We’ve issued a news-sheet this week, covering the outcome of last week’s public meetings re the Feasibility Study for the potential Jacksons Lane Co-Location. You will find excepts below and a full text on a pdf.
“Let’s be plain about this – HLAG has never wanted to move the library from Shepherds Hill. However, we felt that it was vital to be involved in discussions in order to keep library users briefed and in full understanding of what was happening. The project was one which raised crucial questions about the perception, future and survival of the library: it would have been wrong not to have been involved in the discussion. We have continued to speak for the library at these meetings. When the dust has settled we will be here still; working for the library.
We made sure from the start that basic requirements for any library in the Jacksons Lane building were clearly stated and adhered to: the equal amount of floor space, ground floor location, the separate entrance, the meeting rooms, natural light, disabled access if on upper level. We also stressed legal aspects regarding the lease.”
“The Study is now nearing its end, but several facts are still required before it can be concluded. HLAG has demanded two clear financial statements: (1) the actual costs of altering the building to include a library and (2) the viability of whether Jacksons Lane Arts Centre could continue with a diminished hireable space (having ceded part of it to the proposed library premises).
The vexed question of Public Consultation
“One thing we’ve been queried on is why HLAG did not appear to back an immediate Public Consultation. The reason for this is that both Jacksons Lane Arts Centre and Haringey Council thought that these public meetings do constitute a public consultation. HLAG noted that previous Council papers and online surveys on libraries had been dismissed as badly-worded and unobjective; and thought that the local residents would reject a council paper consultation.
If there should be a need for a Public Consultation after the Feasibility study, it would need to be: carefully worded, geographically restricted, , paper and online format, timed and adequately supervised .
There will be plans and comment papers available in the library, in Jacksons Lane and online from 10th July . Reactions to these will give the architect a clearer impression of which is the favoured option, if any.
“Once an option has been chosen, the project architect Katy Marks will be able to present specific costs. Only then will it become clear whether the proposal is feasible, and only after that can any properly informed key choices be made.”
The date is the end of July. There will be a further public meeting at that time.
“Unfortunately, although this process was embarked upon in good faith, it has been damaged by bad feeling and bad faith. Towards the start of the process,Haringey Council announced that they would fund the Jacksons Lane co-location project by an outright sale of the current library building and site. This aroused a great deal of bad feeling among library users and the community. An independent petition to protect the library in its current location was put on Change.org and gained many signatures: this in turn led to the formation of a new, independent organisation (Friends of Highgate Library Shepherds Hill) in early June 2017.
On the agenda for the meeting of the Cabinet on 20th June (just two days before the Feasibility Study open consultation day ) there was an “in principle” resolution to sell the library site. Both HLAG and FoHLSH sent deputations to the Council meeting to protest against this resolution in the strongest possible terms. At the meeting , Cllr. Kober announced a concession — if the library could not be accommodated on the Jacksons Lane site, a million pounds worth of “match funding” for the Arts Centre could and would be found without selling the Highgate Library site. Despite this, and with no discussion, there was a exempted part of the meeting at which the resolution was passed. This has left the community feeling betrayed and ignored and vulnerable. Despite our familiarity with Haringey Council’s workings over the years (including some harsh skirmishes), HLAG were deeply disappointed in the bad faith the Council displayed on this occasion, something which will inevitably colour our final conclusions.
Open Public Meeting 22nd July
“On 22nd June, open consultation meetings were held with the community to present the next stage of the Feasibility Study and explain the possible plans. These plans were based on discussions with Jacksons Lane, the Council and HLAG. Each group had presented a basic brief for the architect, Katy Marks. The resulting options were shown and explained, offering an opportunity for local people to comment on the plans. Comment sheets were available. The meetings were tense and combative, reflecting the frustrations, lack of trust and sense of betrayal felt by library users.
“While HLAG did not and has not made a final decision regarding the co-location project, we can report that all of the options presented at the meetings did present an appropriately sized space, a separate entrance and disabled access (at least satisfying some of the initial requirements). However, it was also clear that all of the options would involve huge costs just to make the space suitable; also, the loss of studio space for the Arts Centre may well prove too problematic for them. Katy Marks is only costing one option, and her figures will soon be available.
“At that point, HLAG will be able to state precisely where we stand; and to explain how we intend to move forward to keep our library fit for purpose. The library on Shepherds Hill, has ongoing problems which have not been dealt with. The refurbishment in 2002 was largely cosmetic and did not properly account for problems with the roof or the parquet floor or the need for a lift. If we are to deal properly with them, we will need funding. If there is to be no new modern library, will there be any finance for fixing the old one? Are there other sources for finance? All of these questions will need to be presented to – and negotiated with – Haringey Council.
As ever, we welcome constructive input from our library users, and membership applications from those who want to support our efforts.
For the full text of the original paper news-sheet as a pdf, click below: