Residents feel ‘blackmailed’ into backing Gants Hill hub plans but Redbridge Council says it is trying to save libraries

Barkingside Action Team meeting at Tory HQ. Picture: Ellena Cruse

Barkingside Action Team meeting at Tory HQ. Picture: Ellena Cruse - Credit: Archant

Residents say they feel “blackmailed” into backing the Gants Hill hub plans for fear they will be left without a library service.

Residents attended Barkingside Action Team's meeting and Gants Hill hub came up on the agenda. Pictu

Residents attended Barkingside Action Team's meeting and Gants Hill hub came up on the agenda. Picture: Ellena Cruse - Credit: Archant

Speaking at a Barkingside Action Team meeting at Redbridge Conservatives HQ, Kartik Parekh said constituents feel threatened into giving feedback when there is not enough detail about the proposals.

"Our concern is that if the residents say no to a new hub and flats, this administration will close our library and blame residents and government cuts when the truth is they find funding for plenty of other things," he said.

"Leader of the council Mr Athwal said at a local forum on November 8th that residents would have a say if the current building stays in its current format but the consultation just focuses on the services and not the building."

Mr Parekh added that demolition and plans to build around 100 houses on the site and car park are a massive concern for those living in the vicinity.

One Glenham Drive resident said a large section of the community use the library in Cranbrook Road and everyone wants to keep it.

"How big is it [the flats development] going to be?" she asked.

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"It just seems like it will be a concrete mass - do you really want it as you drive through Gants Hill?"

Redbridge Conservative leader, Councillor Linda Hugget said she finds the lack of information provided by the council "concerning".

"Yes, hubs are a good idea but not at the cost of the community," she said.

"The devil is in the detail and we don't have any."

GLA member for Redbridge and Havering Keith Prince added: "We need honesty and we need to see what the options are," he said.

"If you have 100 homes, what library service are you going to get? And if you have none what library service will you get?

"Give us transparency and then residents can take a position on it."

A member of the public said they don't have faith that the little park by the library will be saved after the council agreed to build on part of a park in Manford Way. Hainault.

But council leader Jas Athawl responded: "The continual spreading of fear by the Tories and their members is shameful.

"They are members of the council and have never offered solutions, rarely attend cabinet and therefore contribute little to solving the problem we all have, the continual cut to funding from the shambolic Tory government and the impact it has on our borough.

"These are the same Tories who wanted to close libraries nine years ago when austerity had only begun. We fought to save Goodmayes Library and have protected every other one.

"Hubs are another way to protect and improve local services like libraries for the long term and all the public reports since last year have explained how they might be financed, including residential or commercial development."

The leader added the consultation stage is for the services within them, and the next stage will provide design ideas,

"Their government cuts our funding, cuts police funding they say nothing. We try and deal with the mess they create and the Tories waste time misleading the public."