Exclusive. The following requests were put to Brent Council as official Freedom of Information requests by a concerned resident about Brent Council's plan to demolish Willesden Green Library Centre:
1. A list of meetings where proposals to rebuild WG Library Centre have been discussed
2. minutes for these meetings
3. any documents that have been prepared relating to these proposals. If it does not breach section 12 costs, then this is to include emails. If cost limits are breached, then please exclude email discussions, but include all attached documents.
4. the complete costings for the refurbishment of the library, broken down by year, since 2005.
Their initial response only addressed question 2 as follows:
"Following careful consideration, I regret to inform you that we have decided not to disclose this information. The exemption applied is section 36 Prejudice to effective conduct of Public Affairs. This exemption applies as the requested information is commercially sensitive and the meetings were in a "pre-application planning process".
Further correspondence and request for clarification for the exact reasons cited from those possible under Section 36, and for an Internal Review (another official in the Council to review the decision), produced a partial response as follows:
"We can let you have information in relation to question 4 and the attached report which went to the Executive this week, although I appreciate you will be interested in those Appendices which are not publicly available. I am afraid the remainder will need to await the Internal Review."
"The only refurbishment we had was in the year 2006 and it cost in the region of £700,000. The second one was the Archive move to Willesden and this was for £70,000 for over 2 financial years."
Click the link to see the project plan for Willesden Green Library Centre demolition and rebuilding council offices and housing.
"Summary 1.1. This paper outlines redevelopment options for the Willesden Green Library site. It sets out proposals for the comprehensive redevelopment of the entire site into a mixed used scheme to include a new bespoke flagship Council building with housing. The new Council building would provide a vibrant cultural hub for the south of the borough and have a customer facing offer. The purpose of this report is to gain the necessary approvals required to test the market and establish if the redevelopment of Willesden Green Library can be delivered at zero net capital cost to the Council."
There is a plan to dispose of some of the land backing Chambers Lane, presumably the centre's car park. It was recently changed from free for library centre users to a half-baked pay and display scheme where you have to go into the centre and request a permit from the security desk at the other end, then walk all the way back out and display the permit in your car windscreen, on pain of clamping. The detail of the land to be disposed of is in Appendix 1 "not for publication". There is a mention of "the developer partner" which sounds like a cosy stitch up may already be underway.
In justifying demolition of the library centre the plan tries to make a case that the site is not suited to purpose at present, no possible operators for the vacant cinema (formerly the Bellevue, now vacant) and "canteen" (formerly Gigi's Café Bar, also vacant) have come forward (did they advertise?) and it needs modern cabling. It concedes as it must that the existing library is superb and well used. It claims that people are not able to find their way around the site and use the museum, which begs the question why did they botch the recent move from the Grange Museum and why their admitted expenditure of £840,000 since 2006 has only resulted in the building becoming unsuitable for use and semi-derelict.