Friends of Chiswick Library - Response to the special meeting of the Chiswick Area Committee on Chiswick Library held at Chiswick Town Hall September 11 2002

The Friends of Chiswick Library contributed to the discussion and listened with interest to what Councillors, Officers and the public had to say.

It became clear to us that the original plan for the new library as submitted for public consultation and discussed at the January public meeting was still the only one in existence. We had been led to believe that it 'had gone back to the drawing board' according to a statement made in July by the Leader of the Council as reported on the website. We were then given to understand that alternatives were being solicited. Now that we know that is not the case, we are anxious to be up-dated on the current situation and kept thoroughly informed about all aspects of any new proposals so that we may evaluate them.

The public deserves to be fully informed about the following:

  • 1 We need to be up-dated on the current position with respect to the negotiations between Hounslow Borough Council (HBC) and Workspace plc.
  • 2 We wish to make our own assessment of the Restrictive Covenants and the Deed of Gift by consulting the original documents regarded as important instruments of public heritage.
  • 3 We wish access to the 'independent' valuer's (Hillier Parker's) report on the scheme.
  • 4 We would like to know when the planning application is likely to be considered by the Sustainable Development Committee
  • 5 Libraries throughout the country face similar problems; we would like to know whether HBC has consulted other boroughs and the GLA as to alternative approaches.

The following is our assessment of the present position bearing in mind that essential knowledge is denied us:

  • 1 There are only 15 months between now and the beginning of 2004. This suggests that there is a degree of urgency about decision making.
  • 2 Our critique of the original plan stands. The notion of a library in the basement of a large office block is anathema; in this view we are supported by English Heritage. Complying with the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) by making public space accessible only by lift or narrow stairs is a travesty of the motivation for change.
  • 3 As Chiswick residents, we have equally strong objections to the proposed 'overdevelopment' of this site seen as a further step towards the Croydonisation of Chiswick.

Alternative suggestions

At the special meeting held on September 11 it was suggested

  • 1 That there be an open architectural competition for the new library. A resolution to this effect was passed at the meeting of the Chiswick Area Committee held on Wednesday September 25th
  • 2 It was also suggested that it would be cheaper to renovate the present library building to make most of its services accessible although this might not fulfil the requirements of space under the standards of the International Federation of Library Associations. The excellent plan for the redevelopment of Chiswick Library put forward by HBC in 1995/96 could be revisited in this regard.
  • 3 The critique of the original plan still stands: that locating public space in the basement of an office block is unacceptable. There could be discussions with Workspace to persuade them to re-draw their plans placing the Library on the ground floor.


It has been constantly reiterated that the council has no funds with which to fulfil its obligation under the DDA the third phase of which comes into force in 2004 making possible legal challenges with respect to the equal provision of service and putting certain parts of the library, especially the Reference Library and Local Studies rooms as well as the study space at risk. It remains a fact that the council has money and that its allocation is a question of priorities. We feel that the public should have some means of knowing what those priorities are and expressing its own views as to what these should be.

With respect to the idea of an open architectural competition for Chiswick's new library, sponsors including and alternative to Workspace plc could be sought. It has been suggested that Workspace could redevelop its own site and, in return for such planning permission, its share of Section 106 money be allocated for the re-building of the new library as seen fit by its administrators and users. There is an immense amount of extremely valuable private development taking place in the eastern end of the borough with a consequent increase in available Section 106 monies that could be drawn upon to fund such a scheme. A driving force behind successful social renewal in various parts of the country has been regeneration of the artistic and cultural environment: the Art Gallery in Walsall, the Baltic Exchange in Gateshead, Salford Quays, the Tate Modern. Chiswick Library presents Hounslow Borough Council with just such an opportunity.

There was considerable disgruntlement expressed at PFI at the September 11 meeting. It was regarded as inviting overdevelopment and the relegation of public amenities to the lowest order quite apart from the fact that it is storing up debt for our children to pay off. In the case of the particular deal being considered, we understand that Workspace plc would become owners/leasholders of the entire site bequeathed to the people by Sandersons.

Friends of Chiswick Library

12 September 2002

Friends remain concerned by library plans

The Friends response to Chiswick Library Development Plan

Details of Public Meeting and discussion of plans

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