All posts by Phil Isaac

A Further Rebuttal

We have always accepted that there is room for more than one view on the future of the Carnegie. But those who disagree with our proposal have not criticised it, but have, instead, attacked us as individuals. Through a persistent stream of untruths, smears and innuendoes they have created a narrative that we are in a corrupt and politically-driven relationship with Lambeth Council, and they have aimed to cast serious doubt on our personal integrity.

In June last year we felt it necessary to produce a document (here) to correct a number of these erroneous, misleading and untrue statements about the Carnegie Community Trust (CCT) and its work. Recently some new misinformation has been circulating so it is time, once more, to set the record straight.

See the new rebuttal document here.

Carnegie Community Trust CIO

An Open Letter to Councillor Sonia Winifred

Dear Councillor Winifred,

Thank you for your recently released statements regarding the future of Carnegie Library. It is heartening that you are taking such an interest in the future of this landmark heritage building.

As you know, the Carnegie Community Trust (CCT) and its precursor organisations have since 2012 been working on bringing the building into community ownership. This work has involved thousands of hours of volunteer time and about £100,000 of Council grant funding to see the project through the various stages of consultation, conservation planning, architectural work, business planning and asset transfer, which has eventually led to CCT being selected as Lambeth’s preferred community partner.

However, we are sorry to report that we are still not on the same page as the Council. The problems started in 2015 when the ‘Culture 2020’ report was published and we discovered that, despite the initial commitment and investment from Lambeth, the building was to be handed over to Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) for use as a gym with some minor library provision. At this juncture we decided that in those circumstances our project could not continue.

The project was given a reprieve after CCT appealed to councillors who then amended the Culture 2020 cabinet recommendations. This eventually led to Lambeth agreeing to excavate the basement to house the gym, allowing a community project to proceed as planned on only the upper floors.

In our plans, the excavation of the basement was proposed as necessary in order to provide a sustainable income stream, although our preferred use for it would not have been a gym. This was because our consultation results showed local opposition to this use. But, given Lambeth’s commitment to going ahead with a gym run by GLL, CCT felt that this could be an acceptable compromise given that GLL could be the reliable anchor tenant we were seeking, so ensuring an income stream sufficient to sustain the community building as a whole.

Having said that, there remain three main problems with the Council’s position:

1.  Due to a ‘side deal’ in the leisure contract, GLL and Lambeth are insisting that no rent be paid for the basement until 2022, after which a rent well below the market value is being offered. As charity trustees, we have a fiduciary duty to ensure that we are receiving best value from the rental of space. We are advised that such an arrangement would contravene charity law and likely make capital funding for the restoration of the building impossible to secure, as well as leaving a significant shortfall in the anticipated revenue stream for that space.

2.  Although the basement excavation is accepted in principle, the proposed ancillary building and curtailment of space in the garden is not. This is a cheap ‘off the shelf’ scheme that is entirely out of character with a listed building. Again, this will deter funders and restrict the use of the outside garden spaces by the community and residents of the flats.

3.  Lambeth is determined to begin work as soon as possible, spending £1.2m of public funds. This money could leverage in considerable match-funding if it were to be considered as part of an overall capital funding package. The undue haste with which the Council is now pursuing its agreement with GLL is jeopardising future funding for the Carnegie in both revenue and capital terms.

Obviously a joined-up approach is required. We have a unique opportunity to secure the long-term future of the building with a heritage regeneration project providing investment of £5m or more and completing a Community Asset Transfer guaranteeing that this precious building will stay as a public building with a library in it for the use of everyone in the area. Without this investment and community ownership the building could survive in the short-term, but would continue to be gradually degraded by neglect and inappropriate alterations and inevitably end up in the private sector. A gym would sit nicely within a development of luxury flats.

CCT is finding it very difficult to get through to the Council the need to work in partnership with us and the community on the long-term future of the Carnegie.  Instead of co-operative working we are continually being presented with fait accompli. Many decisions have already been taken by the Council that jeopardise not just our but any community bid. Accordingly, we now request that this process be slowed down in order to allow time for proper consideration and consultation on plans for the future of this landmark building to take place.

Lambeth councillors seem fixated on getting the library open before next May’s elections. Although this approach may be politically expedient, it is ultimately endangering the future of the building and any community project.

We do not have much time; work is about to start. We urgently request your intervention.

There is nothing that cannot be solved with sensible dialogue. Although the re-opening of the library may be put back a bit, it is better that there is a plan that is acceptable to everyone and that the community has had an opportunity to contribute to it.

We only have one shot at this. Let’s get it right.

Carnegie Community Trust CIO

Carnegie Community Trust Plans

Carnegie Community Trust is delighted to have been selected, on the basis of its Business Plan for a Community Hub and Enterprise Centre, as the Preferred Bidder for an asset transfer of the Carnegie building from Lambeth Council. Discussions have now commenced with the Council on the legal structure and financial arrangements for this transfer to community ownership.

Our vision proposes the conservation and refurbishment of the building to restore it to its former glory and make it fit for purpose for the future

Lambeth’s plan is to put a gym in the basement and that development is entirely separate from the Community Hub and Enterprise Centre. CCT, as a charity, must receive appropriate income for the use of the basement which will be separately managed by Greenwich Leisure Limited. We aim to ensure that the rental from the gym in the basement supports the community use of the rest of the building.

The Trust’s negotiations with Lambeth Council include a timetable for the reopening of the building, including partial use at the earliest possible date. We look forward to getting a library into operation as a priority, welcoming back those user groups who previously used the space as well as bringing in new groups and opportunities for local residents. We hope to work closely with Community groups to ensure that all local interests are addressed.

The Community Hub will be developed as three interlinked Programmes led by the Centre Manager, with staff and volunteers:

 

  1. The Learning and Enterprise Programmes:
  • A Library run in partnership with Lambeth Library Service and managed by the Trust
  • A safe, calm environment for homework and study, to strengthen achievements and prepare for work, aligned with the Library and the Enterprise Area
  • Literacy and reading classes
  • Space for wide, innovative learning opportunities including schools, children’s groups, computer training, English language teaching, citizenship classes
  • University of the Third Age
  • Rental space for Training Events, particularly encouraging preparation for work for school leavers and for the unemployed
  • An Enterprise Area for use by a range of local self-employed people and small businesses who will pay a rental or fee; supporting local entrepreneurs, reducing unemployment and isolation, encouraging joint and shared work activity, supporting first time self-employed, and encouraging transfer of knowledge and ideas. This will draw on the experience of small business occupiers over the last two years before closure.
  • A Youth Club either as a hosted service, or a service managed by the Trust, in order to encourage social activity, group learning and positive relationships among local young people

 

  1. Health and Wellbeing Programme:
  • Initiatives that bridge generations and share skills across generations, including work in partnership with South London Cares and support for young carers
  • Space for well-being classes such as yoga, pilates etc.
  • Space for health service outreach support including mental health
  • Community services will link with local charities, local GPs, multi-faith churches, schools, the local employment centre at Loughborough Junction, and voluntary projects

 

  1. The Performance and Arts Programme:
  • Use of space in the building to host exhibitions, including Heritage Events
  • Flexible use of space for performances of music, dance and theatre, particularly encouraging and sponsoring local talent
  • Talks, debates, films
  • Work in conjunction with local parks and green space groups to encourage outdoor activity, access to the garden and horticulture

 

General facilities:

  • Café. There will be a café for the local Community, where generations can mix.
  • Space for meetings and Community events. Achieved by flexible use of rooms.
  • Space for hire. Both private hire and subsidised community hire.
  • The plan is to restore the garden for use by residents and the Community.

 

Our Proposal includes work streams for each of the above Programmes. There are also important work streams for:

  • Governance including recruitment of Trustees
  • Volunteer Recruitment & Training
  • Fundraising
  • Membership Scheme, and
  • Heritage Strategy

We will be looking to strengthen the Trustee Board with new faces, people with relevant experience to deliver this major capital project.

Our work streams will be led by Trustees working with volunteers. We will establish a new Management Board for the operation of the Hub and Enterprise Centre, as the diagram below indicates. This will enable local people with relevant experience or interest to become involved in the running of the Hub.

Once we have agreed the legal structure and financial arrangements with Lambeth, which may take a little time, those arrangements will be shared with the Community. Meanwhile we wish to meet Community groups and keep everyone updated through our website www.carnegiehernehill.org.uk

We welcome all offers of support, suggestions, advice and questions:

email: getinvolved@carnegiehernehill.org.uk

Carnegie Community Trust CIO

July 2017

Carnegie: where we are now

In September 2016 Lambeth Council invited detailed technical and financial proposals from the community to take an Asset Transfer (i.e. ownership) of the Carnegie building.  Now the bidding process is complete, the Carnegie Community Trust (CCT) has been judged to have submitted the stronger bid. But, there is a way to go before the building can be transferred.

Lambeth has a contract with Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) to operate a gym in the basement and this requires excavation of the basement.  Whilst this work is carried out Lambeth will be making some modifications to the building as a whole, including relocation of toilets.  Unfortunately the building is unlikely to reopen until this work is completed but we are pressing for the earliest possible date.

CCT remains opposed to the idea of a gym.  We also have serious concerns about some of the additional alterations that Lambeth and GLL propose to make to the building before it transfers to us.  Some of these are poorly thought out and would seriously damage this wonderful Grade 2 listed building.  Now that the Trust is the Preferred Community Partner we will meet Lambeth and GLL to see if we can secure amendments to these proposals.

We have commenced discussions with Lambeth about the terms on which the Trust and GLL will occupy the building and other aspects of our proposed business plan.  The Trust will only proceed if and when the terms are right.  If we are able to negotiate the right terms we can agree a date for the asset transfer and re-opening of the building.

Our intention is to work with the community to develop a Community Hub offering three programmes – “Learning and Enterprise”, “Health and Wellbeing” and “Performance and Arts”.

CCT will publish a finalised Business Plan as soon as we are confident of a satisfactory outcome to the discussions with Lambeth.  We will also meet local groups, circulate a newsletter and hold a public meeting reaching out to all who live in Herne Hill, Coldharbour and neighbouring areas.  We want to throw open membership of the Trust and hope many local people will join.

The present Trustees, plus we hope some new ones, will undertake the detailed work on fundraising and construction, which will take some time.  In the meantime, as soon as we acquire the building we want to get it back into use so that there will be opportunities for everyone to get involved in the activities that most interest them.  It will be a true community building once again.

We will continue to provide regular updates on our website including invitations to join CCT and to volunteer with the project.  We look forward to meeting and to hearing your suggestions for an exciting future for the Carnegie.

Carnegie Community Trust CIO

Lambeth confirms Preferred Bidder status

Carnegie Community Trust CIO are pleased to announce that the Trust has been selected by Lambeth Council as the Preferred community group to take an Asset Transfer of the Carnegie Library building as originally envisaged in the Council’s Community Hub policy for empowering communities to take control of local assets.

The Trust has worked on development plans for the Carnegie since 2012 and is pleased that this decision moves the process of enabling a community group to take ownership of the Carnegie building a step closer.

Although the library is a much-loved facility in Herne Hill, the building has been under-used in the past. We have created a vision for a new Community Hub that will provide space for a library service and for the rest of the community space to be used for an exciting range of social, educational, cultural and economic uses that, in addition to library users, will attract many more Herne Hill residents into the building. The Trust aims to make every inch of the building work hard for the community.

In addition, our plans provide for a major refurbishment to restore this beautiful landmark building to its original glory and make it fit-for-purpose for the next 100 years. Our project proposes to attract major capital investment to do this work which will result in Herne Hill having an iconic community and cultural facility well into the future.

This decision means that we can start negotiations with the Council on the terms of bringing the Carnegie into community ownership through their Asset Transfer policy and we look forward to sharing the outcomes of those talks with the community.

Assuming that those negotiations go smoothly we will be discussing the plans with other local community groups and will move forward as quickly as possible to throw open participation and membership of the Carnegie Community Trust to everyone in Herne Hill and the surrounding areas.

We would like to thank everyone who has helped and supported this project so far and look forward to inviting more volunteers to join us to help deliver what will be a major undertaking by the local community. To volunteer or to receive regular updates please sign up on our website – www.carnegiehernehill.org.uk

Carnegie Community Trust CIO

A Rebuttal

For many months Carnegie Community Trust, and individual Trustees, have been subject to a very unpleasant campaign of false allegations and deliberate misunderstanding by the committee of the Friends of Carnegie Library, at times personal, and always undermining our hard work over four years.   We do not believe that most Friends, if asked, would condone this behaviour.   However they are not asked, and the lies and distortions continue in the Friends’ latest (May) Bulletin.

Our Rebuttal of the lies and misinformation can be found here
More positively, we believe there are now grounds for optimism about the future for Carnegie as a community building.  The Council has announced there will be an exhibition of plans shortly, look out for the date.   We will post it as soon as we know.   And we will shortly issue a Newsletter, look out for that too.

Carnegie Community Trust CIO

Newsletter Summer 2016

Our latest newsletter can be found here.   This sets out the Trust’s current position in light of the imminent Council exhibition on its plans for the Carnegie, see Council flyer here.

Volunteers needed  This newsletter will be widely distributed in Herne Hill over the next few weeks.  If you can help with this please contact getinvolved@carnegiehernehill.org.uk giving details of where you would like to distribute and we will be in touch.  Thank you.

Carnegie Community Trust CIO

2016: We are on course to save the Carnegie

Good News 
In December we presented our case to Lambeth Council’s Asset Transfer Technical Panel for the Carnegie Herne Hill Community Trust to take ownership of the Carnegie Library building.   We passed, and were given the “green light” to complete the work needed to enable Lambeth to transfer the building to us.   We will be submitting the next batch of supporting documents, the Business Plan, in the Spring.   This is the break-through for Herne Hill.

A Little Bit of History
In 2012 Lambeth Council conducted a review of its library service and concluded that it would no longer provide the library service in the Carnegie building.   The number of users had been steadily declining from that for which the building had been designed and the library now occupied only part of the available space.   So rather than close the building Lambeth proposed it be adapted as an independent Community Hub to be owned and operated by a charitable trust

A group of local people, including The Friends of Carnegie Library, came together in a Project Group to explore the feasibility of that idea and, if it was judged to be viable, to set in place the necessary arrangements.   Lambeth set a number of rigorous conditions to meet before the building could be transferred, and over two years the Project Group worked to comply.   Once the proposal was sufficiently advanced the Project Group handed over responsibility to The Carnegie Herne Hill Community Trust CIO, the legal entity needed to apply for grants, to take it to completion.

The Project Group and now the Community Trust (CCT) have always been adamant that the Community Hub must contain a library.   The Hub must also take its theme from the library and become a centre for educational, cultural and community uses.   With architects and other consultants, a range of options was developed and put to the community.  Following that consultation a Preferred Option has now been agreed that embraces a library and a wide range of existing and new activities.   It specifically rules out a private nursery, private flats or a private gym.

The Way Ahead
We believe that neither preserving the status quo at Carnegie nor converting it to a gym are realistic options.   Instead the way ahead for Carnegie is for:

  • a Community Trust to take ownership of the building, to be a community-owned and operated Community Hub
  • the building to include an Enterprise Library
  • the Community Trust to work with whichever agency is chosen to operate the library in the building.   If no-one else will do it, then the Community Trust will aim to operate a staffed library to offer the same services as before

CCT was not consulted on, nor had advance notice about, Lambeth’s proposal to transfer the building to Greenwich Leisure Ltd, and has not since been in discussion with either of them about this.   We do not believe it makes sense to close the library on  31st March, to close the building for capital works (changing rooms, showers etc.) and to re-open it as a private gym with a tiny ‘library’ in it.   We have stated our opposition to that course of action.

CCT plans to recruit a fully representative Board of Trustees, supported by a membership organisation, to own and operate the building.   The aim is to take ownership of the Carnegie building as soon as possible this year and maintain it for existing and new activities.

The Vision
By the end of this government’s term of office Lambeth’s budget will have been cut by 60%.   It is inconceivable that the existing Lambeth Library Service can be unaffected.   So we believe a way must be found, while there is still time, to transfer the Carnegie Library building to a charitable and representative local trust and maintain a library in it.   To achieve this the Community Trust will negotiate with the Council to get the best deal we can for Herne Hill.   It is naïve to campaign to maintain the status quo in Carnegie when we know Council budget cuts are unavoidable.   The Community Trust now has viable alternative proposals to maintain the Carnegie as a community resource, both to serve its existing users and offer services and activities to the other 25,000 people who live or work within a 15-20 minute walk and, indeed, beyond.

Carnegie Community Trust CIO

Lambeth’s Culture 2020 Decision – Friday, 4th March, 2016

Carnegie Community Trust strongly opposes the Council’s plan to lease the Carnegie Library building to Greenwich Leisure Ltd to operate as a private gym.   The Council’s latest update is here.   Although provision for an unstaffed library is proposed, Carnegie would effectively cease to be a facility open and free to all local residents.   This is not acceptable to us or the wider community.

The Trust has always believed that, given the scale of spending cuts imposed on Lambeth by central government (56%), it was unrealistic to maintain the status quo in the Carnegie.  Change was always inevitable.

We still believe that our proposal to have the building transferred to a charitable Trust that is accountable to the people of Herne Hill, is the best way to maintain the Carnegie as a building that will house a library and a wide range of other new activities.   A lot of work that will enable us to set this vision in place has now been completed.

We are now considering the best way forward.   Having passed Stage 1 of the Council’s Asset Transfer procedure which would enable the Trust to acquire the building, and having been advised by Lambeth to continue this process to completion, we are investigating the implications and options in light of Lambeth’s decision with regard to Greenwich Leisure Ltd.

We will continue to press Lambeth not to proceed with its current proposal with Greenwich Leisure and, instead, to transfer the building into community ownership through the Carnegie Community Trust.

Carnegie Community Trust CIO