17 February 2017
The Council’s response to the listing of North Kensington Library as an asset of community value:
“The old library building plainly meets the criteria for being an Asset of Community Value (ACV). But it is important to make clear that ACV status does not restrict in anyway who the owner of a building can sell it to, or at what price; nor does it place any restriction on what an owner can do with the property.
“The ACV rules are there simply to ensure the community has a chance to put together a bid should the property come to the market.
“But as the campaigners know perfectly well, the old library won’t be coming to the market. That’s because its future was settled many months ago when, after prolonged and intense public debate, the building was leased to a nearby prep school for 25 years.
“We believe the case for doing so remains clear and overwhelming. The old library may be a handsome building, but it does not live up to modern day expectations of a library. Subject to planning permission, it will shortly be replaced by a magnificent new library, just a few yards away. The new library will, in library terms, be better in every way than the old building and we are aiming for it to be a fine example of contemporary architecture in its own right.
“Once the Council decided to build a new, bigger and better building for North Kensington Library, the question then arose of what to do with the old building. Since the onset of austerity in 2010-11 the Council’s budget has fallen by about 22 per cent. But, so far, just five per cent of the savings that have been required have come from reducing services to our residents.
“One of the key reasons why that has been possible is because our income from property has roughly trebled since 2010-11 and it is deals like renting out the old library building that has made that possible.
“That extra income has spared our most vulnerable residents from severe reductions in vital services and it is for that reason, more than any other, that we are unsentimental about renting out the old building.
“Finally, it should be remembered that the old building is not becoming the corporate headquarters of a hedge fund. It is becoming a school, places at which are in great demand locally from a group of parents whom we also serve.
“So our residents are getting a wonderful new library, an old building still in overall Council ownership but earning a large new income to support vital services, and new prep school places that help to meet demand from families living in the local community. We believe this is a great deal for Kensington and Chelsea.”