Kingston Council refuses to deny Surbiton library sell-off
Kingston Council has been accused of “selling off the family silver” after it refused to confirm whether it planned to flog Surbiton library.
Deputy leader Liz Green, who spoke in favour of the move at a Kingston Council assets strategy meeting last week, played down the rumours, saying there were “no immediate plans” to sell the Ewell Road site.
She did, however, fail to rule out the move, admitting the site, along with others in the borough, was “under review” and that there was a “possibility” it would be sold.
Coun Green said she would personally be in favour of moving the library to a more central location, possibly Victoria Road, though was keen to stress that it was not the opinion of the council.
She said the current library in Surbiton was not “fit for purpose”, that the 1930s building was very expensive to maintain and that it should be in a more central location.
However, she was keen to assure residents that there would always be a library in Surbiton.
She said: “I cannot confirm the library site will be sold but, on the other hand, I cannot say that it will not.
“At this very early stage we are considering a number of options, of which the library is one. There are no concrete plans to sell Surbiton library but at a time when we are trying to save money it would be foolish not to review all the sites the council owns to look into how the communities use the building.
“There will be a library in Surbiton going forward, whether it is at the current site or another one maybe closer to the town centre – I cannot say as it is still at a very early stage.”
A building that is home to adults with learning difficulties and a memorial commemorating victims of World War II form part of the land that could be sold off with Surbiton library.
Ron Morris, of Kingston Royal British Legion, said it would be “disappointing if the site were sold to private owners”.
He said: “If this happens and it was to fall into the hands of private owners then there is no guarantee that it will be looked after. And if it were to be moved, where would it be moved?”
At Sessions House, next to Surbiton library on Ewell Road, service users can talk to nurses and access services such as speech and language therapy.
It is run by social enterprise Your Health Care, which runs some health care services for NHS Kingston, who run a number of programmes, including physiotherapy, nursing and dietetics.
The war memorial, situated in the gardens of Sessions Houses, plays a pivotal role in Surbiton’s Remembrance Day service.
The grade two listed building, built in 1896, has had many uses throughout its 100-year plus history, including being the headquarters for Surbiton district council.
Berrylands Councillor Karen George, who was also present at the meeting, believes selling off the library has been in the pipeline for a long time.
She said: “The Liberal Democrat administration running Kingston Council now proposes selling off the family silver.
“It is clear Liz Green is in favour of the move and she wields a lot of power, so if she wants it to happen it will happen. It seemed like a set-up because, as soon as it was mentioned, she jumped all over it.
“It was clear that it had been thought about carefully because she mentioned that the British Legion would have to be consulted about moving the war memorial.”