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Relocate Waterloo Library and sell Lower Marsh site, says commission

Waterloo Library could be relocated and its Lower Marsh site sold to property developers if Lambeth Council accepts the recommendations of a commission considering the future of the borough's libraries.

Relocate Waterloo Library and sell Lower Marsh site, says commission

Next week Lambeth's cabinet will consider the report of the the Lambeth Libraries Commission which was established in May 2011 to undertake a detailed review of the library services within the borough as it seeks to find savings of 750,000 over the next two years.

"It is no secret that the library service has not always met the needs and aspirations of the borough's communities and the scale of the financial challenge faced by the council compounds this problem," says Cllr Florence Nosegbe, cabinet member for culture, sport and 2012 games.

"That is why we set up the Libraries Commission, to help us understand these challenges and hear from experts, other councils, staff and importantly residents and communities about how we can face them head on and, in doing so, make the library service better."

The commission's report is clear that Waterloo Library should be relocated and the site sold: "Touring the site, the commission recognised that space was cramped with little scope to diversify or expand the range of services available at this current location.

"Such is the limited space, the commission felt that even using investment to reconfigure the existing space could not deliver a vast improvement in the library offer.

"At present, Waterloo accounts for 3.3 per cent of overall visits to the library service and with current opening hours and consideration of the limited scope for making a dramatic improvement in usage the commission considered that the community would not be best served by maintaining a library service in the existing building."

The commission acknowledges the "passionate submissions" made by groups such as the Friends of Waterloo Library and the Waterloo Community Development Group.

The report continues: "However, faced with the reality of these difficult challenges versus the commission's commitment to modernising and improving the library service for Lambeth's residents, the commission believes that a strong case exists to relocate library services in Waterloo to a new building that meets the requirements of a modern, forward thinking library offer."

The report calls for "open and inclusive" discussions about the relocation of the library. It also moots the possibility that the local library service could return to its traditional home in the building now known as Waterloo Action Centre.

According to the commission, "WAC is a large space with significant potential to expand its current offer and range of activities to become and increasingly busy and vibrant community hub.

"The commission believes that the space at this location provides opportunities for library service activities. These could include library services for children, space for study and/or events for users of all ages all of which are currently impossible for the existing library."

The report also notes that the present library occupies a "prime location" in Lower Marsh which is likely to have "significant value". The commission recommends that, should it be sold, "a significant proportion of the capital receipt from the sale is reinvested in the library service".

The commission's report also floats the possibility of a new library being provided as part of the proposed redevelopment of the Oasis Centre at the corner of Kennington Road and Westminster Bridge Road.

"The commission recognises that due to its proximity to central London that the north of the borough presents the best opportunity to potentially provide a new library offer as part of a redevelopment scheme.

"One such example that the commission was made aware of is that of the Oasis Centre opposite Lambeth North underground station to host the library service and community hub in a redevelopment in the medium term to long term."

"However, the local community will ultimately make any decisions regarding the relocation of the service."

Lambeth's cabinet is not expected to agree to immediate implementation of the commission's suggestions for Waterloo.

The report to be voted on by cabinet members recommends that they "note the commission's recommendations on the need for capital investment and agree that further detailed work is undertaken to feed into the council's capital programme for decision on priority projects as resources become available.

"This may involve the disposal of the current Waterloo Library site and the re-provision of a service in Waterloo in an alternative location."

The commission's other recommendations include the provision of wifi in every Lambeth library.

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