A New Library and Medical Centre for Chislehurst
On behalf of my colleagues Cllr Katy Boughey and Cllr Kieran Terry I am writing this note to update you on the latest regarding the redevelopment of Chislehurst Library.
As a background, the Library service across the Borough had been experiencing a decline in usage over the years, with the period between 2008 and 2014 seeing a 28% decline in the number of issues. Bromley, committed to a programme of improving its service had seen several successes with the redevelopment of Biggin Hill, Orpington and Penge Libraries. In the first year of opening, Biggin Hill saw an increase in the number of issues by 27% and Orpington and Penge experienced higher visitor numbers of 71% and 33% respectively. It was thus felt that Chislehurst could benefit next from a new purpose-built library. Please see our letter from February which discusses the issues with the current building that is considered to be unsuitable in its present form for delivering a 21st Century library service.
It was noted that there was significant development potential at the existing library site to include an additional use for the High Street. In 2014 it was decided to redevelop the site together with a development partner who would deliver a brand-new library at zero cost to Bromley residents along with a capital sum, which would largely go towards fit-out.
A developer named Millngate was selected by the Council in December 2015 but by the turn of 2020 a Development Agreement had still not been finalised, the Council then set out to remarket the property and seek out an alternate development partner.
We are pleased to confirm that following an extensive marketing exercise and scrutiny by Council committees, Prime Properties have been selected to redevelop the site which will include a New Library and Medical Centre for Chislehurst.
The Medical Centre will see the Woodlands Surgery and the Chislehurst Medical Practise merge and help safeguard a sustainable future for primary healthcare in Chislehurst. The NHS is continuing its strategy of delivering more care within the community and away from a hospital setting. The facility will be purpose designed around the Primary Care Network and new specialists are being recruited to offer a range of treatments and diagnostics such as audiology, blood tests, social prescribing and counselling, as well as recruiting clinical pharmacists. By combining their activities into one significantly larger new building (with associated parking), the GPs will be able to provide a wider range of services for the whole community.
So far the development partner and future site usage has been determined but there is still a long way to go and plenty of opportunity for residents to review and input into plans.
It is hoped that a Development Agreement will be concluded by January, the developer then aims to submit a planning application within six months. During the planning process the developer is expected to engage extensively with both members of the public and planning officers to attain feedback and to evolve their scheme. The Council is also currently developing a communication strategy which will include engagement for local residents, stakeholders and community groups to involve them fully in the consultation process for both a temporary and new Library to ensure our needs are fully met based on needs and opinions.
Prominent issues during planning are likely to include design and the Chislehurst Conservation Area (CCA). The library site sits at the north of the CCA and the application will seek permission to demolish and replace a building of some historic value, although not listed. It is important that residents join Councillors in securing a scheme of some architectural merit, one that will enhance the appearance and character of the CCA. We hope the architects approach this project with some level of creativity.
If the planning application is successful then the construction period is likely to last between 18 to 24 months. During this time a temporary library will be provided in Chislehurst Village, the location is yet to be determined, one option could be the High Street car park behind the Post Office.
The temporary Library will hold a smaller amount of physical stock but this will be mitigated by waiving the reservations charge for Chislehurst residents. Covid-19 has seen an increased number of e-books purchased resulting in a massive increase in e-issues which will continue to be available. The free Home Library Service is also available for customers with health and mobility issues who are unable to leave their homes to access library services. Bromley Council will be looking at innovative and creative ways to provide library services in Chislehurst while the new library is being built and beyond.
To allay the concerns voiced by residents fearing the loss of their favourite activities the Council have already begun discussions with GLL our library contractor to plan a regular timetable of events and activities both within the temporary library and from community facilities. There are now Covid-19 restrictions for events and activities which must be followed, however if it is safe to do so GLL will be prioritising Social Saturdays along with the full pre pandemic activity offer. If all events cannot be held at the temporary library, we will investigate local hall hire options to host events. We will also be working with local schools and community groups to find alternative space. The temporary library space will also be available for activities on the usual day of closure. The Library without Walls will be developed further and targeted to the Chislehurst Community. The nearest alternative library to Chislehurst Library is Petts Wood Library which also offers an extensive programme of events and even more choice.
Chislehurst Councillors will be in regular contact during the process so please do follow our Facebook page or visit our website for further updates. In the meantime we remain as always at hand to answer any question you may have.
Cllr Suraj Sharma
Member for Chislehurst
Cllr Suraj Sharma, (Vice-Chairman, Renewal, Recreation & Housing)
Cllr Katy Boughey, (Chairman, Plans Sub Committee No.3)
Cllr Kieran Terry (Vice-Chairman, Environment & Community Services)