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Update on the Asset Transfer – November 2017

Introduction

In June 2017 CCT was informed that Lambeth Council had selected the Trust as the ‘Preferred Bidder’ for the asset transfer of the Carnegie building to become a Community Hub. Discussions have continued since. We have been very disappointed by the slow progress, at being excluded from the technical decisions affecting building works and the planning applications now approved, and by the Council’s lack of attention to detail and intransigence on a number of issues critical for the success of our plans.

In September we published a Statement of Requirements, which we regard as essential to our plans as developed over the years since 2012 and submitted to Lambeth in October 2016.
Since September we have received some responses to our requirements, which we have now been able to assess. We set out below our 6 requirements, together with the current offer from the Council in italics, followed by our comments.

Response to our requirements

1.‘The structure of the lease arrangements for the Asset Transfer must be acceptable to CCT as advised by its solicitor. The Community Hub project, to be viable, requires transfer of the whole building and grounds apart from the residential flats’.

We have been offered a lease (as an asset transfer) of the ground and first floors except the flats section. The interior of the basement to be separately leased to GLL at a peppercorn rent until 2022 with an option to renew for a further 20 years. If GLL do not renew in 2022, the basement lease to be offered to CCT at a peppercorn rent on the same terms as the current Asset Transfer. Lambeth remains responsible for the basement’s exterior up to 2022.

CCT comment – This is not the full Asset Transfer we had been invited to bid for, planned and applied for. Having decided to impose GLL on the building, Lambeth now proposes to remove the basement from the Asset Transfer for the duration of GLL’s occupation of it.
(Note: The Cabinet Decision of October 2015 gave Carnegie Library, and two other library buildings, to GLL for 25 years at a peppercorn rent).

2. ‘It is essential that the Trust as a charity receives rent for the use of the basement as a gym at an agreed market rate, to ensure both that the Community gets compensation for the occupation of the basement by a commercial organisation and that capital funding grant applications might succeed. An independent valuation which supports the rental figures included in our Business Plan has been completed and is now with our solicitor’.

We have been offered, as compensation for the basement being excluded from the Asset Transfer while GLL is in occupation, a sum of £40k per year for the Community Hub until 2022, and thereafter £40k (indexed to RPI) plus a gym profit share. This annual compensation would not be paid by Lambeth Council but would be obtained by Lambeth from the London Community Fund.

CCT comment – this sum falls short of our original budgeted rent of £87k (£15 per sq.ft.) from the basement. Moreover whilst we can be reasonably confident of the £40k grant in the first year, it is not clear whether it can be guaranteed going forward. It is also frustrating that Lambeth’s deal with GLL, still not fully clear to us, means that they do not pay rent for 25 years.

3. ‘CCT is strongly advised that unless the occupier of the basement (GLL) can pay a market rent to the Trust, the legal structure should ensure that Lambeth Council makes good this deficit. The suggested structure is for Lambeth Council to have an intermediate lease from the Trust whereby CCT is paid this rent by Lambeth Council, and Lambeth enters into a sub-lease with GLL. This income will be invested in the Carnegie Community Hub to secure its future on a sustainable basis.’

Lambeth will not consider this ‘sandwich’ structure proposed by CCT’s lawyer, which requires the Council to pay rent to the Trust, with GLL as their sub-tenant. Instead, they propose to remove the basement from the Asset Transfer altogether, with compensation as in 2 above.

CCT comment – as 2 above.  It should be recalled that the Trust first proposed creating additional space in the basement because work on its Business Plan indicated that if it was to support a free library and other community activities it would need a solid income-stream from the income-producing space this excavation would create.

4. ‘Supported by our Conservation Accredited advisers, Butler Hegarty Architects, CCT will work to mitigate and improve the negative impact on the ground and first floors created by the design that has already been given Planning Consent. If necessary, new Consents will need to be sought.’

Lambeth was shown strong advice from architects Butler Hegarty that the new building proposals and other interventions the Council wanted in order to support GLL, which had been approved by the Planning Committee, should be reviewed, particularly with regard to the air and heating ventilation plant proposed in the garden, where they will take about 35% of the space. Lambeth decided to continue the work as planned, for cost reasons and would make no changes to the building proposals now underway. A large metal terrace over the ventilation plant has been offered to partly hide the equipment in the garden and to create a new external space outside the main building.

CCT comment – this is particularly disappointing as Lambeth’s design agents are not conservation specialists. Our view is that whilst Lambeth’s building proposals evidently met Lambeth’s planning requirements for a Grade 2 Listed building, more appropriate proposals that reflected the building’s architectural importance could have been secured if Lambeth had taken more time and consulted us and our architects, who are conservation experts, before going ahead. They say that they could not consult with us when this planning took place as we were in a competitive bidding situation. However we can see no reason why Lambeth could not have consulted both bidding organisations while developing its proposals for works in order to take account of any impact these might have on the proposals of the two bodies seeking to take ownership of the building. A big opportunity was rejected later in September also, when our architects’ offer to revise the plans for Stage 2 of the building work to find a more sympathetic approach to the ventilation plant was rejected. A metal terrace as proposed by Lambeth will not hide the ventilation plant, nor reduce the persistent and high noise levels affecting the garden. The alterations now being implemented have a significant negative effect on our proposals for Community use of the building

5. ‘The existing Planning Consent does not allow for the self-employed business use which is the other key income stream in our Business Plan so this will need to be re-instated’.

CCT will need to apply for additional planning consent for commercial purposes (that is, anything which generates income). Lambeth will support us in this.

CCT comment – this could have been avoided as our Business Plan made clear 13 months ago that we would be carrying out commercial activity.

6. ‘The capital funding which Lambeth has allocated to the excavation of the basement and associated works on the other floors will need to be capable of being specified as Match Funding for the Heritage Lottery Application which will be made by CCT’.

Lambeth has offered a joint application to the Heritage Lottery Fund. They are still seeking confirmation that the HLF would accept such an application.

CCT comment – we need to be clear about this and no-one seems able to establish the position.  

Further Issues to Resolve

Some further issues remain to be resolved in the current round of alterations including

  • the very important location of toilets. Disabled toilets on the ground floor without compromising the building, and agreement for Community Hub users to have shared use of the suite of toilets in the basement
  • the location of the kitchen/café

The Library

The Library itself will be run by Lambeth Library Service in space hosted by CCT. Lambeth intend to open the Library in February ‘partnered’ by GLL. The pledge is to open 7 days a week with staffing by Lambeth and GLL.

Conclusions

It is clear that the offer from Lambeth is now considerably different from the Asset Transfer originally proposed by the Council, to pass the building to the Community. This is very disappointing for the Trustees who have worked hard over five years giving large amounts of time to planning and negotiation. In giving Carnegie to GLL for a gym Lambeth has greatly reduced the space available for Community use, including in the garden. In doing so they have ended the life of this fine building as a fully public asset, donated over 100 years ago for the education and lifelong learning of the community of Herne Hill.

The revised offer may not fully invalidate our Business Plan to develop an active and successful Community Hub, although this will have to be revised to reflect the reduced income stream.

As we move forward with the new offer there are some changes to the Board of CCT. In view of the actions and behaviour of the Council, its failure to deal with the Trust in a professional and competent manner, and its reversal of the Asset Transfer Policy as proposed to us in 2012, Carol Boucher, as Chair of the Board, and Fred Taggart, as Secretary, both feel unable to continue.  Carnegie Community Trust will continue working hard to make a revised Community Hub viable. There will now be an interim chair pending wider and more open discussions with the Community.

The immediate priorities of the Trust are:

  1. Agree the Heads of Terms with Lambeth Council
  2. Establish the position of the Heritage Lottery Fund about a joint bid
  3. Invite new Trustees
  4. Appoint a new Chair and Secretary
  5. Hold an Open Meeting

Please contact getinvolved@carnegiehernehill.org.uk if you would like to know more or offer your help.

Carnegie Community Trust CIO

Asset Transfer Requirements

While negotiations continue with the Council on how a transfer of the Carnegie building into community ownership can be achieved, we thought it would be helpful to publish the key requirements that CCT has set out to Lambeth which would, in our view, need to be met to enable the asset transfer application to progress to the next stage.

It is clear that these requirements also align with the priorities of the local community  which has strongly expressed its views.

  1. The structure of the lease arrangements for the Asset Transfer must be acceptable to CCT as advised by its solicitor. The Community Hub project, to be viable, requires transfer of the whole building and grounds apart from the residential flats.
  2. It is essential that the Trust as a charity receives rent for the use of the basement as a gym at an agreed market rate, to ensure both that the Community gets compensation for the occupation of the basement by a commercial organisation and that capital funding grant applications might succeed. An independent valuation which supports the rental figures included in our Business Plan has been completed and is now with our solicitor.
  3. CCT is strongly advised that unless the occupier of the basement (GLL) can pay a market rent to the Trust, the legal structure should ensure that Lambeth Council makes good this deficit. The suggested structure is for Lambeth Council to have an intermediate lease from the Trust whereby CCT is paid this rent by Lambeth Council, and Lambeth enters into a sub-lease with GLL. This income will be invested in the Carnegie Community Hub to secure its future on a sustainable basis.
  4. Supported by our Conservation Accredited advisers, Butler Hegarty Architects, CCT will work to mitigate and improve the negative impact on the ground and first floors created by the design that has already been given Planning Consent. If necessary, new Consents will need to be sought.
  5. The existing Planning Consent does not allow for the self-employed business use which is the other key income stream in our Business Plan so this will need to be re-instated.
  6. The capital funding which Lambeth has allocated to the excavation of the basement and associated works on the other floors will need to be capable of being specified as Match Funding for the Heritage Lottery Application which will be made by CCT.

Carnegie Community Trust CIO

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 asset transfer – preferred Community partner – start of negotiations with Lambeth Council

The Asset Transfer process to transfer the Carnegie building from Lambeth Council ownership to a charitable trust is a lengthy one.  The Stage 1 application was made in December 2015.   That application was submitted following the Community Hub development work undertaken by the Trust’s predecessor, the Carnegie Library Project Group between April 2012 and October 2015 when the Project Group incorporated as the Carnegie Community Trust CIO.  The application set out the following:

  • Conservation Statement
  • Architects’ Brief
  • Possible Use Options
  • Public Consultation
  • Preferred Option following consultation
  • Charity Registration and Constitution

The Stage 2 application involved producing a detailed Business Plan and this was presented to Lambeth’s Panel in April 2017 following our responses to a 30-question document, a meeting and then an assessment of the bid by Lambeth’s independent consultant (PricewaterhouseCoopers) in January 2017.

While this was going on Lambeth announced that it intended to go ahead with excavating the basement for a gym to be operated by Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) and obtained Planning Permission for this and also for community uses in the rest of the building.  The plans were not consulted on, merely exhibited, but, as a result of those decisions, the Trust must now determine how they impact on its Business Plan.

So, whilst the Trust has been selected as the Preferred Community Partner, its Business Plan makes three key assumptions:

  • A long-term lease of the whole building and grounds
  • An income stream from the basement
  • A design that accommodates the Library and all the other uses identified in the three Work Programmes in its Preferred Option and respects the architectural character of the building

Initial discussions with Lambeth indicate that there are difficulties in all three areas and it will take some time to see whether these can be overcome before any Heads of Terms can be agreed.

If initial agreement can be reached it will probably be necessary for the Trust to revise the Business Plan and for this reason there is no point in publishing it in full now.  However, an outline of the programmes and workstreams in the Business Plan were published here recently.  We will be arranging meetings with community groups to discuss and obtain their thoughts on our plans as soon as we have an outline agreement with LBL.

We will post regular updates here on the progress of these discussions with Lambeth and would ask that you encourage all interested parties to sign up for these at:
getinvolved@carnegiehernehill.org.uk

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 communications about Carnegie Library

The announcement by the Council on Friday 21st July 2017 that the Carnegie Community Trust had been selected as the ‘Preferred Community Partner’ to bid for the Asset Transfer of the Carnegie Library building was not handled well by Lambeth Council.

Cllr Dickson has apologised to some residents, who met on Thursday evening to discuss  the proposed building works to the Carnegie, for the fact that neither of the two bidders – ourselves and the Carnegie Library Association – received their official letters by email on Friday until after leaflets had been delivered through letterboxes in Herne Hill announcing the decision early on Friday morning.

CCT had been informally and confidentially notified in advance of the decision and respected the Council’s request not to disclose this information until both bidding organisations had received their formal letters simultaneously from the Council.  We understood that these letters would be received on Friday 21st July ahead of a leaflet distribution planned for Saturday 22nd July.

This sequence of events is really unfortunate and we hope that future communications about the Carnegie will be better co-ordinated by the Council.

CCT will make every effort to communicate regularly and openly as plans for the Carnegie progress.

Carnegie Community Trust CIO