Plans unveiled to ‘save libraries’: Bulldozers will not be coming to Gants Hill library to demolish it says Redbridge Council

The gallery will open in Spring 2019. Picture: Google Maps

The gallery will open in Spring 2019. Picture: Google Maps

Bulldozers will not be sent to five different locations to “desecrate” libraries in the borough under plans for regional community hubs, Redbridge Council confirmed.

Speaking at an overview committee meeting on Monday, November 12, Councillor Shoaib Patel said consultation would take place with residents and the proposals are at an early stage.

“We are at a preliminary stage at the moment, it is due diligence to fact find,” he said.

“Residents aren’t going to see bulldozers going to five different locations to desecrate libraries in the borough in the next three to six months.”

Ilford Recorder unveiled plans for Gants Hill library to become a purpose-built residential housing complex with GP, police and book facilities last week after the local authority released the cabinet meeting agenda.

The site will be one of five council clusters in the borough and would be headed up by redeveloped council offices in Ilford.

The hubs which could include a library, social care services, enforcement, police and GPs all under one roof are envisioned as purpose-built facilities at Gants Hill library, Seven king car park, Wanstead library, Ashtons Playing Fields, and Hainault library.

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Deputy leader, Councillor Kam Rai said: “As residents we face a stark choice, protect our libraries through creating better visited improved multi use amenities, or do nothing and see them close down when further government cuts bite.”

Leader of the council, Councillor Jas Athwal added that there would be a borough-wide consultation about the hubs with information through “every letterbox” and residents would be involved in designing it.

“In November 2010, when austerity wasn’t even in most people’s vocabulary, at the first budget that the governing administration had they said we can’t afford to have libraries and the Conservatives proposed to close it.

“I am really adamant, not on my watch.

“I want to strengthen them so when someone else is sitting here in five or 10 years and they have to make difficult decisions, libraries won’t be an option.”

He said he wants to keep library services and make them even better for the Redbridge of today and turn them into really busy hubs with police and health units .

A member of the public said while the idea of strengthening the library seemed like a good idea, he was concerned by the “large residential” offering that accompanied the site that was mentioned in the proposals.

Cllr Athwal said there was no fixed number of houses at this stage.

The hubs were just proposals and would be consulted on and he didn’t expect them to be higher than the parade of shops next to the library which contains Faces nightbclub.

He said when new building are proposed everyone has this barometer of pioneer point as the default worst-case scenario.

But he stated that most of the people at the overview meeting weren’t involved in the decision to build it.

Councillor Ruth Clark said she had seen old plans for Gants Hill library and it was originally meant to be built as a two-storey development.

She said the building has strong enough foundations for a taller structure than the one that currently exists.

But she thanked the leader for explaining what was going on and allaying her concerns about a high-density development and said she supported the idea of hubs.

Chairman of the overview committee and leader of Redbridge Conservatives, Councillor Linda Huggett said she supports the plans in principle but the “devil is in the detail”.

She said one of the locations for the hubs - Ashton Playing Field - was prone to flooding and asked if the locations were fixed in stone.

“In principle, I support community hubs but I can’t support all of the recommendations that go with it” she said.

She also asked the room why the six hubs (including the central site in Ilford) were chosen and added:”I’m not convinced that there shouldn’t be more hubs in the borough.”

The committee voted in favour of the recommendations with two councillors against them.

Cabinet will vote on the ideas at a meeting tonight (Tuesday, November 13).