29.4.16….There will be many in the city (and maybe beyond too) for whom the growing attack, savaging, closure of Carnegie-endowed libraries by Local Authority Councils is only now impinging on consciousness. The growing attention on the one Hove possesses – so good it is Grade 2 Listed inside and out – only slowly dawned on the rank and file Conservative Councillors in Brighton & Hove as a serious issue pretty recently, so I am thinking the public needs the backstory as the battle to save it becomes starkly, revealngly, dramatic.
“Where books are shelved does not matter” said Cllr Dan Yates at the Economic Development & Culture Committee meeting of March 10th. If you are talking about a box with a door into it and shelves, with some computer points, that is debateable. When you are talking about a building belonging to the tap root of a town or country’s heritage, and very identity in the world, you need to think how dumping that is any different to middle eastern terrorist fanatics smashing up ancient archaeology and artifacts, destroying museum contents. It is a Category issue, different in degree only.
Hove’s Carnegie Library building is just as important as all the books that come & go through it.
Hove was a Town in its own right, with its own council and its own borders before being taken over by Brighton; and, until it burned down in 1966 (to this day people say it was arson), Hove had a huge Victorian Town Hall of some grandeur. On its border with Brighton, until early this century, stood The West Pier – also mysteriously burned down (deffo by arson). So what has Hove got by way of public-access heritage architecture that speaks of civic pride and identity, of its history and length of existence….hmmmm….Hove Library? We are not some pop-up clone town or Milton Keynes.
It is important to have those reference points, to retain the libraries created by endowment from the American, Andrew Carnegie, from that era when education of the masses became a thing. It is said that the past informs the future, and as Britain does still struggle to find a way forward and away from the now lost economic power the Empire gave it, to find a different economic stability, we surely need the enduring legacy, the architectural compare & contrast to remind us of how we were in those days of new industrialisation, education, power growing for the masses as well as from the deeper layers of our cultural tap root going back in time. The erosion of cultural identity also erodes confidence.
Even if you don’t give a stuff for the country’s cultural tap root/heritage, if you care that the proposal to close the Carnegie involves reducing the library service by 60% as it is ‘merged’ into the back end of Hove Museum (with an extension built on), then maybe read on?
Here are some links to the media coverage this battle has inspired, from their search engines. The twists and turns may yet turn out to be worth a film script (!).
13.3.16…..The Library Plan, which follows on from, and includes, the results of the public consultation on cuts to the citywide Library service, was presented to the Economic Development & Culture Committee on Thursday, 10th March, for agreement. More respondents than not had agreed to closing the Hove Carnegie building and moving its service to Hove Museum, buying into the claim that loads of other ones would close if it was kept.
The Library Plan is about the whole service, and closing Hove Library was just buried within it, putting the committee councillors in a bad position. The Labour Administration has the majority vote on this committee so there was no question of it not being accepted. But one councillor bided his time during the considerations and showed up the whole lot of them with his ‘last word’ speech. Here is Conservative Cllr Robert Nemeth’s exceptional speech, verbatim:
First, I am disappointed that the important question of Hove Library’s future is being dealt with as part of a wider package of measures when it could have been taken out and dealt with in isolation.
Considering the future of Hove Library in this manner divides and rules, and distracts from a lot of good work that has been done in other areas such as Hollingbury and perhaps Westdene.
We read in the report (pg 18) that Hove Library has a dedicated area of 616m2. The new facility will have 520m2. This is a reduction of just 15% apparently.
But this is counting the so-called flexible museum/library areas. Dedicated library space in the new facility is only around 250m2 – a reduction of some 59% – nowhere near the 15% figure.
If the flexible space is to be counted as library space, as has been done, then it needs to be acknowledged that the museum is to shrink by an equivalent amount. To not do so would be double-counting – in effect, a manipulation of the figures.
250m2 is to be lost from the museum – essentially, the whole ground floor of a two-storey museum – or half the museum. This is quite an important detail to skip over.
So, whether it be a shrinking library, or a vanishing museum, there is no doubt that Hove is losing out again. And there is of course the removal of much of the garden behind the museum – one of Westbourne Ward’s only green spaces.
The building condition report suggests that repairs will cost £845,000 over the coming five years. I would question this figure but would also point out that if it is true, any potential purchaser will expect the asking price to take it into account. We won’t be able to escape such a cost whether we keep it or sell it.
In conclusion, having assured thousands of residents on the doorstep in the run-up to the election that I would resist further damage to Hove as a distinct community, I couldn’t possibly support a policy that sees such a reduction in service for the town.
I will be voting against this proposal.
How many of the small number who bothered with the Consultation even knew that the Museum service is to be offloaded to a created Trust? Hove Library being moved to the Museum (in a converted house) puts the shared museum and library part of the deal on a totally unresolved footing. The annex will not belong to the Library, it will belong to the building….the Museum. There was talk from Sally McMahon of using the grounds in front of the Museum as some sort of children’s play area too. So the whole thing would perhaps end up as a sort of mishmash community centre, off the beaten track, in a purely residential area that is not heavily served by buses and where there would not be any parking to speak of. And gossip wonders if Wetherspoons will end up owning our proper library.
The only thing standing between that meeting and the final death knell sounding is Full Council on 24th March. The Labour Administration is a minority one which means that the Conservatives and Greens COULD still vote down the Libraries Plan. Because it contains the agreement to close the Hove Carnegie building and to sell it off, their decision is very grave.
Selling the Edwardian, Carnegie-endowed Hove Library building is a major blow to the city’s heritage and to its image and credibility. Think for a moment about what gives any given town or city its esteemed gravitas and status. What are Oxford or Cambridge without their ancient universities? Windsor without the castle? London without the gravitas of its mass of museums, libraries, palaces, cultural institutions – its still visible centuries of history? Places with none of that are clone towns, mostly. Anywheres. What does Brighton & Hove have? Once they sell Kings House and Hove Library, all that’s left with any claim to civic gravitas, heritage importance at the institutional level, that belongs to the city, are Brighton Town Hall and the Royal Pavilion complex, which includes The Dome and Brighton Museum.
Hove Library is a superb example of a building that reflects the Edwardian style and grandeur of a nation in its pomp. Civic architecture was full of gravitas back then, messaging the value and importance of its function. The Listed building and its interior are purpose built and it was Carnegie-endowed. It is something which provokes civic pride. But for Labour’s utilitarian Cllr Daniel Yates where the books are doesn’t matter. It is the books that matter and they can be anywhere. His philistine words were spoken with irritated conviction. And it hurt to listen to them. Cllr Garry Peltzer Dunn pointed out that the Hove Museum building went up in 1877 and yet nobody tallks about repair and maintenance burdens for that building (yet). And they should, given the air quality controls needed for artworks.
Selling Hove Library is as stupid and shortsighted as selling the Royal Pavilion would be. And I bet that’s not unthinkable now, either. To the soulless utilitarians… Are the Tories and Greens going to just sit there on the 24th and rubberstamp Labour’s Economic Development & Culture vote to close and sell Hove’s Carnegie Library building?
13.3.16…..On the 10th of March the petition of 123 signatures, gathered on 7th December at Hove Seafront RA’s public meeting and presented to Full Council before Christmas, finally got its belated reply, the January meeting of the Economic Development & Culture Committee having been cancelled.
First thing that morning of the 10th, an email was sent to each member of the committee asking that instead of just the usual prepared reply being read out and noting of the petition, that Cllrs make use of the Recommendation options list in their Agenda papers. This kind of happened. Kind of.
Wish Ward Cllrs Robert Nemeth and Garry Peltzer Dunn BOTH sit on this committee for the Conservatives and the Kingsway is in their ward. So it was nice to see Cllr Peltzer Dunn seek to speak before the Chair, Labour’s Cllr Warren Morgan, could read out his officer-prepared response. Awkward! There’s a load of optional responses under Recommendations but no Council committee Chair has EVER to my knowledge solicited views from committee members on which option to go for. They arrive with ready made speech responses prepared for them by the departmental officers concerned. Garry said he hoped the committee could opt for option 1, that the Kingsway deserved it. Cllr Morgan then just read out the prepared refusal before taking a vote on Cllr Peltzer Dunn’s proposal. All the Labour hands went up to back the speech. All the Tory and Green hands went up to back the proposal to do a planning brief (option 1). Labour have the majority on this committee. So refused it was! Here is the formal response:
Many thanks for your petition. I note your concerns about the need for a planning brief for Hove Seafront.
I can assure you that with the adoption of the City Plan, the retained Local Plan policies and supplementary guidance – there is already a robust framework in place for making decisions on planning applications in this area. In the case of Shoreham Harbour – there will also be the Joint Area Action Plan which will also be providing a clear policy framework for decisions in South Portslade and Aldrington Basin areas.
In addition to this there are pressures for planning briefs in other parts of the city where there isn’t a clear policy framework in place.
For these reasons and due to the limited resources available for planning project work I am advised it would not be possible to prepare a planning brief for Hove Seafront at this time
DCLG have recently defined mid-rise tall buildings as being 10 storeys and even though the council’s SPGBH 15 defines mid-rise as 6-8 storeys, they might accept 10 storeys and this needs clarification pretty urgently I would say. The masterplanning going on for the Aldrington Basin area doesn’t include the Kingsway east of it at all and so the Braemore to Berriedale block is vulnerable with only SPGBH15 to control height there. Blocks of flats could easily suffer storeys being added to them by Freeholders as has happened in the area of Hove around the County Cricket ground. And what happens next at the Sackville Hotel site is anyone’s guess!
If existing guidance (including two Conservation Area designations) is so all-fired great, how come Hyde felt confident about spending Lord knows how much grant-aided Registered Social Landlord cash on commissioning that 17-storey tower design and its planning application along with a documented £24,000+ on the planning application fee?
13.3.16……This application was withdrawn on the 10th of March. All the documentation online was taken down and quite what they do with the large case file of objections is a question now. It will not be publicly available any more for viewing. Hyde are apparently doing a revised scheme over coming weeks so, for now, we stand down.
Important to remember that there was supposedly a contracted window, that Hyde do not own the site and were not going to buy it without planning consent for what they wanted. The owners HAVE planning consent of their own for 5 x 5-storey terraced houses. But they were willing to offer the land to Hyde. Why was that? One of the owners is behind the application in Sackville Gardens to replace the line of six garages (written about in the post below this one) with a newbuild semi-detached shed. Why the sudden disinterest in using their hard-won planning consent for the Hotel site?
There is too much that is not in the public realm that needs to see the light of day. Perhaps Hyde have shot their bolt now and won’t do a revised scheme. They have the right to a second go without having to pay another £24,000 planning fee, but presumably their architect does not give free go’s; so will Hyde lay out for a revised scheme? Waste more money they should be spending on being a proper social housing provider, building affordable housing to rent? This abandoned 17 storey tower proposal did not contain even one rental flat from its Registered Social Landlord developer. Not one.