Thursday, 10 January 2013

Zadie Smith attacks loss of Willesden Green public square as 'cultural vandalism'

The Evening Standard reports today that local author Zadie Smith has stepped ino the debate about the Willesden Town Square application:
A council that closed half its libraries wants to demolish another to make way for new homes, then rebuild it on a cherished public square.

Brent residents are fighting plans to build 100 flats on part of the Willesden Green Library Centre site and erect a “cultural centre” on land in front.

Author Zadie Smith, who grew up in the borough, attacked the scheme as “cultural vandalism” and said the square is one of the few public places where locals can meet for free.

In the New York Review of Books, she wrote about visiting the square when it hosted a French market, saying people were “simply standing around in the sunshine, like some kind of community”.

Protesters claim the plan will result in the loss of a community “breathing space” where local events are held. They have applied for the land to be recognised as a town square. A public inquiry will be held next month.
Martin Redston, leading the campaign, said: “The public square is essential as one of the last pieces of open space in Willesden Green. It is sunny, but sheltered by a lovely old plane tree and looks out on to the 1894 heritage of the old library. It is a place where shoppers and workers can rest, pause and reflect. It is a safe place where parents can let their kids play without straying into main roads.”
Brent, which closed six of its 12 libraries despite residents’ protests, plans to give part of the existing library site to developers in return for them funding the new building, and said it was an “innovative opportunity” to get a new facility without direct investment.

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