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Council pulls out of 'landmark' library investment at North Finchley artsdepot
Major plans to spend thousands on a new “landmark” library at the artsdepot in North Finchley have been scrapped by Barnet Council.
The authority has instead pledged to invest the cash in the existing North Finchley Library, which would have closed under the initial proposals, and has ruled out reopening the Friern Barnet Library.
A breakdown in relationship between the council and artsdepot directors has been blamed as the reason for the pull-out.
The council had already funded extensive research into the feasibility of the library and had been in discussions with the artsdepot over a joint bid to Arts Council England for a seven-figure grant.
A £1million bid from the Mayor’s Outer London Fund and a £379,000 investment from the council for public spaces around the area had already been agreed.
However, libraries portfolio holder Councillor Robert Rams said the board had unrealistic expectations of the amount of money the council could invest.
The cabinet member for customer access and partnerships said in a statement: “The artsdepot board also asked us for an extra £80,000 ‘transition funding’ for the next two years before agreeing to enter a joint bid to the Arts Council – a bid that was crucial to make the project work in terms of delivering some great benefit to the area.
“The artsdepot board required a level of rent and service charge that makes the scheme unaffordable to the council and seemed to show little understanding of the financial pressures facing us as an authority.
“To make any scheme work we would need a firm basis of trust and partnership. But the board have decided that key staff cannot either speak or meet with both councillors and officers. In these circumstances I just cannot see how the project can go forward.”
An interim library has been running in the artsdepot over the summer but the council confirmed this morning that would close on December 14.
Cllr Rams added: “We are now going to focus on investing in the existing North Finchley Library as an alternative. We have already carried out a feasibility study to explore how we might invest in that library building and I don’t doubt we can improve on the current building. But I can’t help but feel we have lost the opportunity to create something really special at the artsdepot.”