Secrecy surrounds council’s sale of old Ashburton Library

A Town Hall meeting tonight will discuss the sale of the old library building in Ashburton Park. But the ultra-secretive Tory administration that controls the council is refusing to reveal to the public the sale price of the publicly owned building, the identity of the purchasers or even their proposed use of the building.

Public property: the old Ashburton Library, now being sold by our council. They just won't say how much for, who to, or what it is to be used for

Public property: the old Ashburton Library, now being sold by our council. They just won’t say how much for, who to, or what it is to be used for

It is believed that an evangelical faith group from Thornton Heath has put in a bid which the Arfur Daleys who run the council have accepted, and they will be offered a 125-year lease. Why full information about the disposal of public property has not been placed into the public domain is another mystery of Croydon’s increasingly paranoid, and unaccountable, council.

The sale of the the disused former Woodside Convent building has been generally opposed in principle by local residents, who believe that the council ought to have conducted renovation works and put the public asset back into use as a multi-purpose community venue, capable of accommodating people of all faiths, as well as those of none, in a focal point for Ashburton residents. 

Even Tory councillors in Ashburton campaigned as recently as 2010 on a promise to “… work to bring the old Ashburton Library building back into community use”. Selling the property to a single faith group would seem to fail to fulfill that promise.

Since it was passed back into council control in 2006 – the year that the Conservatives under florid-faced Mike Fisher took control of Croydon Council – the two-storey building has been ill-maintained and badly vandalised.

According to a council response to a Freedom of Information request as recently as last month, “A full survey has not been undertaken…” which seems a little odd, since the council put the old library on the market six months ago, “… but it is estimated that cost of refurbishment the building lies between £500,000 to £800,000 plus, depending on the nature of the proposed use(s).”

Some residents claim that Eddy Arram, one of the ward’s Conservative councillors, has been telling them that the council cannot afford to repair the building because restoring the old library would cost £2 million – although that’s £2 million less that Arram’s Tory-run council has recently spent just on soft furnishings for councillors and senior staff in Fisher’s Folly, the new council offices.

There is no doubt that the building is of some architectural merit and is worth preserving: English Heritage was due to visit to consider whether the brick Victorian building, built in 1897, is worthy of listed status.

Local residents have described the council’s failure to use the building or properly maintain it over the past eight years as “a disgraceful waste of a beautiful resource”. Even Arram has in the past said, “It’s a phenomenal waste of a building”.

Andrew Rendle, a member of the Ashburton Labour action team, said, “It’s a shame that the Conservative method of community enrichment seems to be slap up a For Sale sign and leave others to do all the work.

“You might have thought that the rebirth of a Croydon landmark would be something we can all celebrate, but as is so often the case these days in Croydon, the preferred bidder, the amount they will pay and their plans for the building will be discussed in secret at the council’s corporate services committee, with the public and press excluded.

“So not only will we not know what is happening with our old library building, but we are also not being told how much the council is getting for selling public property. You would hope that money could go to sprucing up the rest of Ashburton Park, making it the community focus it should be,” Rendle said.

“Or will that cash go to buy more furniture in the new HQ or to pay for the pathetic £25 Council Tax bribe?”


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