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Saturday, 12 November 2016

Willesden Library Debacle?

Several points come out from a recent account of a Willesden Connects meeting here.  A small group of Chandos Road residents are unhappy about highway works in their road under the policy change I referred to here.

Essentially, in what I guess is a largely savings driven exercise, Brent committed to greater use of tarmac to replace paving.  There are circumstances, such as where there a large number of trees, where this may give a better walking surface.  Anyone familiar with the extremely uneven paving of Furness Road pavements will know what I mean.  This kind of unevenness if often the result of  tree roots.  The description is not very clear.  It implies that all the trees are being destroyed, although Brent's policy as far as I know is to replace trees one for one as close to the original tree as possible.  Of course, this will generally be with a younger tree and often involves  a different species either to avoid subsidence or because a different species is judged to have a greater chance of survival.

The report also includes a personalised attack on Cllr Janice Long implying that she doesn't take an interest in highway matters, although she is actually the Brent councillor with the greatest knowledge of and interest in highway matters on Brent Council.

The report is also notable for suggesting that Cllr Butt disclaimed knowledge or responsibility for the policy.  As I have observed before, this is his standard approach.  I am more surprised to find people accepting it apparently at face value when several previous episodes suggest that Cllr Butt simply agrees with whoever he is speaking to at the time.  In this case, his audience said they didn't like the surfacing and he played along.  Apparently his interlocutors don't notice that in previous meeting he has been one of the people voting through the policy they disagree with.

Willesden Green Library
However, what really caught my eye in the piece is the reference to the "Willesden Green Library debacle".  I would guess this phrase comes from Martin Redstone, who is a member of the tarmac group and a lead opponent of the new Library at Willesden well as a long term critic of any changes to Dollis Hill House.

How could Willesden Green Library reasonably be described as a debacle?  In terms of the library user visits and loans are up, as is public satisfaction.  A number of the objections to the building have been proved to be untrue, and the objectors don't seem keen on returning to them.  

Moving beyond the library, I would say the permanent exhibition is impressive.  The recent Grunwick exhibition strikes me as just the sort of display that a good local history museum should aim at.  There is also the archive service, which is a service available in fewer and fewer Boroughs, since (like the Museum) it is non-statutory.

The spaces around the Library proper have hosted a broad range of film, dance, theatre and other events, including a number of book readings.  Some of this is referred to on the Libraries Taskforce web siteThere is also a good range of exhibitions in the art gallery.  To my mind, all this vindicates the Libraries Transformation Project, and I really don't see how any one can refer to it as a debacle.  

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