Work to commence early next year providing a bigger and better Northcote Library

Published: Friday, October 30, 2020

Work will get underway early in the New Year on a landmark project to provide residents living in and around Battersea’s Northcote Road with a bigger and better local library in the heart of their neighbourhood.

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A computer image of the new library and community use building

The area’s existing 1960s-era library will be replaced with a larger and better equipped public library and community centre offering a wider range of services.

The new library will be housed in a modern three storey building set back from Northcote Road that will offer a dedicated and improved children’s section complete with buggy parking space, enlarged study accommodation, self-serve kiosks for book loans, upgraded computer and digital learning areas, an events space and restroom facilities.

The existing library building that fronts Northcote Road is now 50 years old and was built at a time when library services were much more limited in their scope and whose design is outdated by modern standards.

It currently offers restricted and inflexible space for shelving and no space for computers on the ground floor. It also has inadequate disabled access, no space for prams or buggies and unsatisfactory toilet and baby changing facilities.

Once built the new library will provide 848 square metres of usable floor space compared with the existing 728 sqm.

Alongside the new library will be a new community centre for use by local groups and a nursery. Both will be built on land currently occupied by eight council-owned garages adjoining Staplehurst Court and the Chatham Hall community space.

Chatham Hall was built in the 1950s and is showing signs of its age. It will be replaced with a modernised equivalent that will provide better kitchen and toilet facilities, while also benefiting from its own dedicated outdoor courtyard amenity space for educational, leisure and recreational use.

The nursery that currently uses Chatham Hall will temporarily relocate to the current library building in Northcote Road while construction is underway at the Chatham Hall site. Once completed the nursery will be able to return to the newly built and improved space. Extensive work is to be carried out at the existing library building ahead of the nursery’s arrival in January to ensure it is safe and secure for the children.

The construction costs for the new library and community use building will be met by providing residential units and retail space on the existing library site, along with some flats on the Chatham Hall and garages site.

Incorporating housing into the scheme means the new upgraded library and community centre can be provided at reduced cost to local council tax payers.

On the current library site in Northcote Road, nine flats will be constructed on the upper floors with two retails units at ground level. A further seven will be provided above the community centre on the Chatham Hall site. People purchasing or renting the new homes will not be eligible for parking permits, ensuring no added pressure on local parking provision.

During the construction phase the current library will remain open to the public until the new one is ready to open its doors.

The council first approved the idea of replacing Chatham Hall with a new library and community building in 2017 following widespread public consultation. The scheme was also subject to statutory public consultation as part of the planning application process which led to a planning consent in the summer of 2019.

The council’s community services spokesman Cllr Steffi Sutters said: “I’m delighted that this long-awaited project is now approaching a start date. It is excellent news for people of all ages living in this part of Battersea.

“They will be getting a bigger and better fully modernised library with a larger children’s section, alongside a new and improved community centre, able to offer much better accommodation to the local groups that use it.

“The existing library was built in 1969 and is by today’s standards much less efficient in terms of its layout and use of space.

“We’ve looked into whether or not it could be refurbished to bring it up to modern standards but this would be prohibitively expensive and would still leave a small, cramped building with sub-standard amenities.

“The community space at Chatham Hall is also contained within an ageing building that would soon need a significant amount spent refurbishing it. Our scheme will see it completely revamped, with better laid out and more flexible space along with upgraded kitchen facilities, new toilets and its own dedicated outdoor space.

“I’m also pleased we’ve reached an agreement with the nursery that uses Chatham Hall for them to temporarily relocate to the existing library building before returning to an improved new home.

“This is a sensible and cost-effective use of the council’s property portfolio. It means providing much needed homes for Londoners plus a modern new library, community centre and nursery space at a lower cost to local tax payers.

“At a time when many councils in London and elsewhere are closing down libraries and curtailing services to save money we are looking to expand and improve our provision to give our residents a bigger and better Northcote library fit for the 21st century.”

The existing library in Northcote Road