Willesden Bookshop is searching for new premises after Brent council plans to develop the Willesden Green Library Centre, where it is based, into a "brand-new multi-million pound cultural centre" led to the termination of its tenancy.
Brent said the new "Willesden Green Cultural Centre" will be a state of the art cultural centre and library that will act as the main hub for council services and community activity in the south of the borough. WGCC is to be delivered "at no capital cost to taxpayers thanks to a deal struck between Brent Council and Galliford Try, one of the UK's leading construction companies, to build homes for market sale at the back of the site in return for the centre," the council said.
Work on the new centre is expected to start in September with a completion date of spring 2014. The existing Willesden Green library building is set to be demolished as part of the process and there will not be a place for the Willesden Bookshop in the new development.
Steve Adams, owner of 25-year-old bookshop, which has a strong children's section including a specialism in multicultural books, said the council had terminated the shop's lease but given it a temporary extension to August. "We are looking at local alternatives but we are fairly gloomy because local rents are amazingly high," he said. "The trade is in a state of crisis and it is very hard to be confident at looking at a new 15-year lease on commercial premises when you are probably looking at a declining market."
Adams said there was strong local opposition to the move, with over 1,000 signatures to a petition asking for the bookshop to be retained. "That's from local customers, we've been very touched," he said.
A council spokesperson said: "The council is aiming to deliver the new cultural centre at no cost to the taxpayer and it is not financially viable for the bookshop to [be] given a preferential rent there. We recognise it has many valued customers and is an important asset to Willesden Green, so we will provide as much support and assistance as possible to help them find alternative premises. Discussions about this have already begun."
Brent resident and literary agent Geraldine Cooke said: "The mealy-mouthed message from the council is an absolute disgrace. They have never begun to realise that Willesden Bookshop is providing a service to the community, not only because of the cultural diversity of its stock and the tremendous knowledge of its staff but because it also supplies most of the educational texts to all the schools, nurseries, colleges and libraries of this borough. They don't know what they've got."