Over the last election campaign, which seems far more than 18 months ago, there was a lot of concern from residents in Peninsula ward and myself about the fate of the East Greenwich Library. During the election campaign, residents were led to believe that the Council had promised to secure the future of the Library in the long-term and in 2010 renovated the library.
Therefore I was a little surprised last Thursday evening to be informed at the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee, that work had started on the new Greenwich Centre (to be based on the old Greenwich Hospital site) and that “It (the centre) will replace the current East Greenwich library.”
In March 2010 greenwich.co.uk reported that “He (Cllr Fahy) added that he would continue to work with the Friends of East Greenwich Library and Ward Councillors 'to maximise a long term future for the building'”. It would appear from the report on Thursday that this ‘long term future’ will not be as a Library.
The report explained that the closure of the Arches Leisure Centre and East Greenwich Library will result from the creation of the new Greenwich Centre and implied that the buildings will be sold off to pay for this project. The report explained that the cost of modernising the Arches would be £17.6m but failed to explain why the Council had invested in repairing and improving the East Greenwich Library only to sell it off once a new centre is built.
I did ask about whether there had been any consultation about the closure of the Library but was told this would take place in the future. This seems strange as the decision to spend £30m building a new set of Council Offices and homes which the centre will be part of, has clearly already been taken. Surely any consultation will be irrelevant as the Council has already decided on the final outcome.
The closure is a real blow to those people who thought they had secured the future of this historic library which was built by the philanthropist Andrew Carnegie’s foundation and celebrated its 105th birthday last year.
The Committee was informed that plans for the new centre include:-
- 645 homes in 5 blocks (of which 314 homes will be affordable & 53 will be family homes).
- A new library
- Two new swimming pools and leisure facilities
- A new service centre
- A new Health Centre
Although the report suggested that work on the new centre would start in 2012, officers informed Councillors that holes were already being dug and the centre should take around 27 months to complete.
Cllr Spencer Drury is the leader of Greenwich Conservatives.