The future of Chislehurst Library is to be decided behind closed doors on Wednesday 2nd September - or at least behind a set of virtual closed doors. We are anxious that this matter is handled properly, openly and with full consultation with the local residents, but this is further cause for concern about the openness of our Council. All councils have faced extraordinary challenges during the Covid-19 epidemic, but none apart from Bromley seem to have used the emergency as an excuse to shut out the voices of the community they represent. We expect better.
Since lockdown, Bromley Council meetings have taken place online for members of the public and press to be able to view proceedings while councillors and officials can participate. Next week's meeting of the Renewal, Recreation & Housing Policy Development and Scrutiny Committee is due to discuss the redevelopment of Chislehurst Library - but this part of the meeting will be held in private - no members of the public or press will be able to view it and no minutes will be available.
The last three meetings of the Scrutiny Committee have been cancelled so the issue of redeveloping Chislehurst Library has been quiet for several months. We expect the September meeting to select a developer for this site, which will effectively decide the future of the library, with the expectation that some library facilities will remain on site while a retail outlet or leisure facility shares the site. A temporary site for the library is expected to be necessary during the redevelopment.
Chislehurst Library is well used and offers a range of community activities. Local residents have expressed their concerns over the future of the library over several years, anxious both about what type of building will replace the current one, keen to get assurances that the same number of books will available and that there will still be provision for the same number of community activities. There have been assurances from the council and local councillors that residents would be kept informed and that their concerns would be addressed. But sadly there has been no information shared in advance of this meeting. In particular the council has failed to publish the report from Cushman & Wakefield, the real estate agents hired by the Council.
The link to the relevant page on the council's website is here.