Out of the Wood Street

Marlowe Road Estate resident Michelle Edwards looks back at one of the most contentious local issues of 2018

Marlowe Road Estate

Newly completed blocks of flats on Marlowe Road Estate, where Wood Street Library will soon be relocated (credit Penny Dampier)

The fate of Wood Street Library is another case of “I told you so”.

In my June article I revealed that the existing building was set to be closed, with Waltham Forest Council confirming as much in July.

For those who didn’t get a chance to dig through the council’s ‘Library Local’ consultation report from February 2017, 69 & of respondents disagreed with the idea to relocate Wood Street Library. A whopping 84 & of users, for whom Wood Street is their main library, disagreed.

But as usual, the Labour-run local authority’s response to this setback was to press ahead with their original decision regardless, rendering the whole process a waste of time. At a scrutiny committee meeting in August, council leader Clare Coghill shrugged off concerns made by five people who spoke in opposition to the library’s closure and relocation. When quizzed on the accuracy of financial information and lack of pre-decision scrutiny, she figuratively gave the middle finger to Conservative councillors John Moss and Catherine Saumarez.

At an earlier cabinet meeting in July, where the decision to relocate the library to the new Marlowe Road Estate development was approved, three public speakers attended. One contribution caused my right eyebrow to join my hairline. James Seriuex, deputy head boy at Holy Family Catholic School, spoke positively about natural light and safety design. Cllr Coghill was delighted and started a round of applause from the cabinet. Afterwards, I spoke with James and asked what prompted him to attend; he told me that newly-elected Wood Street councillor Vicky te Velde had invited him and stressed upon him how good it would be to give his opinion.

Having long known the library was consigned to the demolition dump, I’ve been trying to network and have some much-needed ‘fun’. The Guardian gave me a complimentary ticket to their Guardian Live event ‘Grenfell Tower: One Year On’ and it was there that I met a survivor who brought me to tears. On hearing about our victory in Waltham Forest, with the council being persuaded to install fire sprinklers in 61 tower blocks, she presented me with a Grenfell green heart pin.

Hearing about grassroots activists like Paul Sng, director and producer of the social housing documentary Dispossession, as well as groups such as Focus E15 whose high-profile actions prevented 29 mothers being shipped out of London by Newham Council, has really energised me over the past few months. But my Christmas came early with the arrival of a complimentary copy of Meghan Markle’s charitable cookbook Together: Our Community Cookbook. As well as 50 colourful recipes, it showcases the women of the Hubb Community Kitchen who rallied around to cook for neighbours and families after the Grenfell Tower fire last year. Profits from the book will help to keep Hubb open every day.

One question: What did you do for your community in 2018?

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