‘No alternative’ but high court action, say library campaigners

Campaigners have issued an ultimatum to Camden Council to reconsider library closures or face High Court action.

Campaigners have issued an ultimatum to Camden Council to reconsider library closures or face High Court action.

In a shot across the bows to the council, the action group has called for it to reconsider its decision to close Chalk Farm, Belsize and Heath libraries by April next year, or potentially face a judicial review. Camden Public Libraries Users Group (CPLUG) claims the council’s consultation process was rigged and no alternatives to keep the libraries open were considered.

The group’s chairman Alan Templeton said: “We have no alternative, we have run out of options and the council has blocked every path we have tried to take. They have simply refused to compromise on anything in scrutiny committees, cabinet meetings, extraordinary meetings and call-ins.

“We have tried to find common ground but each time the council has said no.

“The consultation process was carried out with a predetermined outcome and the council was just doing it to justify their original decision to close the libraries.”

He added that solicitors firm Bindmans, which is also carrying out a judicial review for six library closures in neighbouring Brent, said it was “totally confident” of securing a hearing at High Court.

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Bindmans warned in its letter to the council: “The letter outlines why those decisions and the associated ongoing failure are unlawful. It represents an opportunity for the council to reconsider its position, withdraw the decisions and agree to reconsider matters properly avoiding the need for the Administrative Court’s involvement.”

If the council refuses to negotiate, CPLUG will lodge papers for a judicial review which will be considered by a judge.

A council spokesman said �2million needed to be cut from the libraries budget and a review, consulting 6,000 people, led to the decision to close the three libraries.

He said: “The council has received a letter from Bindmans LLP acting on behalf of the Camden Public Libraries User Group and will be considering the contents before responding in due course.”

While CPLUG, an umbrella group for the three libraries, holds out for a last-minute U-turn, the Friends of Heath Library are plotting a course for the library’s survival. Campaigners are holding an action meeting in the library in Keats Grove on Wednesday (October 19) at 8pm where all library users are invited to air their ideas to keep the library open.