Press release by St James Street Library Campaign
24 April 2023

St James Street Library Campaign made a breakthrough on Friday 23 April, when members were finally allowed to visit the building , in Coppermill Lane E17. The campaign to reopen St James Street Library began after it was illegally closed, without warning, three years ago.

It was wonderful to see inside the library again, said campaign member Janet Wright. Its in good condition and could be reopened at very little expense. And its so large that theres room for plenty of other community activities there too. Reopening it as a library and community centre will give this area back its heart.

But, says the campaign, this visit has to followed by other steps, and quickly the people of the Coppermill Lane area have waited long enough.

When the library was closed, we lost our main community facility, said local parent and campaign member Alison Griffin. Our children have stopped using libraries. Our elderly don't go out as much. Time and time again we've tried to talk to politicians about putting right this dreadful mistake on their part.

We call for this building to be brought back into use as a library and as a true community asset. Repair it, decorate it, put books and services in it and let the people back inside.

We are not partisan and we are interested in working with any politician who will help to make this happen.

Waltham Forest council closed the library in April 2007 without doing the legally required assessments of the potential effect on local people, and without consultation. St James Street Library Campaign has put forward numerous proposals for reopening the building.

In 2009 James Street Library Campaign fought off efforts by the council to rehouse the local drug centre -- currently located round the corner in the Alpha Business Centre in the library building.

Janet Wright said The building has numerous rooms on two floors, plus a small enclosed garden. Despite the boarded-up windows and graffiti outside, its in good condition inside. To prevent squatters, the council has had people living there, and unless Waltham Forest council are slum landlords, they would not put people into substandard accommodation. We could see that it just needed redecoration.

In particular, there is full disabled access to the entire ground floor, including a disabled toilet this has been converted into a shower-room but it would take little work to reinstate it.

We were once told that it would cost £30,000 just to find out if the building could be used again! Our visit has proved what nonsense that was an honest builder could have it ready to reopen for little more than that. We dont need expensive outside consultants to tell us what weve seen: that this excellent building, in the ideal location, could very easily be restored to its role at the heart of the community.