|The campaign hits the front page of the Brent and Kilburn Times this week|
Andy Donald, Brent Council's Director of Regeneration and Major Projects put the case for the new Centre and why it had not been deemed feasible to refurbish the current building. He told the meeting that the agreement with developer Galliford Try had been signed on Wednesday and that it did not include any options for the incorporation of bookshop space or the historic old Willesden Library building. He explained the minimal consultation and lack of detail on the original proposal as due to the constraints of 'testing the market' with developers for the new building.
He showed the audience the 'indicative' images below of the proposed Cultural Centre as well as some plans of the surrounding 94 units of new housing which would be up to 4 or 5 storeys high. He confirmed that the units would not be affordable housing but for sale at market rates. The new Centre would front the High Road and a public space would be provided behind the new Centre between that and the housing that will be built on the present library car park.
|High Road frontage|
|From Brondesbury Park showing the open space|
One speaker brandishing the Newsletter that will be circulated to residents asked if the same sort of glossy image had been circulated 20 or so years ago when the present building had been planned with another council officer speaking persuasively about its merits.
She asked if history would be repeated with the new 'plastic' building being denounced in subsequent years as poorly built and unsustainable. Brent Council were accused of deliberately letting the present building run down and doubts were raised about the future of the Cultural Centre if management was as poor as that for the Willesden Library Centre.
Another speaker expressed doubts about the planning consultation process as Brent Council were the proposers of the private partnership development and Brent councillors would make the decision on the planning application.
There were many contributions extolling the importance for the community of the Willesden Bookshop and its particular role in providing multicultural books and study materials to local schools. The audience treated with derision Andy Donald's statement that in the end it was just another commercial enterprise. The proposals for a revenue earning cafe in the Centre also received short shrift and reinforced the audience's suspicion that the developer was dictating the project rather than the needs of local people.
Cllr Barry Cheese (Lib Dem, Brondesbury Park) and Cllr Lesley Jones (Labour, Willesden Green, and Lead Member for Customers and Citizens) both spoke in favour of the new development saying that it would bring the High Road into the 21st century and improve the area. Cllr Claudia Hector (Labour, Kensal Green) on the other hand sent a message to the meeting calling for the old Victorian Willesden Library building to be saved. She said that she had informed the Labour leadership of her views. The meeting heard that an application had been lodged by campaigners with English Heritage to have the building listed.
Martin Redmond challenged the view that the Old Willesden Library could not be incorporated into the redevelopment and circulated the image below.
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