Campaigners offered space in Kensal Rise library building

Campaigners offered space in Kensal Rise library building

The Friends of Kensal Rise Library look set to be running a community library on the ground floor of their original library building, after coming to an agreement with the building's owner and developer.

The new agreement means that the Friends group will support the proposed re-development of the building into flats, but will have provision for two-thirds of the building's ground floor to be used as a community library.

If the plans receive planning approval from Brent Council, the Friends group will be the preferred tenant of the library building's owner, All Souls College, Oxford, and developer, Andrew Gillick of Kensal Properties Ltd.

Margaret Bailey, chair of the Friends of Kensal Rise Library, said: "It has been a long road and we've had many setbacks over the last few years. Since Brent Council announced the plan to close local libraries in 2010 we have fought every step of the way: in the high court, in the council chamber and in the streets outside our library. We now hope this agreement will eventually enable us to restore a sorely-missed focus of our neighbourhood. We have not taken lightly the decision to enter into the agreement. However, we think it is the best chance we have of ensuring that a library continues to function in the building for the community of Kensal Rise and Kensal Green."

She added: "We are glad that the developer and All Souls College have committed to allowing a larger space to hold a volunteer-run, community library. If we can rebuild some goodwill on both sides we believe we can work together to re-establish the library service and make it better than ever. That is the least this community deserves and the Save Kensal Rise Library campaign will continue until we reach this objective."

A pop-up library which has been running in the building for two years was destroyed in January this year. The library has had several celebrity supporters over the years, including Zadie Smith, Alan Bennett and Philip Pullman.

Plans from the developer to convert the building into flats were rejected in September 2013, but new plans are expected to be submitted soon.

Cllr Roxanne Mashari, Brent Council’s lead member for libraries, said: “I commend the trustees of FKRL for the perseverance and courage they have shown along this journey and it has been my pleasure to help and support them wherever I can. The FKRL continue to have my full support and I look forward to working with them to establish and maintain a sustainable community library in Kensal Rise”.

Some supporters of the library have struck a note of caution. Jodi Gramigni, a former trustee of the Friends of Kensal Rise, told The Bookseller: "The campaign deserves every credit for how hard they've worked and what they've achieved, but I don't think this agreement represents a win for the community yet. There is no legal obligation to allow the library into the space, just an agreement that follows if the campaign backs the planning application to turn the building into flats.

"If the building becomes flats, then it will be very hard for it to be considered as a community asset again. And the space allowed for a library is poor - very small compared to overall floor plan, with very limited facilities and a new entrance constructed through a chimney flue. It would be brilliant if a proper library could return to the building, and I don't think it will be a win for the community until that happens."