Update on Lambeth Libraries – Nettlefold and Carnegie

We hugely value library services – as a space to borrow books, to study, to take part in activities, to create the space for communities to come together and to provide information.

Many residents will be aware that we have proposed some changes to how Lambeth continue to provide this service. The proposals for change are entirely born of the financial situation imposed on us by central government which have seen a 56% cut in our funding since 2010. The next round of cuts – around £60m over the two years 201718 and 201819 – is already upon us and we have only just begun to think about where we can find additional savings from across the council’s budget. The Government’s budget last week signaled yet further cuts in the future.

Locally, residents in Thurlow Park mainly use two libraries – in West Norwood our town centre library is being refurbished in partnership with Picturehouse to create a brand new library and a new cinema. 

In Herne Hill our local library is Carnegie. We are aware that some residents are concerned about Carnegie Library’s future. The council have been working for the past 3-4 years on plans to transfer the Carnegie building to community ownership. The plan is to create community activity, generate income, unlock new investment and thereby to ensure we can keep a library open which has an income base from which to provide a good quality offer to local residents. 

A very similar thing was done with Brockwell Lido (in which the community regenerated a council asset) some years ago to the benefit of the whole community. The key difference being that the library service will of course remain free.

The community transfer plan stays on track. The Carnegie Community Trust have been working very hard on future investment plans for the building. In the mean time we need to press on with plans that ensure there is still a library there after the start of April when the budgets are due to drop out. 

After a period in which the building will be closed to reconfigure the space (which we hope will be as short as possible) it will re-open as a neighbourhood library with the same book stock, with community and study space, staffing in the building and librarians running events on a regular basis alongside other uses including a healthy living centre run by GLL, Lambeth’s social enterprise leisure partner. Local community and other groups will be a key part of the mix. The hours of opening should be longer than the current 31 hours per week. 

Some local campaigns have sought to depict plans as a small shelf of books in a corner of a gym – this could not be further from the truth. The difficult financial circumstances which have been imposed on local government have forced us to make some difficult compromises, but underpinned by our values we want to protect the beautiful Carnegie building, and the space and services it provides to many. 

The council did receive alternative plans to make the savings via a staff mutual, which was independently assessed but did not stack up financially. Without a partnership and some compromise, we risk losing the library altogether, and we are pleased that Lambeth Labour councillors have been able to develop a plan which keeps this important asset and service in the community now and in the long term.

We have spoken to many residents around Thurlow Park about the plans over the past 6-9 months, most understand very well the difficult predicament government cuts have placed us in. They are generally supportive of plans to ensure that the library service at the Carnegie is as good as it possibly can be under circumstances which they know we have campaigned very hard to try to avoid.

The Future of Cultural Services in Lambeth

The council is launching a consultation on the future of cultural services in Lambeth. This sets out a vision for how we can deliver library services sustainably, in the face of huge cuts to our funding from the national government.

2012 we talked to residents about libraries. They challenged us on how we could provide free access to
books wider than ever before. They challenged us to use self serve
technology, volunteers and community spaces to create new places in the
heart of our neighbourhoods to borrow books and embrace reading.

Lambeth Council is now launching a consultation which shares our
vision for how we might deliver this. Please get involved, feedback your ideas and tell us what you think.

Our vision is –

  • 5 town centre libraries where we’ll work with volunteers to extend opening hours
  • those town centre libraries supporting a wider Network of community
    lending libraries in community settings – like the successful one in
    Streatham Vale.
  • community libraries like Carnegie potentially becoming community hubs – including community library provision.

This vision isn’t new – it’s the continuation of a conversation we’ve
been having for a long time. But the pace needs to pick up to achieve the budget
reductions that are now necessary.

We’ll have to make some tough decisions too. Some smaller libraries
simply won’t be able to continue. In West Norwood, we are lucky – the council and Picturehouse have exchanged contracts to develop Nettlefold Hall into a refurbished library and a new cinema for our community. There are going to be lots of opportunities to have your say on what our library will look like – watch this space!

For further information, take a look at Lambeth Labour’s blog here

A new cinema in West Norwood moved a step closer this week as contracts were exchanged between Picturehouse Cinemas Ltd and Lambeth Council.

Picturehouse will lease the old Nettlefold Hall in Norwood High Street and turn it into a four-screen cinema, with bar and café.

As part of the deal, West Norwood Library will also be improved with a £1.125m investment.

Cllr Jane Edbrooke, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods, said: “We know this agreement has been a long time coming but I’m delighted to announce that Picturehouse are coming to West Norwood.

“The area is seeing some really positive changes with the brand new West Norwood Health & Leisure Centre opening in the summer, West Norwood Feast happening every month and now a new cinema and refurbished library opening by 2017.

“West Norwood is fast becoming yet another vibrant Lambeth town centre that people will thoroughly enjoy visiting.”

Lyn Goleby, Managing Director of Picturehouse, said: “This is the sort of building that we get very excited about – modernising and reinventing a place that sits at the heart of its community.

“We hope that the support the project enjoys will mean that we can very soon deliver a great new facility for West Norwood”.

Following the signing of the Agreement to Lease arrangement, there will now be a period of around 12 weeks to complete costings and develop designs ready for a full public consultation, which will begin early next year.

Picturehouse already run the Ritzy Cinema in Brixton and the Clapham Picturehouse, as well as other venue across London. They will spend over £2m on the Nettlefold Hall site.

In recent years, Lambeth council has refurbished Brixton and Streatham Tate libraries and built a brand new library in Clapham.

Nettlefold Library – update

The process of getting the Library cleaned up in preparation for rebuilding works has been slowed down by squatters. It is very disappointing that they were able to gain access and although they have gone, they made so much mess that the asbestos decontamination is now much more complicated. This will not only delay the planning application but increase the size of the works, which will now have to go out to competitive tender.

Nevertheless the negotiations are still going ahead, a lease is being drawn up between Lambeth and the cinema company and some precious archives have been removed from the basement. All the Norwood councillors continue to press for progress. The Steering Group meets again in September.