Community group welcomes likely ditching of plans to move Beckenham library and build homes on site

By Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporter

A Beckenham residents’ group has praised the likely ditching of plans to relocate the area’s library and build new homes on the site, with the body hopeful it’ll spell the end of proposals to demolish the building.

Pam Notcutt, the chairwoman of the Knoll House Residents’ Association, made the comments after Bromley councillors conceded at a meeting the proposal to move the library to Beckenham Public Hall was likely not viable, due to the cost of work required to bring the hall up to scratch for use as a public library.

A report on the matter – one of several viability reports the council paid consultants £70,000 for – also said 40 per cent of the library’s current books wouldn’t fit in the hall if the move went ahead.

“We always knew that the public halls do not have space for the contents of the library, despite the council’s view to the contrary,” Ms Notcutt said

“It has cost £70,000 to confirm this.”

Ms Notcutt also claimed demolishing the library would go against national planning objectives.

“This 1939 purpose-built art deco building is in a conservation area and demolition of a ‘heritage asset’ would inflict ‘substantial harm’ (against planning guidelines),” she said.

She instead mooted the idea of using charity funding for work on the public hall, while voicing hope proposals to bulldoze the library wouldn’t return.

“Why not try for lottery funding rather than offer to relinquish so much of the public hall for community use?  This could be a far better option,” she said.

“Whether or not a bidder comes forward to fund repairs on the public hall, we do not want to see the return of any proposal to demolish the library.

“A substantial number of housing units are in the pipeline to be provided in the immediate area. We may need a bigger library, not a smaller one.”

Established in 2003 to safeguard and promote the interests of residents of the Knoll House area of Beckenham, the group has steadfastly rejected plans to demolish the library, which would have been replaced by 46-units – half of which was set to be classed as much-needed affordable housing.

Councillors earlier this month met to discuss viability reports on the proposal, which found that almost £1m worth of work would have to be completed on Beckenham Public Hall to make it suitable for a library.

“Consultants have detailed that the level of works required is greater than originally anticipated – while they consider the physical location more appropriate…the costs of work required is greater than thought,” committee chairman, Cllr Michael Rutherford told the scrutiny meeting.

The meeting instead saw councillors endorse a plan to lease out the public hall – ensuring it remains open for some public use, while also bringing in income for the council, while future possibilities for the library would be explored.

Pictured top: Beckenham library


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