Kensal Rise Library is set to open for the first time in five years this weekend, with a community open day.
The library was closed by Brent Council in 2011 and denied permission for a community library in the space, becoming a flashpoint for library campaigners, with authors such as Alan Bennett, Philip Pullman, Jacqueline Wilson and Zadie Smith throwing their backing behind the campaign to reopen the library.
However, the council returned control of the building to its freeholder, All Souls College Oxford, who sold it, with the condition that a community space must remain in the building, to property developers Platinum Revolver. After initially failing to gain planning permission to convert the majority of the building to flats, a deal was struck with the Friends of Kensal Rise Library (FKRL) and planning permission was granted. The property has since been sold to Uplift Properties, which specialises in the conversion of Victorian buildings, who will convert the building into flats, maintaining a library and community space on the ground floor, which will be run by the FKRL.
Margaret Bailey, chair of the FKRL said: "Residents know how significant this moment is for the community. It has been a long and hard-fought campaign and we can now look forward to having the library at the heart of Kensal Rise once more. We have been in talks with Uplift Properties and we believe that their refurbishment will be sympathetic and they have taken seriously the importance of the library and public space for this community.”
Peter Cadwallader, director of Uplift Properties said: "We are delighted to have the opportunity to restore this lovely building in a way which not only creates new homes but allows the community to bring back a much loved library and gathering place after a long and effective campaign. We have the upmost respect for the history associated with the building and the determined campaigning shown by locals to maintain a library service in the area."
Author Maggie Gee, a long-time supporter of the campaign, said: "The community – schoolchildren, parents, teenagers, old people – has fought long and doggedly for the library. The Kensal Rise Library campaign has had to fight Brent Council, All Soul' College Oxford, the excessive plans of the original developer, and took the legal battle as far as the High Court. They never gave up and, even after the library's doors closed, kept books available to everyone with a Pop-Up library, even when there was snow on the ground."
A community open day to show off the building will be held this Saturday (6th June) between 1pm and 4pm.