Highgate Library campaigners consider legal action

Supporters of Highgate Library grilled Jacksons Lane managers after viewing relocation plans for the

Supporters of Highgate Library grilled Jacksons Lane managers after viewing relocation plans for the first time. Picture: JON KING - Credit: Archant

Campaigners have begged an arts centre to abandon plans to relocate a much loved library at a packed public meeting.

Supporters of Highgate Library in Shepherd’s Hill told Jacksons Lane theatre met Jacksons Lane theatre bosses as the designs for the relocation were revealed for the first time on Thursday.

About 40 library users listened to architect Katy Marks outline options including moving the 110-year-old library into Jacksons Lane’s theatre space.

But in a heated exchange afterwards, supporters pleaded with Jacksons Lane to leave their 110-year-old library alone and take up a council pledge to match fund an Arts Council England bid instead of raising millions from the Shepherd’s Hill plot’s sale.

Urging Jacksons Lane to kick the relocation plan out, Tamara Cincik said: “We are very nervous about a council that is not listening to us. I’m begging you to take the offer.”

Explaining Jacksons Lane approached the council to secure the future of both venues, trustee Adam Garfunkel said: “It could increase the footfall and library use which would safeguard the service.”

In reply, ex-barrister Natasha Sivanadan said: “It only became at risk after you put the idea forward. Everybody excited by this has a vested interest.”

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Campaigner Alan Wylie added: “Footfall for libraries is a noose around their necks. It’s not the most important thing, which is impact and outcome.

“If you align libraries with leisure and arts you are moving away from their core purpose of education and learning.

“I don’t believe the double speak. There’s a bigger development proposal somewhere.”

Katy Marks was forced to defend an architectural feasibility study led by Jacksons Lane and her firm that campaigners had attacked as a whitewash.

And when Ms Sivanandan asked who decided if the relocation was feasible, a fellow trustee was forced to apologise after Mr Garfunkel shocked listeners telling his questioner to “calm down”.

Warning that if the privately run venue went bust in the future the library could cease to exist, Ms Sivanandan said: “We want Jacksons Lane to flourish.

“But you will not close our library. If we have to take legal action against Jacksons Lane we will.”