Successful Carnegie library bidder still opposes gym

Closure of the Carnegie library was greeted by an occupation and one of the largest demonstrations seen in Lambeth in recent years
Closure of the Carnegie library was greeted by its occupation by protesters and one of the largest demonstrations seen in Lambeth in recent years which finished in Brixton’s Windrush Square

The organisation selected by Lambeth council to take community ownership of the Carnegie library in Herne Hill says that alterations being made to it by the council and its leisure provider GLL are “poorly thought out” and will seriously damage a wonderful building.

It also criticised the way council announced its decision.

The Carnegie Community Trust (CCT) was judged by the council with “independent advice” to have submitted a stronger bid than a rival organisation, the Carnegie Library Association (CLA), that is backed by the Defend the 10 campaign which has accused the council of “stealing” the borough’s libraries.

CLA has said it will appeal against the decision.

The council’s decision said that there was a significant difference in ambition between the two groups for the building.

“The Carnegie Library Association is seeking primarily to ensure the continuation of a library service and community space akin to that in place before the closure,” it said.

“The Carnegie Herne Hill Community Trust is seeking to undertake a heritage development project of up to £5m.”

Despite being chosen by the council, CCT said it remained opposed to the idea of a gym in the library.

Planning permission and contractors have been approved for the excavation of the library’s basement to accommodate a gym which is expected to begin soon.

CCT also has “serious concerns” about other alterations Lambeth and GLL propose to make to the building before it is transferred.

“Some of these are poorly thought out,” it says, “and would seriously damage this wonderful Grade 2 listed building.”

The trust plans to meet the council and GLL to see if it can secure amendments to the proposals.

It has begun talks with the council about the terms on which the trust and GLL would occupy the building

“The trust will only proceed if and when the terms are right,” it said in a statement.

It said its intention “is to work with the community to develop a community hub offering three programmes – “Learning and Enterprise”, “Health and Wellbeing” and “Performance and Arts”.

It said it would publish a business plan when it was confident of a satisfactory outcome to discussions with the council.

It would also meet local groups, circulate a newsletter and hold a public meeting for people living in Herne Hill, Coldharbour and neighbouring areas.

“We want to throw open membership of the trust and hope many local people will join,” it said.

“We will continue to provide regular updates on our website including invitations to join CCT and to volunteer with the project.

It said the announcement by the council that CCT had been selected as the “preferred community partner” to bid for the asset transfer of the Carnegie Library building “was not handled well”.

Neither of the two bidders received official notification of the decision until after leaflets had been delivered through letterboxes in Herne Hill announcing the decision.

“We hope that future communications about the Carnegie will be better co-ordinated by the council,” the trust said.


  1. The CCT’s constitution does not allow for membership. The trust is made up of 5 self-appointed trustees; any future appointed trustees must agree with the majority or they are out. Associate membership may be possible, but only the trustees have a vote, so there cannot be democratic accountability in this unrepresentativve non-community trust.

    By contrast, CLA has 9 ethnically diverse trustees elected by the membership; there are currently 310 members and anyone who supports the aims can apply to join. The CLA business plan was published on its website months ago, following public meetings & surveys to confirm what people wanted and would support.

    By the way, we already had learning, enterprise, health, wellbeing, performance & arts when the library was open, so we have yet to see what the CCT is offering that is new, apart from vague ‘ambition’ to find £5m from somewhere.

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