Highgate Library campaigners divided over relocation proposal

Supporters of Highgate Library in Shepherd's Hill meet to discuss a current relocation proposal. Pic

Supporters of Highgate Library in Shepherd's Hill meet to discuss a current relocation proposal. Picture: TAMARA CINCIK - Credit: Archant

A plan to relocate a 110-year-old library is causing consternation among users and led to a split among campaigners.

Highgate Library

Highgate Library - Credit: Archant

In April Haringey Council announced a proposal to move the Shepherd’s Hill service to arts venue Jackson’s Lane in Archway Road.

Only two days before the results of a feasibility study are published, the council has upset library supporters by scheduling a meeting for today to discuss an “in principle” decision to transfer the library and sell the exisiting site “if there is a viable case for doing so”.

Chair of Highgate Library Action Group (HLAG) Susan Chinn said: “It seems they have pre-judged it and want to sell. It’s in bad faith to do this before there’s any decision on the feasibility study. It’s not fair or right.”

HLAG – set up to fight off a closure threat in 1988 – takes the position the library should remain at its present site, but, Susan said: “We’re duty bound to find out what the best thing to do is.”

But the campaigners’ stance has split HLAG and forced a vote of no confidence in its chair with a second group of library users – The Friends of Highgate Library – taking the view the proposal should be fought outright.

Commenting on the vote, Susan said: “It was horrible in one way, but perfectly reasonable.”

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Having survived the vote, Susan, who lives in Highgate, said: “My committee were absolutely wonderful. They were supporting me in every way. But it’s better to be united. Hopefully, when the dust settles there will be more people interested in helping.”

On the breakaway group, she added: “We don’t want to stop them. It’s raising awareness.”

Friends of Highgate Library member Tamara Cincik – whose petition against the proposal has so far been signed by almost 1,000 supporters – explained how the group are calling on Jackson’s Lane to find redevelopment funds without “the library being put at risk”.

The group understands the arts centre’s bid for funding from the Arts Council England would be strengthened if it was included although Jackson’s Lane state their original proposal “was sent months ago and did not refer to it”.

Explaining the break from HLAG, Tamara said: “There wasn’t the space for us to speak within that group.

“We’re all for Jackson’s Lane having the fabulous provision they want, but that doesn’t mean the library needs to be sacrificed.

“The whole chain of events is in reverse order,” she added.

Speaking for the council, Cllr Bernice Vanier, cabinet member for adult social care and culture, said: “We are committed to maintaining and improving all of Haringey’s nine libraries, which is why we have already made significant investment.

“We welcome proposals such as this, which could help improve Highgate’s library and culture facilities; make the library and its community activities fully accessible for all visitors, and drive up visitor numbers with more people making use of both an improved library and the great range of facilities and activities on offer at Jacksons Lane.

“We’re clear that a relocation will only go ahead if we’re confident that it will mean an improved library for residents, and we look forward to seeing the detailed design proposals for an improved Highgate library,” she added.