Lambeth libraries to double up as gyms

In proposals revealed on Friday, Lambeth Council announced its intention to keep Brixton’s Minet Library, along with the Carniege Library and Tate South Library, open by turning them into health centres as well as libraries.

Friends of Minet library protestDifferent to the council’s original Culture 2020 proposal, which incited community outrage at consultations, the current proposal would see the three libraries becoming multi purpose community resources, “where people will be able to access health and library services”.

During the public consultation Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL), the social enterprise company that runs Lambeth’s leisure centres proposed the creation of  an independent, not-for-profit Lambeth Cultural Trust, starting with three trial sites. The changes will be discussed at a Lambeth Cabinet Meeting on 12 October.

Whilst there may be relief in the community that Minet Library will not be sold off and will remain the home of the Lambeth Archives, the Friends of Lambeth Libraries are still extremely concerned. Speaking to the Brixton Blog, Laura Swaffield, Friends of Lambeth Libraries chair said “We’re appalled. This plan is even worse than the first one. And as it’s radically different, I don’t see how they can push it through cabinet without re-consulting everyone. It’s so badly thought out that we need lots more information before we can evaluate it.”

Speaking specifically about the new health facilities to be introduced, Laura told the Brixton Blog: “Locals are incredulous. The last thing they want is an expensive gym eating up their much-used free library space. It’s mad. Cost to set up – £2m. Cost to use – double the rate at nearby 24/7 commercial gyms. The three libraries condemned to get a gym are crammed with advice sessions and activities for all ages. That takes staff. All this will go. Instead – a zombie ‘leisure lounge’ with nobody to help you.”

The archive today, courtesy of London Borough of Lambeth, Archives Department
The archive today, courtesy of London Borough of Lambeth, Archives Department

Councillor Jane Edbrooke, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods said; “There’s no escaping the hard choices we have to make given the massive cuts to our budgets. Not everyone will welcome these proposals and there will be some job losses and changes to services. But by using much loved community buildings more imaginatively, Carnegie, Minet and Tate South Lambeth have a more secure future. It means overall, much longer opening hours and a wider range of facilities and activities, including books and study space.”

As well as the future of the Minet, Carnegie and Tate South libraries, future plans for other Lambeth Libraries were also announced. There will be no change to our statutory town centre library services in Brixton, Streatham, Clapham and West Norwood. These libraries will remain staffed by the council and  a new town centre library in West Norwood at the Nettlefold Hall has been proposed, subject to planning permission.

Waterloo Library will close by April 2016 but the plan is to partner with Oasis Charitable Trust to provide a neighbourhood library service at the Oasis Centre on Kennington Road , along with wider community benefits including the Waterloo Foodbank, Oasis debt advice service and Credit Union and a space for community activities including a gym and sports hall.


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