A site for residents of Prince's Ward, SE11, in the London Borough of Lambeth. Check for updates from your Labour Action Team's campaigning, local information, and meetings.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Submission to the Libraries Commission by Prince’s ward councillors

We want to make the case for the Durning Library to continue providing a library service in its present building.


The Durning has a higher footfall than any of the ‘non-town-centre’ libraries. It is significantly better-used than Carnegie, Minet, Waterloo and South Lambeth libraries. Its footfall (94938) is not far off the footfalls of Clapham (110640) and West Norwood (133440). This is remarkable as the ‘catchment area’ in which most Durning visitors live is pretty tightly drawn around the library, in the immediate Kennington area. This demonstrates that the local Kennington community uses its library to a greater extent than in other areas. It is also a reflection of the high density of this part of central London, with a high population within walking distance, large numbers of crowded flats, and a high level of deprivation.


The Durning is located at Kennington Cross, in the heart of Kennington. It is very prominent and a focal point for the community. It is especially-well served by buses running north-south along Kennington Road.

Unlike the rest of Lambeth, ‘North Lambeth’ does not have a single town centre – it is a collection of centres – Waterloo, Lambeth, Kennington, Vauxhall and South Lambeth. There is no obvious central point which is easily accessible to everybody in the area. The history and high population density of the area explains why there are more libraries, and it would be very difficult to consolidate them into single location. Kennington Cross is the logical focal point for services in our area to be provided at.

Much-loved building

The Durning is an impressive and attractive building, opened in 1889, and providing library services to Kennington ever since. Local people want the library service to continue to be provided in the building. All too frequently councils make the mistake of abandoning historic buildings because they are ‘expensive’ or ‘difficult’ to maintain – underestimating the value which people place on the heritage of their area. The attachment Kennington residents have for their library was demonstrated in 1999 when they launched a vocal and successful campaign to save the library from closure. No doubt residents would be willing to campaign once again, if the library was under threat. To cease providing a library service in the building Jemima Durning gifted to Lambeth 122 years ago would be very sad. Moving library services elsewhere would also leave the Council with a highly-visible listed building empty – the Council would have to find a use for it, and would still face the issue of finding the capital investment it needs.

Willingness and capacity of the community to find a solution

The Durning is extremely fortunate to possess a large, capable, articulate and constructive Friends group, who are ready and willing to work with the Council to find solutions to the issues the library faces. They would be receptive to calls for volunteering, fundraising and Cooperative Council solutions. Local businesses are even seriously working up plans to offer to buy the building from the Council as a community hub. All these options should be seriously considered.

Solutions to the need for capital spending

The biggest issue the Durning faces is its need for significant capital investment, to deal with the backlog of maintenance issues and make the building completely fit for purpose for the 21st century. We believe the Council needs to acknowledge Durning’s needs and find creative solutions to attract investment. The following should be fully explored:

-The Vauxhall Nine Elms Battersea development affects parts of Prince’s ward within Durning’s catchment area. The significant developments within the VNEB area should be contributing to the cost of sustaining and improving Lambeth’s local library services, at South Lambeth and Durning. We strongly suggest that South Lambeth and Durning are prioritised as recipients for VNEB investment in community infrastructure.
-As stated above, local businesses have expressed a willingness to explore buying the building as a community asset. This option should be seriously explored, as it could allow external sources of funding to be accessed.
-The issue of the Lambeth Living flat above the library is a challenging one. If a solution could be found, then the option of selling the building to a developer should be explored. The developer could then be responsible for maintaining the fabric of the building, could develop attractive flats upstairs, and be compelled to let the Council continue to provide a library service on the ground floor.
-Prince’s ward and North Lambeth are experiencing more than our fair share of asset sales, which bring the Council significant capital receipts. At the moment, the Beaufoy Institute and the Old Lilian Baylis building are in the process of being sold for significant sums. We fully support this, but believe there is a moral case that our much-valued library building should receive a portion of these large capital receipts. Our residents are having to lose potential community assets, and we think it is right that one of the most valued assets in our community gets the investment it needs in return. As local councillors, we are happy to work closely with officers to identify further unused assets and sites in our area which could be developed and bring in capital receipts to invest in our library.

This submission by Prince's ward councillors is kindly supported by the Friends of the Durning Library.

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Promoted by David Amos and Joanne Simpson of Prince's Branch Labour Party (Vauxhall Constituency and Lambeth Borough) all at 264A Rosendale Road, SE24 9DL