Councillors approve plans for a bigger and better Northcote Library

Published: 22 September 2017

Residents living in and around Battersea’s Northcote Road could soon be able to visit a bigger and better library in the heart of their neighbourhood.

Earlier this week councillors backed proposals to replace the existing 1960s library building with a new larger and better public library and community centre offering a wider range of services.

The decision follows a comprehensive public consultation earlier this year which showed clear support for a modern new library building, but also prompted some important design changes from the originally published plans.

The latest proposals are for a modern three storey library, incorporating an improved children’s section complete with buggy parking space, enlarged study accommodation, self serve kiosks for book loans, upgraded computer and digital learning areas and a coffee and drinks outlet next to the section containing newspapers, magazine and periodicals.

The existing library building that fronts Northcote Road is now nearly 50 years old and was built at a time when library services were much more limited in their scope. Its design is outdated by modern standards, it offers restricted and inflexible space for shelving, no space for computers on the ground floor, suffers poor ventilation and lacks natural light. It also has inadequate disabled access, no space for prams or buggies and unsatisfactory toilet and baby changing facilities.

The new library would offer 705 square metres of usable space compared with the existing 605sqm. The new children’s section would be 30sqm larger than at present while the general library area would be about 40sqm larger than the space that’s available in the existing building.

The new library building would also incorporate a separate community centre for use by local groups, including a nursery. It would also create a new business suite on its second floor offering small businesses and the self-employed state-of-the-art communications technologies, adaptable work spaces and meeting rooms for hire.

Subject to further viability studies, public consultation and planning permission, the new library and community centre would be built on land currently occupied by council-owned garages that adjoin Staplehurst Court and the Chatham Hall community space.

Chatham Hall was built in the 1950s and will also soon require extensive refurbishment. The council’s plans to build a modernised larger replacement would allow a better kitchen and new toilets to be installed, while the usable community space would increase from 275sqm to 320sqm.

The council is working with all the local groups that currently use Chatham Hall to help them find alternative accommodation if these plans proceed. The ambition would be for space in the new building to be offered to these groups once again when the building works had finished.

The construction costs would be met by building residential units and retail space on the existing library site, along with some flats on the Chatham Hall and garages site. During construction the current library would remain fully open to the public until the new one was ready to open its doors.

Incorporating housing into the scheme would mean that the new upgraded library and community centre could be provided at minimum cost to local council tax payers.

As a result of the feedback received during the consultation, the number of flats in the new library scheme has been reduced from nine to seven, reducing the visual impact on neighbouring properties in Bramfield Road.

In addition the earlier proposed balconies for properties overhanging the passageway between Rainham Close and the garages have also been removed and there will no longer be pedestrian access to the new building from Rainham Close. People purchasing or renting the new homes would not be eligible for parking permits, ensuring no added pressure on local parking provision.

On the current library site in Northcote Road, nine flats are now proposed along with two shop units.

The council’s community services spokesman Cllr Jonathan Cook said: “Our aim is to build a bigger and better library with an improved children’s section, alongside a new and improved community centre, able to offer much better accommodation to the groups that currently use it.

“The current library was built in 1969 and by today’s standards, is terribly inefficient in its layout and use of space. We’ve looked into whether or not it could be refurbished to bring it up to modern standards but this would be prohibitively expensive and would still leave a small, cramped building with sub-standard amenities and there is no budget available to pay for such a project.

“The community space at Chatham Hall is also contained within an ageing building that will soon need upgrading. Our proposals would see it completely revamped, with a much bigger main hall alongside upgraded kitchen facilities and new toilets.

“For those groups that currently use the hall we are committed to doing all we can to help them find alternative accommodation while building work is underway. 

“This is a sensible and cost effective use of the council’s property portfolio. It means providing much needed new homes for Londoners plus a modern new library and community centre at minimal cost to local tax payers.

“At a time when many councils in London and elsewhere are closing down libraries and curtailing services to save money we are looking to expand and improve our provision to give our residents a bigger and better Northcote library that’s fit for the 21st century.”

  • The popularity of Wandsworth’s library service – and the need to keep pace with the needs of local people - was highlighted by recent figures which showed that last year was another record year for local libraries with the largest number of book issues in the capital.

The figures from public service accountancy body CIPFA show that in 2015/2016, Wandsworth residents were London’s most dedicated library users, borrowing more than 1.4m books.

Earlsfield Library has recently been completely redecorated, Battersea Library has been upgraded and the children’s library at Tooting has been completely refurbished. Work has now started on a brand new Wandsworth Town library while plans are being drawn up to replace another two branches at York Gardens and Roehampton with new state-of-the-art buildings offering a wider range of services.

There has also been investment in new e-resources and software, new systems to help people get the latest books as quickly and easily as possible. Link-ups with other organisations including Citizens Advice Wandsworth have enabled people to access other public services in their local branch.