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Howls of anger as Bromley Council agrees to consider moving Beckenham library

PUBLISHED: 07:00 29 November 2019

The public gallery at Bromley Council fills ahead of the meeting and (inset) the executive discuss the move. Pictures: Lachlan Leeming

The public gallery at Bromley Council fills ahead of the meeting and (inset) the executive discuss the move. Pictures: Lachlan Leeming

Archant

A move which could see Beckenham Library relocated and the site developed into housing has been met with howls of anger from residents.

Bromley's executive met on Wednesday night, November 27 to discuss the plans for the library, which have faced stiff community opposition since their announcement.

That was continued at the meeting, with multiple public speakers and opposing Labour councillors voicing displeasure at the proposal, which could see up to 46 units built at the Beckenham Road site.

Responding to public speakers, Cllr Peter Morgan, the portfolio holder for renewal, recreation and housing, repeatedly stated the vote was for £70,000 to be put towards exploring the relocation of the library to Beckenham Public Hall.

"This evening's paper is solely about appointing viability consultants," he said, adding that "only if a new library could be properly accommodated in the public hall" would the move be pursued.

He said that use of Orpington's library went up when it underwent a similar relocation.

He added that 50 per cent of the housing at the site would be social, with his comments frequently met with calls from members of the public gallery expressing anger and scepticism over the plans.

Council leader Colin Smith interjected multiple times asking the crowd to allow speakers to finish, before himself expressing support for the project.

"It is not a decision to progress with the halls (relocation) or demolish the library, it is a gateway to how we might go about it, if it is indeed feasible," he said.

Ahead of the decision ward member Josh King (Labour, Clock House) addressed the executive, saying to a round of applause from the public: "Mr Chairman this is a bad scheme and I urge the executive to reject it".

He said the proposed library space is smaller and would involve breaking up a community hub which includes Beckenham Spa and Venue 28.

He also voiced concerns the move could lead to the "destruction of a building which would be to the detriment of conservation area".

"None of this is spelled out in the paper in front of you tonight," he said.

"The council investing in this site shouldn't mean library users and groups should suffer."

The pleas were to no avail though, with the consultants now to be called in to explore the next stage of the proposal.

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