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Highgate Library’s supporters furious at council sale decision

PUBLISHED: 16:12 21 June 2017 | UPDATED: 16:33 21 June 2017

Supporters of Highgate Library, in Shepherd's Hill, after Haringey Council's cabinet meeting to disucss an

Supporters of Highgate Library, in Shepherd's Hill, after Haringey Council's cabinet meeting to disucss an "in principle" decision to sell off its building. Picture: JON KING

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Supporters of a library faced with relocation are up in arms after discovering there are no plans to hold a full public consultation and an “in principle” decision to sell its site was approved.

Councillors were heckled during the meeting with one supporter in the public gallery shouting, Councillors were heckled during the meeting with one supporter in the public gallery shouting, "You guys put the supreme soviet to shame". Picture: JON KING

Members of two campaign groups – the Friends of Highgate Library and Highgate Library Action Group (HLAG) – sent deputations to Haringey Council’s cabinet meeting on Tuesday ahead of a vote on an “in principle” decision to sell and dispose of the Shepherd’s Hill library.

Already angry at the council for taking a decision before the publication of a feasibility study over a relocation to Jacksons Lane arts venue, campaigners accused cabinet members of failing in their legal duty and being in breach of Nolan’s ethical standards.

Speaking after the meeting, the Friends of Highgate Library’s Tamara Cincik said: “We are very upset the council seem so quick to agree to a sale in principle and are talking about an “engagement” not full public consultation. I’m really angry.”

During a heated meeting in which council leader Clare Kober was heckled from the public gallery, members of each support group had three minutes to persuade councillors to vote against.

Speaking for the Friends, Natasha Sivanadan told councillors: “Taking a decision tonight is wrong because it’s premature. There’s been no public consultation therefore bypassing local democracy and accountability.

“When we destroy libraries we destroy people’s memories and aspirations, their sense of community. Highgate Library is a thriving public asset. Well loved, well used and we oppose its closure.”

Ms Sivanandan further questioned the feasibility study claiming its author – the architect contracted to draw up the relocation plans – had a vested interest in seeing the move go ahead.

Before calling on cabinet to withdraw the agenda item, HLAG chair Sue Chinn said: “It would be incredibly difficult for Jacksons Lane, the architect and HLAG to develop a feasibility study with any integrity if this resolution goes ahead. The public does not trust the process. Any supporter of the library will draw the conclusion that, whatever happens, Haringey plans to sell the site.”

Following the supporters’ speeches there were no questions from councillors.

Cllr Kober said: “I understand people feel strongly about this. We will conduct the feasibility study with an open mind.

“We need to be clear about providing some comfort to the Arts Council England that we will go ahead with this, but we do see that it’s caused a lot of concern.

“Should the feasibility study suggest that moving the library is not the best way forward we will find match funding from elsewhere. If the scheme proves not to be feasible we will not dispose of the existing library site.”

Challenged on why the council was considering the “in principle” decision to dispose of the building by Cllr Clive Carter, Cllr Kober repeated her view the Arts Council England needed reassurance.

“We don’t intend to sell regardless,” she said.

Asked if there would be a public consultation before a decision was made, library supporters were told the council would “engage with all users in terms of what the offer would look like should that go ahead”.

In a closed session councillors later approved the resolution.

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