Agenda item

Reference of item considered by Call in Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Willesden Green redevelopment project

The Overview and Scrutiny Committee at its meeting on 1 February 2012 considered the call in of the Willesden Green Redevelopment Projectreport previously considered by the Executive on 16 January 2012 and RESOLVED:-

 

that the Executive be recommended to reconsider proposals for the interim service delivery strategy and specifically consider the use of some closed existing libraries and the costings involved for the proposed strategy in order to provide a comprehensive interim library service for residents. (the report and supplementary report submitted to the Call-in Overview and Scrutiny have been circulated to members separately and are available the council’s website (http://democracy.brent.gov.uk).

Decision:

(i)         that this Executive’s agreement to the interim service strategy agreed on 16 January 2012 be reconfirmed;

(ii)        that the proposal to use the closed buildings in Kensal Rise, Neasden and Cricklewood as part of the Council’s library service and interim service delivery strategy be rejected due to the conclusive need to provide a service from Willesden Green.

Minutes:

The Executive noted the request from the Call in Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 1February 2012 for the Executive to reconsider the proposals for the interim service delivery strategy during the redevelopment of Willesden Green Library Centre. Councillor Crane (Lead Member, Regeneration and Major Projects) acknowledged concerns expressed by members of the public earlier in the meeting indicating that he would endeavour to respond to all. He reminded the meeting of the report received by the Executive in February 2011 which set out the poor condition of the existing centre building, the necessary repairs and the high cost of refurbishment. Additionally, the café and cinema had not been well used. Councillor Crane reminded members of the decision making process referring the decision taken a year ago to test the market for a development on the site that would be at no cost to the council. Subsequently, a meeting with users took place which informed the brief submitted to the market and the decision to proceed was taken at the last Executive. The full consultation process would now commence as the development partner would produce a full design and there would be three to four months to work on detailed design and plans.

 

Councillor Crane then went on to address other concerns raised earlier in the meeting. Regarding the bookshop in the existing premises, he agreed that it was a valued resource but commercial considerations had to be taken into account. Compensation may be available for the owner in the event that the lease was terminated. On the plans for facilities within the building, Councillor Crane confirmed that the full detail of community spaces was set out in the report to the Executive in January 2012 which included at least three meeting rooms. He emphasised that so far discussions had been about the design brief and the real consultation would now commence. It was clear a year ago that the library would have to close for a considerable time and work on a high quality interim strategy had been on-going, consequently there would be no need to re-open closed libraries.

 

Councillor Powney (Lead Member, Environment and Neighbourhoods) stated that the plans were for an improved development for the area, a cultural centre not just a library. He too reiterated that there would be widespread consultation on the configuration before submission for planning permission. The Director of Regeneration and Major Projects contributed that £700,000 was the minimum cost of refurbishment, the existing building was poorly designed, expensive to heat and under used. The process required an indicative design for bench marking and once the development agreement was signed there would be deconstruction, consultation and engagement then the statutory application for planning permission. He reassured that consultation would be on-going.

 

The Chair, Councillor John, (Leader of the Council) stated that the aim was for a high quality design and the Director confirmed that the new Civic Centre would be the bench mark for fixtures, fitting and design. Councillor Powney added that the interim library provision would focus on the Willesden area and referred to exciting and innovative plans for the Archive, museum, children’s area and community spaces that would attract new users. On the bookshop, Councillor Powney stated that the centre was expected to contain high quality retail and consequently likely to be able to pay high rents. Instead of being portrayed negatively, he felt that officers should be congratulated on the project and achieving a major investment that would result in a quality facility.

 

Councillor John referred members to the recommendations in the report which once agreed would allow for a new cultural centre in the south of the borough.

 

RESOLVED:-

 

(i)         that this Executive’s agreement to the interim service strategy agreed on 16 January 2012 be reconfirmed;

 

(ii)        that the proposal to use the closed buildings in Kensal Rise, Neasden and Cricklewood as part of the council’s library service and interim service delivery strategy be rejected due to the conclusive need to provide a service from Willesden Green.

Supporting documents: