Carnegie – where are we now?

Since the closure of the Library on 31 March CCT has continued discussions with Lambeth Council about the future of the building and is still on track to secure the Asset Transfer of the Carnegie building into community ownership through the Trust.

It is now clear that maintaining the status-quo at Carnegie is not an option.  The Council’s insistence on putting a gym into the building compromised the Trust’s Preferred Option for the mix of library and other uses.   Nevertheless, we now have a window of opportunity to secure the long-term future by transferring the building into community ownership.  For this to happen successfully, Herne Hill has to set aside past differences and pull together as a community.

Lambeth intend to give a lease to Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) whilst CCT’s application for Asset Transfer progresses.   At the point of Asset Transfer the Trust would acquire the building from Lambeth under a long lease that would, among other things, enable it to raise capital and revenue funding for improvements, staffing and equipment.   Like others, the Trust was appalled by the Council’s initial proposal to adapt the main room in Carnegie as a gym.   So our engineers looked at the basement and advised that it could be excavated to create space for a gym at reasonable cost.   We proposed this compromise to Lambeth and GLL, who conducted their own technical assessment, and this alternative was accepted.

This means all the existing space on the ground and first floors will be available for the library and other community uses, and the Trust can deliver on its Preferred Option vision.  The gym will attract people who might otherwise not set foot in the Carnegie and we hope they will also use the library, café, community activities and enterprise centre in the building.   This will widen the sense of community ownership of Carnegie.

GLL need planning permission to develop a gym in this Grade II Listed Building; plans will be exhibited for consultation.  The change of location of the gym from the main hall to the basement demonstrates Lambeth’s recognition of the importance of the building to the community.  Our job now is to safeguard the building for the community and Asset Transfer will do this.  To achieve the Asset Transfer the Community Trust needs to present a strong (financially sound) Business Plan led by Trustees who can demonstrate good management skills and have the engaged support of the community.   A timeline showing the work of the Trust and its forerunners over 5 years can be found here.

We now all need to build on this and the Trust needs the help of everyone who has at heart the future of this wonderful building and the flourishing of our community.  The Trust will make applications to the Heritage Lottery Fund and other funding bodies for grants to refurbish the building, including improved access, easier circulation inside the building, a purpose-designed café, relocating the lift, upgrading utility services and other important improvements.  Preliminary meetings have been held with HLF who have given indications that they will welcome an application from the Community Trust.  The present Trustees set their first goal as getting the project to a point where it was either viable or not viable.  Now we know that it can be delivered.

More trustees are now needed who will be representative of the diversity in Herne Hill and who have the skills and commitment to deliver this multi-million pound project.   A selection process will begin soon.  There will be an independently-chaired selection panel and applicants will be asked to demonstrate proactive commitment to this project as well as local knowledge, experience and skills that contribute to its workload.  To register interest in becoming a Trustee please email getinvolved@carnegiehernehill.org.uk requesting details of the responsibilities, selection criteria and an application form.   Once the project is further developed and the building is usable the Trust will then move to become a membership organisation.

Carnegie Community Trust CIO