In 2016 Waltham Forest Council proposed significant changes to community library provision in the Higham Hill area.
The Council’s preferred option was to close the current library, dispose of the building and sell the site to developers to build housing. It is proposed that the library service will then be moved to a multi-purpose hub in Priory Court Estate.
The current Higham Hill Library building was designed and purpose-built as a library and has served generations of people in Higham Hill, Lloyd Park and Priory Court for 85 years. It has been allowed to run-down by the Council for a number of years, but remains a well-used and much-loved facility at the heart of its community.
The background to this situation and the Council’s proposal is available here: http://democracy.walthamforest.gov.uk/documents/s52735/Appendix%202b%20Higham%20Hill%20Business%20Case%201st%20July%202016.pdf
There were no details provided about the size or location of the proposed ‘hub’, or when it might be built. We feared that any move out of the current building would result in a down-sizing and reduction of library facilities for residents in the Higham Hill / Lloyd Park / Priory Court area.
Higham Hill Library is currently situated in the ideal location for residents in all of those areas, at the meeting point of William Morris and Higham Hill wards, within easy walking distance of Lloyd Park and Priory Court, on a much-used bus route, and close to several local primary schools, all of which use the library for various educational activities. It is a familiar landmark, part of the history of the area, and is welcoming and accessible to all.
Whilst we acknowledge that the building is in need of renovation and modernisation we rejected the Council report’s description of it as ‘dark and unwelcoming’. Anyone who has spent time in this library will know the opposite is true. We believe that with some imagination and determination the current building could be refurbished and redesigned to meet the needs of all modern library users.
From August 2016 we have been campaigning to keep Higham Hill Library in its current building, and improve and extend the library service in this area.
We ran a very successful petition with over 1000 signatures, which you can see here: https://www.change.org/p/save-our-libraries-we-love-higham-hill-library. The comments are a testament to the popularity of our library and the strong feelings of support it creates.
We urged Waltham Forest Council officers to –
1. Provide further information and consult fully with local residents about the proposed plans
2. Work with local residents to keep Higham Hill Library in its current building, and to investigate ways of fully utilising the library’s services and facilities
Our campaign resulted in the Council’s consultation exercise being improved and extended, though the results and decision did not appear. In July, after a positive statement from Councillor Ahsan Khan (portfolio holder for Libraries, Arts and Culture) councillors began to discuss with representatives of this group about how Higham Hill Library could be kept in situ and into the future.
At the time of writing (November 2017) the results of the Council’s consultation have still not been published though we know that 1000s of local residents responded (this was cited as the original reason for the delay in the Council’s report and decision), nor have the recommendations by council officers been made public. In the absence of any details about the Library’s survival, we have now formed the Friends of Higham Hill Library in order to organise and advocate for, protect and promote the fantastic local asset for our community, now and in the future. Join the Friends of Higham Hill Library!
UPDATE: It is now April 2018 and the results of the consultation have still not been published. However, we do have a further commitment, from the Head of Service for Libraries, to not only the building but also to the opening hours and level of service – with the intention to extend the opening hours as soon as is possible.