Building set for inclusion on development list
A 'Save Wimbledon Library' campaign has been started after the town centre building was placed on a list of potential development sites.
Merton Council has included the historic building in Wimbledon Hill Road in their 'Sites and Policies Plan' which it plans to submit to the Government for approval for 'mixed use' development.
That has sparked the campaign to safeguard the future of the library, and a protest involving up to 40 residents and councillors took place outside it on Monday (July 22).
But Councillor Andrew Judge, Cabinet Member for Environmental Sustainability and Regeneration, has said that council is committed to having a library in the town centre.
But the library building (left) is included on the list as a better town centre site may become available in the future for a library and community facility, he said.
The library's inclusion on the council's Sites and Policies Plan was discussed at a full council meeting on July 10. A Conservative amendment to recommend the library was retained and improved, with access from Wimbledon Hill Road, with potential other use on the rest of the site, was turned down.
An e-petition has now been set up to campaign for the library's removal from the Sites and Policies Plan.
Councillor Judge said: "We are committed to a first class Library in Wimbledon town centre. We are committed to
retaining the rather beautiful 'Arts and Crafts' building on the present site.
"However, we do not know what opportunities will occur in Wimbledon town centre over the next few years and if a site became available that enabled us to build a much better library and community facility in the middle of the town centre, we would want to examine it seriously."
Merton Council cabinet member for community and culture Councillor Nick Draper added: "There is absolutely no truth in the bizarre rumour that Wimbledon Library could close, or change its use as it stands today. In fact, the opposite is true. We are fully committed to Wimbledon Library and will be investing in it and improving it over the next year
"We are one of the only councils in London who have kept all their libraries open in these tough economic times, and we have actually extended our opening hours. We have a very successful, award winning service and we're continually improving with the recent installation of WiFi and the launch of e-books and e-magazines."
A Conservative spokesman said: "Conservative councillors were alarmed at the prospect that no guarantee was offered over the future of the library or that its historic frontage would be protected from inappropriate development. The recent restoration work on the library has highlighted the importance of this building to Wimbledon and its loss to commercial organisations would be tragic."
The Tories also argued that the New Wimbledon Theatre car park and Hartfield Road car parks should not be included in the plan. And they warned that Wimbledon Park residents were concerned about the impact of noise, traffic and flooding with potential development at Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium - also included in the plan.
Following Monday's protest, Councillor Samantha George, the Conservatives' Library and Culture Spokesman, said: "The spontaneous response from residents just proves how precious Wimbledon Library is to our community. Residents have set up a website and a petition to campaign against these plans.
"This is the most used Library in the whole of the borough, with some 6,000 residents using it a week. I hope all of those residents will sign the petition and insist that we want to safeguard the library's future – keeping it on its current site."
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July 25, 2013