversy.

On 4 June 2013 the Southwark Council Planning Committee passed the planning application for the construction of a new library on Camberwell Green. Details of the new library are on the Southwark website.

You will recall two years ago in 2011 details were published here of plans for a new library which we were assured by the Council Leader Peter John would be built by “autumn 2012”.

Following the Council Leader’s bold pronouncement problems occured with the scheme and so here we are two years on still with an inadequate library in Camberwell.

This is all set to change with the construction of the new library (artist’s impression of the new library below  taken from architect John McAsclan + Partners website)New Camberwell Library

According to Southwark the new library will be located on Camberwell Green and “will include areas for adult, children and young people libraries as well as public access computers, study area and meeting rooms. The main library areas will be located on the ground floor with meeting rooms and study space located on the first floor. The main entrance will face towards Camberwell Green.”

The library is a key part of the Camberwell regeneration programme which aims to connect the Green with wider Camberwell.

The location has attracted great controversy as the building will be located on the site of Camberwell Orchard on the Green, various other suggestions for a library location have been put forward. Realistically I cannot see Southwark deciding at this late stage to relocate the new library but protestors are urging the council to think again. Let us hope that this will not result in another two year delay to the new Camberwell Library.

Mobile Library

I took a walk around the Green this morning and the sight of the Magistrates Court reminded me that I was going to write something about the proposal to move the library. As you may or may not know, Southwark Council have an 8,000 sq. ft. prefabricated building in Bermondsey which is now unused, and they’re considering moving it to the plaza in front of the Court and using it to house the library (currently on Church St.), a meeting space, and cafe. You can see the plans in this consultation document [PDF].

The Camberwell Society object to the proposal on the grounds that the building’s just too big; it would occupy most of the currently open plaza, making it very cramped, and involve cutting down some of the orchard (which they say is ‘becoming lovely’, although I’d dispute that) and some and nearby trees. Also, planning permission was granted only last year for children’s play resources and tree re-planting.

They say the move is likely to cost somewhere in the region of £500,000, and the building itself has an estimated life span of only 10 years, so would rather see the money spent on developing the existing library and meeting spaces in the leisure centre. There would also be costs involved in breaking the leases that are held on the current property.

I received an email from someone suspecting ‘ulterior motives’ for the Council’s proposal, and the author has some questions that they feel haven’t been answered, including:

  • Has an application for planning permission been made?
  • What is the total projected cost of the move?
  • Have estimates been made for repairs to the existing building?
  • What will be done with the old building?

Someone on this blog mentioned a Tesco opening in the current library’s position, but I’m not sure if that was any more than a joke or speculation.

I have to say that I’m not against this proposal if it brings benefits, but I agree that the proposal for meeting spaces and cafe could easily be met by funding the leisure centre, in which case moving the library doesn’t seem to make much sense.

The Council are running the public consultation until 21 April; download a copy [PDF] and fill in your responses if you’re interested in making your voice heard.