Beckenham residents have until the end of the month to respond to plans that would see the current library site demolished and the service relocated to Beckenham Public Halls.
The online survey, which runs until March 31, can be accessed via the Bromley Council website here: https://bit.ly/2TOTLCa
However, a number of local residents, as well as campaign group Save Beckenham Library, have already highlighted concerns in regards to what they describe as the “loaded” nature of some of the survey’s questions. The first question, for example, reads: ‘Given the need for housing and the potential opportunity to develop the Beckenham Library Service, do you support the proposal in principle?’
A Save Beckenham Library spokesperson told News in Beckenham: “The opening question is heavily loaded and constructed in such a way to encourage participants to reply ‘yes’. It’s also very disappointing that local community groups haven’t been involved in drawing up the survey.”
Plans to replace the current Beckenham Library with 46 new homes and moving the library facility to Beckenham Halls has been met with fierce local opposition in recent months, with a Save Beckenham Library petition having garnered more than 6,100 signatures at the time of writing (https://www.change.org/p/bromley-council-save-beckenham-library).
Bromley Council state that: “It is important to note that if the council considers the proposal to be a viable proposition, there will be further formal public consultation on the recommendation.”
The feedback provided by the survey will be used in the feasibility study being undertaken to consider the proposal. The council has commissioned Bisset Adams who are working with Red Quadrant to consider the feasibility of the proposal.
The council add: “We ask that as many residents as possible respond to this survey, giving consideration to the fact that the borough needs more homes and we want to not only retain our library service but enable opportunities for it to flourish and respond to changing needs.
“We are seeking your views on this proposal, but also on what role you see libraries having in the future, so that the council can think how to make the best use of our community assets.”
Early estimations by council officers also indicate the value of the existing Beckenham Library site for housing is approximately £2million (if 50% of the units are affordable) which the council say would offset the £2million expected cost of restoring and fitting out a new library at Beckenham Public Hall.
However, a condition survey of the hall undertaken in 2014 identified backlog maintenance of around £400,000 which would need to be addressed as part of the plans.
Half of the 46 new proposed homes would be ‘affordable’ say Bromley Council, but no mention is made of any ‘social’ housing. Affordable homes should cost no more than 80% of the average local market rent according to the government.
The existing Beckenham Library was built in 1939 and some residents have expressed concerns about moving the facility to what they say is a smaller and more inferior location.