Future of Chiswick Library Back Under Discussion

Five years of debate but are we any closer to a development?

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Concerns for the future of Chiswick library have been renewed five years on from when discussions first began.

The future of the library first came under threat after the introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA). The new legislation meant that the antiquated building needed a huge injection of capital to ensure that it met with all guidelines.

At the time the council and local company Workspace (who own and operate the Barley Mow Centre held negotiations to see if a mutually beneficial project could be organized which included plans to place the library in the basement area of the Barley Mow Centre.

However, Hounslow Council had to review these plans after Workspace pulled out of negotiations claiming the development project was uneconomical. At the time Cllr Paul Lynch, the then Chair of the Chiswick Area Committee, said, “It is great shame that all the effort by officers and residents has not resulted in a viable scheme. The work has not been wasted; the views and ideas will form part of the forthcoming strategic review.”

Fast forward to 2008 and development plans for the library have resurfaced but this time reportedly with another developer, John Laing as part of a tender process that saw CIP lose all its contracts for council services.

Responding to residents’ calls for a public consultation like the one five years ago, Leader of Hounslow Council Peter Thompson said, “Preferred bidders for three groups of services, namely parks management; libraries and arts; and leisure and community halls, have been selected to begin a contract clarification exercise involving complex and sensitive administrative, legal and financial discussions.

“While this is taking place, the Council is unable to comment further. I expect that this process will take a few weeks only. Once everything is finalised the Council will publicly launch the new contract and we will be able to respond to some of the detailed questions about Chiswick Library that have been posted.

“I am confident that the re-tendering of some of the borough’s most cherished services will result in major investment and improvement for the benefit of everyone.”

However his response has not pacified some residents who continue to demand to be consulted.

“What public consultation has there been on this, given that the Council claims to believe in transparency and public engagement?” said one resident. “Some years ago when there was a proposal to redevelop the library in partnership with The Barley Mow work centre, there was great deal of open consultation, leading to an eventual rejection of the plan.

"The process to find a contractor to manage our leisure services was carried out under European Union regulations." explains Cllr Thompson "There is no scope within this for public involvement. As part of this process all the bidders had to outline how they would deliver specific aspects of the services and this included proposals for improving our buildings such as Chiswick Library.

"It is worth stressing here that these were just proposals and that once the contract has been signed there will, of course, have to be full public consultation on how we can develop our services and on top of this the usual planning process will have to be followed."

Join the discussion on the forum here.

May 12, 2008