The outgoing Conservative-run council in Croydon tried to sell-off the publicly owned old Ashburton Library building on the day before the local elections at the knock-down price of £84,000.
Independent valuations conducted for the council had suggested that the building’s true price ought to have been nearer £500,000. Labour’s new administration at Croydon Council has now blocked the sale going through.
“It’s just short of being a scandal,” one Katharine Street source told Inside Croydon today. “You couldn’t get a bed-sit in Croydon for £85,000 these days, yet the Tories were flogging this large important public building on the cheap.
“It looks like a desperate fire sale of public assets, done deliberately before the Tories lost control of the Town Hall. The councillors and the council officials responsible for pushing such a deal through should be called to account.”
The old Ashburton Library, sited within the local park, has been out of use since 2006 and through neglect by the council was allowed to fall into serious disrepair. The previous council administration suggested that repair and renovation to get the building back into use could cost £1 million.
Labour won control of Croydon Council in May in part because its candidates won all three seats in Ashburton ward for the first time. Labour had made a manifesto pledge to oppose the sale of public assets – including the old Ashburton Library, which many locals want to see brought back into community use.
The building was put out to offers last autumn, and three firm bids were received. It is not known what value was put on the property by the other, rejected bidders, but the one accepted by Croydon’s Tories was from His Grace Community Outreach Church, based in Thornton Heath. Not unreasonably, the church is outraged that what they thought was a done deal – finalised on May 21, the day before Croydon went to the polls – has been binned.
Pastor Bola Thomas, from the church, has claimed, “We paid a fair price for a building which has been abandoned for eight years.”
Neither the current or previous council administration, nor the church, had previously revealed that what Pastor Thomas called a “fair price” was as little as £84,000.
Undoubtedly, because the council had neglected the building for some time, they had to factor into the asking price the need for potential buyers to spend some money on bringing the building into a usable state. Pastor Thomas claimed her church was to spend £700,000 to do so.
“We have not just guesstimated those figures, we have had surveys carried out. This is very upsetting,” she said.
Timothy Godfrey, Labour’s culture spokesman, made the decision to halt the sale. He is known to be keen to support moves to have the building utilised for the broader Ashburton and Croydon community, rather than one single faith group, and according to a Croydon Council spokesman, “A covenant attached to the building means it can be used only for education-related purposes.”
- Secrecy surrounds council’s sale of old Ashburton Library
- Ashburton residents firmly oppose sale of old library
Coming to Croydon
- South Norwood Arts Festival, July 5-20
- David Lean Cinema: We Are The Best!, July 10
- Croydon Folk and Blues Festival, July 12
- David Lean Cinema: Half of a Yellow Sun, July 17
- Love Norbury launch event, July 19
- David Lean Cinema: Pantani: Accidental Death of a Cyclist, July 21
- David Lean Cinema: Tracks, July 24
- Fragile, Spread Eagle Theatre, July 24-26
- CODA’s Midsummer Night’s Dream at Wandle Park, Jul 30-Aug 2
- David Lean Cinema: Locke, July 31
- Elm Tree Cottage garden open day, Aug 10
- Norwood Society Talk: War Memorials, Sep 18
- Streatham Common 6M race, Sep 27
- Norwood Society Talk: From Fire Station to Theatre, Oct 16
- Norwood Society Talk: Lambeth’s Archives, Nov 20
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