Added on: 9 March 2017 at 17:48:30
Northcote Library and Chatham Hall
Response to the Consultation from the Battersea Society
The Battersea Society welcomes the willingness of Wandsworth Council to invest in library facilities and the fact that these proposals are designed to ensure that the current library remains in operation until the new building is ready.
We are supportive of plans which will benefit existing and future library users; and that will maintain the community facilities currently provided by Chatham Hall.
We have a number of reservations about the current plans and recommend that further time be spent on planning. Time should be allowed for further consideration of these by Councillors and the public in advance of a final Planning Application being made.
We understand that this will require more investment at the start but this will undoubtedly pay off in the longer term.
Upgrading the Existing Library.
The Council’s paper 16-458 dismisses this option as being uneconomic but without evidence of any work having been done to cost improvements, or to look at ways of providing improved services within the existing building or by adding a buggy park at the rear of the building.
We are unsure of the status of the garages at the rear of the building but if these are available to the development this space could also be considered as a means of upgrading the existing library.
The building is of merit and we consider that further thought should be given to its retention, given that the cost could be met by development of the Chatham Hall site.
Size of Proposed new Library
This is described as being ‘slightly larger’ than the existing library and with ambitious extra facilities such as a coffee shop, buggy park, teenage games area and business suites.
We recommend that plans are reviewed with this in mind and that these include more consideration of facilities being made available within the Chatham Hall community area rather than solely in the library.
We are far from confident that these are needed or will be used. We can see no evidence of a business plan giving full details of the market for these, how they would operate, what facilities would be offered, and at what cost, and the ongoing costs of managing and servicing the suites.
The fact that so many new businesses have started up suggests that their needs are being met. While we deprecate the loss of office space following government legislation we have also seen successful applications for change of use from office to residential supported by the claim that the office space has been marketed without success.
There appears to be no provision for affordable housing – there is very much more need for this than for business suites and we urge the Council to include social housing within any final scheme.
Current Chatham Hall users
There appear to be mixed views as to whether these can be re-housed elsewhere during the re-building. We urge the Council to ensure continuity, to put plans in place before a decision is made to go ahead, and to include any additional costs of hiring alternative space within the overall budget for this project.
It is not clear whether the community hall provides the same space as the existing hall but this should be a pre-requisite for any planning approval.
Open Space on the Chatham Hall site
The courtyard appears unnecessarily small. More outdoor space would be of benefit to library and coffee shop users and others using Chatham Hall.
The proposal that a final decision be taken in June with a target of October 2017 for a planning application is very rushed. These should not be seen as deadlines but as indications of the need to maintain impetus while addressing concerns about the current plans.