Blackheath residents have expressed their concern about the planned closure of their local library, which they say would prove harmful to children and elderly people.
A meeting to discuss the closure of Blackheath Library produced mixed responses from local people, with some condemning the plans and arguing that the village is increasingly dominated by leisure venues for young adults, alienating other members of the community.
More than fifty people attended the meeting on Wednesday night at the Leamore Centre in Lewisham.
Lewisham Council’s decision to close Blackheath Library – as well as four other Lewisham libraries, as part of a swathe of cuts announced by Mayor Steve Bullock – was source of concern for many local people.
Although the closure of the library is likely, alternative options were put forward.
The meeting was chaired by Malcolm Smith, the executive director for regeneration in Lewisham, who answered questions alongside Aileen Buckton, the executive director for the borough’s community services.
Ian Mills, the chair of local charity Age Exchange which helps the elderly, presented a ‘fallback position’ should the library close. His solution involves moving some of the library’s services to the nearby Reminiscence Centre.
The three Blackheath councillors, Kevin Bonavia, Amanda De Ryk and Chris Maines, all attended, asking and answering questions themselves.
Although much of the meeting discussed how the closure of the library would be managed, many local people are still opposed to the library closing altogether.
Hubert Spall, a 39-year-old web developer from Blackheath, said that he didn’t think the library should close at all.
He went on to say that he has a 6-year-old daughter who is a regular user of Blackheath Library and would suffer without it, and added: “It is a real problem is if children grow up without a library.”
The meeting was attended by the Blackheath Village Library Users Group which is also strongly opposed to the closure of Blackheath Library. Yet Anne Bennet, the writer of the group’s newsletter, added that the money needed to fund the library ‘just isn’t there.’
Other issues were talked about, as some local people voiced concerns that the library is one of the only places left for the elderly in Blackheath Village, which some believe is becoming overwhelmed with pubs and cafés for younger people.
By Tom Hilton