Can planning objections save Chipping Barnet Library?Written by Nick Jones Tuesday, 29 November 2016 17:12
In addition to having to switch to largely self-service operation, the library is also to undergo extensive interior reconstruction so that an extensive area inside the building can be converted into lettable office space.
The library is due to shut its doors on Monday 5 December for a two-month temporary closure.
BUT Barnet Council has not even obtained the necessary planning permission for a significant change of use.
Residents and library users are now being informed they have until Thursday 15 December to register their objections.
During the forthcoming two-month closure, the existing library floor area is to be reconfigured for self-service operation in preparation for conversion to office space, and the council says these internal changes do not need planning permission.
BUT documents posted on the council’s planning website admit that the library floor is a community space and that its conversion to office space will only be “acceptable in exceptional circumstances.”
New office space is to be created within the library by reducing the existing library floor space by 116 square metres, and by inserting a new mezzanine floor in the large community hall – the Hyde Room – to provide an additional 104 square metres of office space.
This new office accommodation – capable of providing room for up to 28 employees – will then rented out commercially.
The new office accommodation will be rented out commercially
The offices will have access through the existing rear staff entrance, and employees will have allocated spaces in the rear car park.
The council says the exterior alterations that are subject to planning permission – such as a new side-entrance for self-service users and a new window for the office space – would be carried out during a further closure during July and August 2017.
Two other steps have been taken by the Society to back up its campaign to try to force the council hold another public meeting and extend the period for consultation with residents and library users:
- To demonstrate the depth of local anger, the Barnet Society plans to stage a peaceful mass read-in outside Chipping Barnet Library at 11 am on Monday 5 December – the day the library shuts its doors for a two-month temporary closure. Please come along with a book and show your support.
- The society’s secretary Jonathan Supran has prepared a list of 12 questions that need an immediate answer regarding the Chipping Barnet Library as well as other libraries in the borough. Obtaining a prompt response, and full and detailed answers to these questions is essential if people are to come to an informed opinion as to the council’s library re-organisation. The information leading to these questions has largely come to light very recently and therefore was impossible to raise in previous consultations.
(See link to attachment 'Questions' at bottom of article)
The planning document for the Chipping Barnet Library says the rental income from letting office space, together with the reduction in staff hours following the introduction of self-service operation, will “help ensure” that all 14 libraries in the London Borough of Barnet remain open to residents.
There is no demand for continued community or education use
The council justifies the loss of 116 square metres of library floor space on the grounds that “there is no demand for continued community or education use” – an assertion that the Society believes cannot be justified and provides a legitimate reason for an objection.
Objections can be registered on the Barnet Council website. Follow the link below, hit the button for “view, track and comment on planning applications” and then insert the planning application reference 16/7415/FUL
The council finally conceded on Thursday 24 November that it lacked the necessary planning permission for the library’s change of use, yet the council had already announced that the library is being closed to the public as from Monday 5 December and is not due to re-open, in a reduced capacity, until Monday 6 February 2017.
The Barnet Society believes that the loss of 116 square metres of library space is a legitimate reason to object because this would result in the loss of a community facility for Chipping Barnet.
Objections must be registered on the council’s website by December 15 and applications to speak at a planning committee meeting expected to take place in January 2017 must be received by December 22.
If the council began work reducing the library floor space during the two-month closure period without having gained permission, the society believes there might be grounds to seek an enforcement notice.
Tuesday, 29 November 2016 19:46
posted by Jenny Petch
Who is going to want to rent office space where they can't park a their car ? If the library want more people coming through the door why don't they allow people to use their empty staff car park out the back ?
Tuesday, 29 November 2016 20:34
posted by Stav Aristokle-Hill
Agree! They should also think about having a coffee shop.
Tuesday, 29 November 2016 20:35
posted by Jenny Petch
Yep ! That would work too and they've got the space in that Hyde Room bit ! Xx
Wednesday, 30 November 2016 08:11
posted by James
Great work by the Barnet society. We can not just let this important local space be destroyed.
Wednesday, 30 November 2016 09:17
posted by AliBy
This library is always busy, upstairs and down, when I am there Monday evenings for activities in the church hall. That part of Barnet is so dismal, the shops are awful and all shut really early, or I would spend some money. No library would make me even less likely to come to the area. The spire car park is mostly empty- hugely overpriced is why, even after most of the shops have shut.
Coffee shop would be much more sensible, the only way to get a hot drink is to go to Waitrose and carry it around with me. I want to sit down and enjoy it!
Wednesday, 30 November 2016 20:46
posted by Jacqueline Williams
We watched the library being built and were full of hope for High Barnet. Now facilities seem to be in severe decline in this part of the borough. I use the library regularly but it is often under used and I find the atmosphere is often cheerless. Adults on the desk do not seem to be in a happy place! None of this helps the library to thrive. It's really tragic to see this lovely library decline. We really don't need office space there or a coffee shop we need people to use the library across all the age groups , schools to come and community groups to thrive in the space.
Thursday, 01 December 2016 08:03
posted by SH
Thank you to the Barnet Society for bringing this issue to the forefront. As a regular user of the library-I always find the library busy and used. There are often classes taking place in the rooms too.
Removing library space is ridiculous. A number of other local library closures has meant that this library is used more than ever.
I think it's disgraceful that the council have already planned the closure of the library despite not having planning permission.
Thursday, 01 December 2016 19:17
posted by NS
This is an awful decision. How dare Barnet Council act in this way. Yet another poorly thought through, expedient budgetary short cut.
Enough is enough, let's clear the swamp.
When the time comes vote them all out.
Friday, 02 December 2016 14:03
posted by Marina Marshall
Having spent almost all of my working life in Education, I am well aware that there are many children/teenagers who do not have the facility for quiet study at home.
This library may be the only place where they can do their work in peace and quiet. It is disgraceful that the idea of "a fast buck! should be allowed to roll, like a Juggernaut, over such considerations!
Thursday, 15 December 2016 20:01
posted by sheila
It is disgraceful that floor space reduction of the Chipping Barnet library has gone ahead without planning permission or full public consultation. A ‘ dun deal by both the applicant and the planning office - the same outsourced contractor to LBB. Surely a conflict of interest is present here? Would never be allowed in the public arena. Who is going to occupy these proposed new offices along with the amenity parking spaces?
Education in Barnet appears to be slipping having historically achieved some of the best results in the country for its schools, particularly grammars. Now we appear to be taking a step backwards, being directed into ‘blended learning’ at the new academies along with a loss of our libraries and community facilities. The Chipping Barnet library is the meeting hub of the community for young and old. Clubs and events radiate information outwards from this point into the general populace.
The nearby local college admits a good percentage of foreign students who need access in term time to such a public facility to enable quiet research via both book and computer. Experienced staff on site are essential to provide any necessary guidance.
Capita ( the applicant) of course is the outsourced partner of LBB and run purely for profit. The CB Library was designed and built with public funding. Surely, we the residents and tax payers of Barnet should have a majority say in what happens to the family silver. The cost of this refurbishment does not warrant the so-called savings being advertised.
That said, this proposal is most unpopular with the general public, resident’s associations and civic unions. Councillors are elected as our representatives and should honour their brief to embody public opinion and reject this cut.
Once lost, it is lost forever………..
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