Lewisham’s Safer Stronger Communities Select Committee fails to find organisation to run Manor House and the library

cropped-DSCF1436.jpgAlthough Forest Hill and Torridon Road libraries have clarity about who will run their services, Lewisham Council can offer little comfort to residents on the future of Manor House and its library. Peter and Pat Richardson from Friends of Manor House Library attended the meeting and report back:
Only one proposal was submitted for Manor House and its library, from Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL).  It was agreed GLL had the necessary expertise to manage The Manor House and its library, but it lodged a request to convert the basement area into a Day Nursery as its primary income stream.  It was thought by the Conservation and Planning officers at London Borough of Lewisham that this was feasible, even though the building is Grade II*-listed.


However, Ofsted regulations require that an outside play area must have suitable fencing around that area to avoid the children being overlooked.  The suggestion of a high wooden fence fell foul of the Historic England grading requirements as it would obscure the vista of the rear of the House as seen from Manor House Gardens.
GLL was given the opportunity to re-assess their bid, taking in to account the problem of the fence/Day Nursery, but by 4.7.16 had not responded.


Thus the search continues and that means re-issuing requests for a bid. GLL will be included in the new invitational search.  A head-hunter is to be appointed as soon as possible, with a view to seeking a suitable bidder(s) with an emphasis on social enterprise.  However, it was thought that a suitable bidder was unlikely to be found before the next SSSC meeting in September.
Though there is no plan to ‘Mothball’ the Manor House, the library can and will (if necessary) continue to remain open post-mid September – albeit on reduced hours with intermittent visits by peripatetic staff.  Without library staff to keep the building itself open the library will be dependent on Self-Issue-Self-Return machines, as long as they work.  Cllr Mallory said that he was unhappy that the building would not be supported by staff.   He asked that a competent expertise would be guaranteed within the renewed specification for prospective hosts regarding Manor House. It was stated that the building would be manned – but it was not clear by whom.
There was no clarity on the future of children’s library sessions, school visits, the annual Summer Reading events or the three book clubs that occur on a monthly basis.
It was also revealed in the meeting that library staff are not subjected to police checks and Cllr Mallory, was so concerned about this factor he requested independent legal advice.


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