Set back in battle to save Hampstead library

Plans for residents to run Heath Library have suffered a set back as campaigners have revealed negotiations with the landlord have been “slow and difficult”.

The Keats Community Library group appeared poised to take up the reins at the library after Camden Council last month pledged �50,000 to help get the project off the ground.

But negotiations between the group and landlords the City of London Corporation, which owns the library building, have reached a stumbling block over the amount of space which should be given to the project and the length of the lease.

Actor and Hampstead resident Lee Montague said: “Our negotiations with the City of London have been disappointingly slow and difficult.

“We are convinced that the City is really committed to our library, so it is sad to report that after many weeks, we have yet to have an offer of a licence which is more than one year or covering several of the key issues in terms of sharing space in what is their building.”

Heath Library in Keats Grove, Hampstead, was one of three Camden libraries that had their core funding axed by the council under controversial spending cuts.

Determined residents quickly mobilised to save the much-loved service, and put together a business plan which won approval from the council.

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The delay is a blow for the project, which has received pledges of support from 500 residents, many of whom had promised to volunteer their time and skills to make the scheme work.

City of London spokesman Greg Williams would not comment on the details of the negotiations, but insisted talks had not stalled.

He said: “We have to proceed with caution. It is an important national asset that we have to preserve.

“Many people want to use that building and we need to find a use that is sustainable, protects the memory of Keats and the principles of the charity.”

The developments came as author Deborah Moggach entertained fans at the Everyman Cinema in Belsize Park last Sunday (February 26) with a Q&A session after the screening of a highly acclaimed film based on her novel.

The movie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, is based on the Hampstead author’s book These Foolish Things.

The screening was organised to raise money for Keats Community Library, of which Ms Moggach is a patron.