Ref: The Manor House, Old Road, Lee, SE13 5SY 9th December 2007
The Committee of the Users & Friends of Manor House Library have severe
misgivings about the suggested placement of the Childrens Library in the basement,
once the House is refurbished and the library re-planned.
These concerns were well supported by parents/mothers/carers at both consultation meetings and were well founded.
The very idea that the Library Service would think it reasonable to allow mothers, with maybe one or more young children to negotiate lift/stair to actually get in to the basement location for the Childrens Library makes no sense.
The west wing basement will be split in two by the platform lift/staircase area providing less space for class activity. It is also cut off from the remainder of the basement floor by a substantial supporting wall, creating a potential trap for the most vulnerable of our society. Toilet facilities originally suggested to relieve difficulties for the disabled, are not planned for anyone in the west wing basement due to costs as was explained at the Tuesday consultation. However, a re-consideration had been made by the Thursday, when it was suggested that one could be possibly be provided, but without commitment. Such a facility would leave even less space for children and their activities. If this space is not fit for the disabled and infirm, how is it fit for children?
We have seldom come across a library where adults are separated from children in this way. Issues of security are paramount, but council officers admitted that staff would have no responsibility for this. Consequently other criteria such as supervision, lighting, air and heating also come to mind. There are also unclear external security arrangements planned for what is essentially an isolated building, open for up to 80 hours a week.
The fact that the welfare of users and good conditions for staff are often not observed, emphasises the need for caution.
Furthermore, the flimsy excuse for revealing décor of historic value in the current Childrens library can not be a good enough reason to put so much else at risk. The Design Panel and The Georgian Group were extremely critical of the overall plans and approach. We concurred with some of their objections. English Heritage also recognised the damage to the main entrance hall; the 3 local councillors had reservations about the Business model, which underpins the total project. Under these circumstances, there is no justification.
A Speech Delivered to Mayor and Cabinet meeting 6th June 2007 by Peter Richardson
This is not the first time I have represented the interests of the Manor House and its library to a Council body. My first outing was in 2000 on behalf of Manor House Gardens Users Group at the request of Carolyn Bosworth-Davis
1. The basic premise of this project is that the house should be able to pay
for itself. However, the proposition that this may be achieved is centred on
a Business model based on assumptions only. No marketing of the rentable spaces
has been done, and there are no takers for any of the spaces so far, other
than the library itself.
As a result it is impossible to construct a cost/benefit analysis since it is all smoke and mirrors.
2. Due to the requirement to repay the Prudential borrowing of £1.84m
at £121k per year for 40 years, o.k., to spell it out, £2326.92
per week, it is clear that no amount of creative accounting can show how the
house can ever pay for itself under these circumstances. The loan will still
need servicing when some of us are in our graves and our childrens children
will still be needed to service it.
This loan can not be justified when the people of Lewisham are already losing core services due to budgetary constraints.
It has not been made clear whether this repayment is interest only or includes the capital borrowed !
The business model is also responsible for some unacceptable architectural solutions, such as the 4-storey, 8 passenger central lift and wrap-around staircase, all in modern materials, intended to be inserted in to the main entrance hall of the building. This, most certainly will result in the loss of a major feature of the house and radically alter first impressions of the building. Our opinion on this is supported by The Georgian Group and Lewishams Design Panel.
We have always supported and desired disabled access to the library throughout our 8 year history and so far have been denied it. We do, however, agree with the chair of the Lewisham Disability Coalition that there is a wealth of information out there providing solutions to achieve this without the need for this unnecessary damage. Re-grading of listed properties by English Heritage, will undoubtedly mean the Manor House will be reduced to Grade II status if this lift is inserted in the entrance hall.
3. In addition, there has been no consultation or public discussion which
the overdevelopment of the facility is likely to have on residents in the immediate
locality of the Manor House. Adverse repercussions for them include constraints
on parking in a CPZ on a one-way system, which will impact on local roads,
and an increase in noise when the building is being used especially during
Opening the house to Manor House Gardens by removing the fencing presents some awkward security problems such as ball-games beneath windows, vandalism at night and potentially even more break-ins.
None of these items have enjoyed the benefit of full and wide consultation.
And at the last minute, the proposals include the relocation of the childrens library to the basement of the west wing. This is another radical change to the library provision, about which there has been no public information, discussion or consultation. The ramifications should be obvious and it is not a policy the Council should put its name to. Neither of these changes is shown in the plans attached to the agenda document, but is referred to only in the text.
4. The Mayor and Cabinet must be aware that the recommendation for formal
approval of this scheme, without first being presented to the public for consultation,
may have serious political repercussions well beyond Lee Green ward in which
the Manor House is situated. The present proposals are deeply flawed financially
and in design. They are underpinned by no proper research. It is tantamount
to perpetrating a cheat on the Council Tax payers of Lewisham. The project
has lagged over 7 years, and has been the subject of bad professional advice
and poor decision making throughout. However, giving formal approval to an
ill-conceived plan is not the answer. We therefore recommend that this scheme
in its current form is rejected by Mayor and Cabinet and a reappraisal be made
of the entire concept. This would potentially allow acceptable solutions for
full access and designs for library layout to be found.
Peter Richardson. Chair. The Users & Friends of Manor House Library, 6th June 2007
In spite of this, formal approval for the scheme was given by Mayor & Cabinet
The following is the minutes of Lewishams Design Panel reference to the Manor House project plans at their meeting on 1st May 2007. The Panels role is to advise the Planning committee, when it is called:-
Manor House library From: Ashford, Philip [Philip.Ashford@lewisham.gov.uk]
Sent: 07 June 2007 13:54
To: Peter Richardson
Cc: Holland, Louise
Subject: Manor House library
Peter - here is the Design Panel's advice on the application.
Regards, Phil Ashford
'The Panel considered that the position of the lift in the central double height entrance hall detracted from the quality of the space, an important feature of the listed building, as well as making prominent features of the building more difficult to read. Instead the Panel suggested that the lift could be positioned more discreetly elsewhere in the building.
It was noted that one lift built into the fabric of the existing building could serve all, and also that placing ancillary uses and services in the wings would conserve the original concept of the building. If it is essential that it be sited in the central entrance space then a clearer justification is needed. The Panel remained to be convinced by the construction details of the lift and stair (the mixture of materials and styles in the staircase, the need for simplicity and transparency in the lift shaft design and materials), as well as the connection between the two. The Panel considered that more details such as three dimensional and other visual material was needed to demonstrate whether or not it worked in the context.'
So, if you have not already written to comment on the plans, please do so now, quoting references DC/07/64952 and 07/64953. Address it to Louise Holland, Planning Service, Laurence House, 1 Catford Road, London SE6 4SW, or by email: Louise.Holland@lewisham.gov.uk
Peter Richardson, Chairman, 12/06/07
Re: Points in reply to John Hughes concerning volunteers
Thank you for the detailed response dated 21/7/2006. We will post this on
our pages of the LLL website in order to reach more of our members and other
Lewisham Library users.
We are not opposed, in principle, to the use of volunteers in certain ways. One of the start points would seem to be the view that volunteers best use would be to enhance the service, not to replace it. It is hoped that supplementation, not substitution, would be the watchword.
We have discussed the issues raised with other user groups and representatives of such. We have also referred to the CILIP guidelines, Volunteering England (including Local Government Association and Volunteering England Plan) and the CSV study.
However, the answers received from the Library Service and the Council do not deal with the following
The Public Library Service is currently a statutory service whose provision is enshrined in law, with a Minister who has powers to intervene in that provision, or lack of. Will new legislation be required? Or will volunteers be slotted in as part of that provision?
What do most people understand by volunteers? From what we read of how volunteers will be trained, used, managed, supervised it really is a job description. Also included are restrictions, requirements, legal parameters and vetting. Will volunteers be required to sign a contract including these factors?
If this level of handling volunteers is required it is obvious a service cannot be provided without trained people. Why not the real thing for paid staff, with a career structure?
This leads to the use of and maintaining the confidentiality of information held on users. How will this confidentiality be enforced? Will the public want volunteers to be privy to certain amounts of information held on them? Which leads to the question of public consultation on the whole issue of volunteers? Have studies been done? Has the public been asked? Is it remembered the public is the Paymaster? WE NEED AN OPEN DEBATE!
What does this mean for other public services and will volunteers be considered satisfactory to provide them? If not, why is it considered OK for libraries? If so, where is this large pool of committed volunteers, as described in answers, to be recruited from? A reasonable question at this juncture is how many applications have been made?
In the answer to Mrs. Hirsts question to Council on July 26th it was stated that there are no initial additional costs to setting up this volunteering project. How can that be? And what are the later costs to be and will this be cost effective? Has a cost/benefit analysis been done, started or is it in the pipeline?
A main issue is whether any or all of these tasks are things that paid staff have been doing. It seems most of the things slated for the Manor House fit with that category. Is the Manor House not staffed to cope with these tasks? Are the other libraries?
It has been noted, on several visits to the Manor House, that, due to demands on staff, there is sometimes only one member of staff on active duty. With regard to Health and Safety and good management of a public building there is a failure here. Both staff, public, stock and equipment could be at risk. Do libraries have emergency buttons to warn of problems, if not enough staff are on duty?
The local Press reported that 2 paid posts within the library service were to go via voluntary redundancy, in order to help fund council cuts. How can that be? Is this connected to the proposed use of volunteers? What proportion of total staff are the volunteers anticipated to be?
These proposals, if not handled with sensitivity, could easily result in poor
staff morale; maybe even staff who are constantly expecting to be replaced
by a volunteer.
If paid staff already have jobs doing these tasks, should their job be sacrificed? This may undermine the attractiveness of the library service as a career.
A whole host of questions arise over contacts with children:-
Why is a volunteer considered adequate to deal with childrens reading and choice of book?
The public needs to be sure that the welfare of children is securely catered for, if these proposals go ahead. Great gaps in the vetting procedures have already been exposed. Some who put children at risk do not have records.
An essential requirement for supporting this activity is that the service to users must be measurably improved by it. The improvement must be checkable. Any initial promises that are made about the possibility of improved service must not be conveniently forgotten and volunteers used simply as unpaid agency staff. A firm undertaking is required to fill vacancies as they arise. Will this system lead to the loss of legitimate jobs and de-professionalising of the service?
Useful information to have would concern current categories of staff. What percentage of staff is considered qualified, with what kinds of qualifications? What is the record on agency staff?
Whilst not wishing to belittle the concept of volunteers in the library service, it is plainly evident we have a raft of misgivings how this may be implemented without causing serious problems to the value of a public service.
Peter Richardson, Chairman,
for and on behalf of the Committee.
NB The govt plans to make it policy for local councils in general: A White Paper on Local Government is due to be published in autumn 2006
Internet refs: www.csv.org.uk/Volunteer/Part-time/Lending+Time
www.la-hq.org/directory/prof_issues/ivpl.html (Note underscore twixt prof & issues)
www.mla.gov.uk/website/programmes/community_engagement (Note underscore
twixt community & engagement)
THE RESPONSE BY JOHN HUGHES (Lewisham Library and Information Service Manager) TO A QUESTION FROM PETER RICHARDSON ON THE TYPE OF WORK EXPECTED FROM LIBRARY VOLUNTEERS
Thanks for your enquiry about volunteers. The work that could be undertaken by volunteers in the Library and Information Service is varied.
We have worked with volunteers in a number of different ways:
o Recently we worked in partnership with a voluntary organisation and a local schools at Wavelengths and Lewisham Libraries to provide one to one reading support for children whose reading skills needed improving.
o We have had a volunteer who assisted staff to support customers in their use of computers at Wavelengths Library.
o Language speakers have transliterated book titles for cataloguing.
o The Local History and Archives Centre has worked with volunteers on project work for a number of years. Currently 2 volunteers are working with them.
Home Library Service
We are talking to the WRVS and to Lewisham Volunteer Driving Scheme about a role for their volunteers in helping our Home Library Service staff. This involves help with organising library events for homebound people, plus driving them to the events and meeting supporting them during the event.
Manor House Library
The pilot role would involve:
o issuing and discharging library loans
o returning library items to the shelves
o tidying and putting library stock into order.
o carrying out minor repairs to stock and cleaning stock
o answering routine enquiries and directing more complex enquiries to library staff.
o operating the photocopier
Other potential volunteering roles
o Talking to children about books they have read during the Summer Reading Challenge scheme.
o Helping to organise childrens activities
o Promotional work
Potentially there are
even more volunteering roles but all require thought and planning. For
example work with children requires high
Our intention is to work with Volunteering Lewisham and local voluntary organisations to develop these roles for the future.
In reality there is a lot of talent in the community that we need to tap: volunteering is a way to do that, in turn developing the individual who volunteers.
As ever thank you for your interest in the services we provide.
Library and Information Service Manager
Lewisham Library & Information Service
020 8314 8026
VOLUNTEERING WITHIN THE LEWISHAM LIBRARY SERVICE (JULY 2006)
Peter Richardson has questioned Antonio Rizzo, Resources & Service Development
Librarian, about the use of volunteers within the Lewisham Library Service.
The exchange is set out below:
Several members of our group and other users at Manor House Library have drawn our attention to the notice requesting volunteers in the Library Service. We would like to use this in our next newsletter, so would appreciate as much information as possible on the new volunteer policy.
We are developing a policy on volunteering. In this context, we would like to test a factual interaction between our employees and members in the community who may have an interest in what we do. The result will hopefully inform a document that will contribute to the policy.
What criteria will be used in the choice of volunteers?
There may be four:
one essential criterion is the willingness to champion the services we provide by standing next to us every day (or so).
the additional criterion has to do with the fundamental willingness to give up our time on a voluntary basis.
the third criterion has to do with knowledge, which may relate to computing, love of books, art, etc.
the last criterion pertains to one's ability to relate to members of the public. We would be looking for someone who truly enjoys engaging with people of all walks of life.
Will they be vetted?
Yes. There will be a formal selection which results in the volunteer committing to volunteer and the service committing to support the volunteer.
What training will be given?
This will very much depend on the type of contribution the volunteer is prepared to make. It can go from full training, as we do with our own staff, to an introduction to what is available in the building.
Will they replace qualified staff?
Has Unison expressed a view on this?
As I said, this is a new area for us, Manor House is very much an experiment, which may lead to exceptional results in terms of engagement with the local community, active participation, improved dialogue with users and non users, etc.
We started talking to Unison representatives within the service, but there are limited comparators to express a view. One common point is that the introduction of volunteers will not replace qualified staff.
Will the hours of duty be negotiated?
In theory, yes. But we would like to see a firm commitment to the service.
What happens when volunteers are unavailable either due to sickness, holidays
or other commitments?
These may be replaced by other volunteers.
Will there be a contract of work?
No. There will be an agreement between the volunteer and the Service, whereby we respectively agree to provide services and to support the aspirations of the volunteer.
Is this policy intended to widen the hours of opening or to save money on
Widening opening hours may well be a result of this, because it may allow us to deploy our staff in different ways.
There will be no savings on staffing, only improved services.
Will they be IT trained to a reasonable standard to help the public?
Again, this is up to the volunteer. They decide how much or how little of the opportunities we offer they are willing to take. If they enjoy using computers and would love to sit next to a friend showing them how to make the most of Google, we can equip the volunteer with the knowledge to do just that.
How will this scheme be funded and what are the considered costs?
This is very much a text of us. The scheme will not require additional funding. The costs will remain within the service's budget.
It is a great pity this is not being made known to the wider public.
Again, this initiative is not ready to be widely applied. We need to test it enough to develop a better understanding about the interactions that may result from introducing volunteers in our libraries. Some authorities have been doing it for many years, but we are new to this and willing to learn.
|Resume of meeting with John Hughes, recently appointed Service Manager for the Library, Information and Tourism and Antonio Rizzo, Resource and Services Development Librarian held in Manor House Library on 6th June 2006|
Following the meeting held tonight with the above, I think I can report a
breakthrough on the Manor House.
Options are being finalised following the invitation of Capita Consultants to scrutinise the existing plans and costs. They determined that the plan was unaffordable in its present form (as reported to Lewisham cabinet on 11th January 2006).
Because of the constraints placed by English Heritage on what can be done to a grade II*-listed building, it was said they were looking at refurbishment plans within the existing framework of the building. Moreover, these plans will include usage of the building for community purposes such as IT classes on the 1st floor, perhaps some Lewisham College classes and spaces for other community uses.
We are not counting our chickens before they have hatched, but it sounded very much upbeat.
Because it was said new plans were expected, I asked about the planned transfer of the Training Unit from Ladywell (which had been studiously omitted throughout .!), since new plans would be drawn on the internal requirements of the spaces. The answer given was the quote above about the constraints of the building, implying that alteration of the building was no longer on the agenda.
Taking that and the stated usage of the first floor for IT classes etc. forces the conclusion that plan A is ditched!
But dont count your chickens ..!!
Always wait for the proof. Which could be imminent, since Cllr Chris Best (Member for Community Services in Steve Bullocks new cabinet of seven) is reported to have announced in her inaugural speech, that Manor House Library would be revamped by June 2008.
The best news of all is that the options will be submitted to full and wide public consultation.
So, Ken Livingstone is wrong. Voting can change things! It has in Lewisham.
Watch this space.
Peter Richardson, Chairman.
WRITTEN EVIDENCE GIVEN TO THE CMS SELECT COMMITTEE
21st March 2006
House of Commons Committee Office,
London SW1P 3JA
Ref: Second oral evidence session protecting and preserving our heritage
Dear Sir or Madam,
We wish the following to be taken as written evidence of our experience with the London Borough of Lewisham concerning the Manor House Library in Old Road, Lee, London SE12 5SY.
The Manor House is a grade II* listed building, one of 34 such graded properties in the borough. This amount is placed more in context when it is realised that 13 of them are terraced houses in Albury Street, Deptford, leaving only 21 other such listed properties.
The house was built about 1772 for Thomas Lucas, and was a family home of the Baring family of banking fame until it was sold to the fledgling borough of Lewisham in 1901. It became a public library in 1902.
References to the building are included in the Pevsner volume, The Buildings of England, London 2, South (Penguin 1983) and John Summersons Georgian London (1945).
The building features a central villa with a stepped access leading to a colonnaded portico entrance. An eastern wing was added about 1813 to link pre-existing buildings and to house a servants staircase up to the top (second floor) which underwent some minor modification in 1901. The construction is in keeping with the villa. In 1937 a western wing was added to house a reading room for the library. This too is built in keeping with the villa. Indeed, most people, viewing the building for the first time, are unaware the wings are additions. And it goes without saying that for most people alive in the community, they have never seen the building other than in its present state.
For almost 6 years we have been involved with Lewisham in an as yet un-commenced attempt to refurbish the building following decades of years of neglect and abuse. Abuse was committed at some period in the past when a valuable central staircase to the first floor was lost as were over-door decorations and two Baring family portraits which once graced the entrance lobby. In addition, two support walls in the first floor were removed, resulting in the sagging of the floor of the second storey, and the neglect mentioned, culminated in a leaking roof, which served only to aggravate this problem. However, after the failure of an earlier Heritage Lottery Bid attempt, a new roof was fitted, alleviating that particular problem. Due to the prevarication by the Council, this cost far more public money than might have been necessary. Nevertheless, no remedial work has been done to the interior with one obvious result being the fact that extremely old and poor electrical wiring has literally dimmed the lights.
In 2000, following a failed attempt to close the library, an event in which we played no small a part, the then Mayor set aside £1.75M of capital funding earmarked for the refurbishment of the building.
We were greatly encouraged by this act and were happy to become involved in a project, originally aimed at achieving this, with the aid of Heritage Lottery Funding. A firm of Conservation Architects were engaged as consultants who set about designing plans to aid the bid. Full and wide public consultation was carried out at this stage and in due course, a project team was formed which included Council officers, the architects and three local focus groups of which we were (and remain) one. Unfortunately, the consultants were somewhat behind the times in their initial efforts, and despite my repeated warnings that their scheme would not be approved due to its central feature, (a stand alone glass and concrete structure new-build) to be located in the garden of the house and aimed at affording extra space for other activities as part of a Business Plan, the scheme did fail at the first hurdle - because at that time HLF did not support new-builds. This was in November 2003.
However, HLF suggested offering the Council substantial funding at a new bid with the proviso that they accepted HLF guidance in its plans. The Council refused this offer, preferring to retain control, and so asked their consultant architects for a new plan which would be funded by Council capital funds. This was duly accomplished, but unlike the earlier plan, the new plan did not enjoy full and wide public consultation.
Instead, the details were kept in-house via the Project Team. In September 2004 it was decided to proceed on a majority vote with our group refusing to comply because the plans involved demolition of the two wings, which were to be replaced with modern reconstructions. This decision was later put to the Mayor of Lewisham. On the 1st December 2004 the new plans and scheme were approved by the Mayor, which now involved a third Council agency in the building on the premise that by doing so, they could utilise this agencys current building as collateral for a substantial loan thus bridging the gap between what remained of the £1.75M (less consultancy fees) and the estimated costs of the new plan. In addition, the new agency would provide an income flow.
In early 2005 a new local group offended by the plans for destruction of their local iconic building, was formed by members of the community, most of whom were not library users, but all held the building as a focus point within their community. By arranging an Awareness Day it became clear that very few people in the locality were actually aware of any plans for the redevelopment and were very angry about the lack of consultation. However, most people felt confident that English Heritage would halt the destruction, since they were believed to be the arbiters of listed buildings. Letters to Tessa Jowell, MP and her department went unanswered.
The project team last met in May 2005. Later in May, the Council held an Information exercise in the library to display the plans created by the consultants. In June we met with the officers now in charge of the scheme and were given promises of costings and details of the Business Plans (then incomplete) and designs for the layout of the library.
To date, none of these have been forthcoming. By alternative means, we have discovered the estimated costs and the amounts paid to the consultants to date. On 15th September 2005 application for Planning permission and Listed Building Consent were made on behalf of the council with a closing date of 7th October being nominated. English Heritage refused to comment on the plans, pointing out that national and local guidelines were to be observed if the council wished to progress with the scheme. These documents have been seen in the Planning Services file. Furthermore, the Council now maintain that as the building is in the Councils ownership, the Council is not able to grant Listed Building Consent itself; the application will be formally determined by the Secretary of State (Government Office for London).
In the meantime, by alternative routes, we discovered the estimated overall cost of the project, the anticipated income flow from all sources (less a subsidy agreed much earlier) and could see at a glance that this was truly uneconomic.
On 11th January 2006 it was declared in council that the scheme for the Manor House in its current form is unaffordable. Options for the scheme were being considered. This has naturally caused an outrage, and furthermore, in reply to my subsequent enquiries, £201,000 in consultancy fees has been paid to the consultants with a further £100,000 in fees anticipated to bring the (new) scheme to completion. We have nothing to show for it.
Six years later, without a bag of sand or cement purchased, we are no closer to our intended refurbishment. Hundreds of thousands of pounds in wasted fees illustrate the mismanagement of this
unfortunate saga. Welcome to Lewishams attempts at protecting and preserving our heritage.
In summary, please note the following points:-
In our experience, no input from the ground up has had any impact
English Heritage has been dismissive and unresponsive to critical, searching questions
The Georgian Group said they wanted to know, then back-tracked
SAVE Britains Heritage have ignored our package of information and our emails
Heritage Lottery Fund wanted to be supportive, but were removed from the loop
The Baring Foundation has offered us a small grant for the refurbishment of a small multi-purpose room which would have been more if the Council had been more co-operative and eager to conclude the project
We were impressed by the questioning by the Committee and the contributions
put forward by the contributing groups at the Second oral evidence session,
Protecting and preserving our heritage.
We are also grateful that the CMS Committee has this agenda, but our experience of the same, e.g. Gerald Kaufmans committees on libraries, seemed to have been binned by the DCMS.
There is no genuine, sincere wish to alter the status quo, let alone funding. This goes to the heart of Government.
Peter Richardson, Chairman.
for and on behalf of the committee.
Visit us at www.librarylondon.org and seek local/lewisham/manor house