Beckenham Library fight goes on
PUBLISHED: 07:00 10 January 2020
The fight to prevent Beckenham Library being developed into a block of homes is set to continue into the New Year, despite a move to reconsider the controversial proposal being rejected.
Labour councillors "called-in" the November 27 decision by Bromley Council's executive to investigate relocating the library and developing the site into up to 46 units, with 50 per cent to be allocated to social housing.
A 'call-in' enables councillors to ask for a decision the cabinet has taken to be looked at again.
It saw a special meeting of the Renewal, Recreation and Housing Policy Development and Scrutiny Committee convened to consider the proposal, however, the Conservative-run body voted the move down on December 20.
It means the original November decision stands, with the council to put £70,000 towards exploring the viability of moving the library to Beckenham Public Hall and redeveloping the site.
In an update following the decision, Labour councillor and Clock House ward member Ian Dunn said "Bromley Labour Group will continue to fight to defend the Library in the long term".
In a further statement released on Christmas eve, Cllr Dunn said among activists' concerns was potential harm being done to the conservation area surrounding the library by relocating it.
"I asked anyone round the committee table, whether member or officer to find me a single sentence in the report justifying the demolition of the Library and its replacement with housing. No one responded, because there isn't one," he said.
He was supported by Cllr Vanessa Allen, who stated: "If Bromley Council engaged more with developers, landowners and social housing providers, we would be much better placed to address the housing needs of the borough".
It's the latest in the long-running saga, which has seen library staff take strike action for more than six months.
In addition to vocal community opposition at council meetings regarding the move, an online petition titled "Save Beckenham Library" has also gathered nearly 6000 signatures.
The November meeting saw Cllr Peter Morgan, the portfolio holder for renewal, recreation and housing, repeatedly emphasise that a final decision hadn't been made on the library's future.
"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.
Council leader Colin Smith supported the move at the same meeting.
"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 added.
Following the decision to reject the call-in, the authority will continue with work to appoint consultants to explore the next stage of the proposal.