The trust negotiating with Lambeth council to take over the assets of the Carnegie library in Herne Hill has said that there must be changes to a deal between the council and its leisure provider GLL before it can agree to go ahead.
Negotiations between the Carnegie Community Trust (CCT) and the council have been going on since July and the trust said in mid-August that it was finding it “very difficult” to get through to the council “the need to work in partnership with us and the community”.
Lambeth council has agreed that GLL can excavate the basement of its former library building to create a gym there.
CCT said in August that GLL and the council were insisting that no rent would be paid for the basement until 2022, after which a rent “well below the market value” would be offered.
The trust said it had been advised that such an arrangement would contravene charity law; be likely to make capital funding for the restoration of the building impossible to secure; and leave a significant shortfall in the anticipated revenue stream.
In its latest public statement on the negotiations, CCT says that it has been “strongly advised” that unless GLL can pay it a “market rent”, the legal structure for the asset transfer should ensure that the council makes good any deficit.
It suggests that the council could pay a market rent for the basement to CCT and enter into its own arrangement with GLL.
An independent valuation which supports the rent figures included in its business plan for the takeover is complete and is with its solicitor, the trust said.
Other requirements set out in the CCT’s public statement include work to improve the “negative impact” on the ground and first floors of the building created by a design that has already been given planning consent.
The trust said that, if necessary, consent for new plans might need to be sought.
Existing planning consent does not allow for self-employed business use of parts of the building, which is the other key income stream in the CCT’s business plan, “so this will need to be re-instated”.
The trust has suggested in the past that the council was rushing to get the building open again with a “community library” in it before local elections, which are due in May next year.
It has warned against a rushed approach to community ownership of the building which it wants to refurbish with a Lottery grant.
Defend the Ten, a campaign which is opposed to the plans of both CCT and the council, has started a public countdown to the election, highlighting its demand that the Carnegie building be reopened as a fully staffed library.
If the council could not reach agreement with CCT, its handling of the Carnegie library might develop from a PR headache into something worse.