Future of South Norwood Library site ‘not yet decided’

Council plans to re-site the public library in South Norwood, announced on Thursday, have already been generally well-received by residents on social media. Not that the public has yet been told all the plans, though, because the council hasn’t quite made up its mind exactly how it is to carve up some public property.

South Norwood Library: too costly to maintain

The council wants to build what it describes as a “mixed-use development” on Station Road, at the heart of South Norwood, using the vacant site next to the Aldi supermarket. One floor of the building would replace the current, 1970s-built library. The rest of the building seems likely to be given over to flats or commercial units – shops – as part of the council’s Brick by Brick development scheme.

Keen to make its case, the council describes South Norwood Library’s current building on Selhurst Road as “outdated and inaccessible”.

“With everything on one floor rather than the current five, the proposed new building would be purpose-built and provide a flexible space that would have the same number of books as now,” the council stated this week.

“However, it would also offer more computers, more work spaces, and also allow for out-of-hours use for additional community activities, including adult learning classes.”

The council claims that the current library might require £420,000-worth of repairs and modernisation to keep it operational for 20 years.

Our loyal reader may recall that when it was convenient for the council’s developers to justify the demolition of Taberner House, the council’s office tower in the town centre, and to replace it with Fisher’s Folly, they employed a similar argument, that the existing premises were too costly to maintain. Then, it was unmentioned that the new council office building would provide massive profits for construction firms, cost £150million, and prove to be more expensive to build, per square foot of office space, than The Shard.

On this occasion, the council has attached a price tag to the new build – £500,000. But it is understood that this is just the cost of fitting out the library. There would be other costs for the shell of the building, including the Brick by Brick flats. According to a Katharine Street source, no one at the council – or in the Brick by Brick tail that continues to wag the council dog – has yet decided exactly what to do with the site of the current South Norwood Library.

The council press release this week stated: “The old building will still belong to the council and alternative uses for it will be explored to ensure the council maximises value for money and that it is eventually occupied by a suitable user group who will not be hindered by the current access issues.” Or they might just demolish the Brutalist thing for more flats…

Timothy Godfrey, the cabinet member for bookish gyms, was putting a brave face on things. “For not much more money than we need to spend to patch up the current building we can use the available budget to deliver a brand new facility that will be designed with tomorrow’s users in mind,” he said, apparently still aglow from the double whammy of getting rid of the poorly regarded Fusion as the borough’s leisure centre operators, while having a ready-made replacement for Carillion to take over Croydon’s library service.

“When we asked people for their thoughts on our libraries last year they overwhelmingly told us they wanted more services to be made available, and this proposal will allow that to happen. At a time when many councils are finding their library services under threat I’m delighted to be able to announce an investment of this nature that will deliver on our promise to protect this valuable resource for future generations.”

It is expected that the new building would be ready by 2019, meaning there is plenty of time for any issues to be worked out in discussion with library users and the local community. The survey questionnaire is available here.

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