The feasibility study on Highgate Library’s potential relocation to Jacksons Lane Arts Centre has now been completed, with the results formally announced yesterday – and the outcome is “No”.
To cut a long story short, it comes down to cost. The sums which would be required to cover a relocation would be too great (even with the potential sale of the original library site) and the impact on Jacksons Lane’s existing work and cash turnover too negative. In other words, too much would be lost in exchange for too little return.
In all honesty, the idea was always something of a long shot. There was always the risk that the two endeavours might not fit together; and various practical objections were raised at the start of, and during the course of, the study. However, HLAG always believed that whatever the outcome, it was worth investigating the idea; and although discussions, negotiations and manoeuvres outside the process were often fraught, unpleasant and compromised, we’re pleased that the study itself proceeded smoothly and honestly.
Despite the difficult times and sore feelings, there has been a positive outcome from all of this in that the long and close contact which HLAG developed with the Jacksons Lane group will provide us with a further dimension for Highgate Library activity. Even though the two organisations will remain separate, we’ll be renting our upstairs rooms to the Arts Centre both during and after their reconstruction work, bringing in valuable revenue for the building. We also aim to develop further arts and literary programs to work on together.
For the foreseeable future, then, Highgate Library remains on Shepherds Hill. Since we do love our old building, this is a satisfactory outcome, although not one without ongoing challenges. Fine as the building is, it remains a little decrepit and sorely in need of investment and repair work (not least for its leaky roof). There also remains the matter of Haringey Council’s underhanded and premature move, in advance of the study conclusions, to place the site on its list of saleable assets. This was shameful, and will be fought. The Cabinet decision needs to be rescinded.
There are also questions regarding the potential “Highgate Station corridor” which includes the woodland green space to the side of the library linking Shepherds Hill to Priory Gardens. Although the Highgate Neighbourhood Scheme concluded that this area should not be redeveloped for housing but be preserved as it is (with some tidying up and improvements), and although they made the same strong recommendations to Haringey Council, achieving this much-desired outcome will rely very much on the Council’s good will and their respect for the neighbourhood. Judging by their recent form, we’ll need to watch them like hawks.
For now, though, our task and our pleasure will be to build up the library on Shepherds Hill, increase the visitors, offer support to the staff and think up new ideas to make it a real community hub for Highgate. Now is also the time to mend, repair and remedy some of the frustrations and indignations which emerged during the heated discussions on the potential move. We hope that all who have the interests of the library at heart will join to work together on this important journey.
(For those interested, Jacksons Lane will now proceed with redevelopment plans which don’t include the library. A formal community meeting to discuss them will be held at the Centre on Monday 18th September at 6:30- more here.)