Despite the very short notice Councillor Leila Ben-Hassel’s emergency meeting on the closure of Norbury Library on Saturday was attended by at least 30 people with about 12 on Zoom, although this crashed and could not be restored. I received several apologies in response to my email to Norbury Watch readers. Some of those attending have sent me notes and comments.
There was a lively debate around the subject of Norbury Library, points raised included:
- why not enough council staff to cover opening of Library on Saturdays
- why local groups have not been encouraged to use the newly refurbished Library more.
- how to increase the use and footfall of the library in general to show that the library is a focal point for the people in Norbury.
- healthy and safety issues around using the library on Saturdays when you will be able to enter the library to return and take books with no staff there from May – June time in the summer.
- why were all the lights left on at night in the Library; this is a waste of council tax payers money and surely a few security light would suffice rather than all lights left on.
Other matters discussed were:
- Licensing – old Barclays Bank site. Everyone was encouraged to object to council on this matter. Reasons noise pollution, attracting undesirables to high street, gambling addiction and security for public
- Fly tipping
- Road safety
- Bus shelters –mainly about a TfL owned shelter
Although billed to talk about early years provision in Norbury, Cabinet member and Norbury Park Councillor Alisa Flemming failed to attend.
Councillor Ben-Hassel said she was taking notes of the meeting and would email everyone who attended in due course.
A resident on Zoom who was only able to catch the first 20 minutes before it crashed comments:
‘I thought Leila gave a fair summary of the issues she has faced as councillor which was to the effect that Open Plus Saturday openings where library users will have access to an un-manned library should be piloted from June or July; that she had pleaded for at least half day Saturday openings for the interim period to no avail (I imagine the financial situation is very difficult)’
- There ‘will be a commissioning programme for the cafe in the library but that this will take many months.’
- ‘Apparently council’s rationale for giving Thornton Heath Saturday openings with full staff is that their library has a higher footfall and greater use by groups – but they have been renovated for a few years now.’
- ‘Leila pleaded against judging Norbury by the measure of footfall given coronavirus, the long closure during renovations’
- ‘I think Leila is hoping that the cafe will serve to attract in more people.’
- ‘She also expressed dismay at the lack of librarians as part of the local service – but we must imagine given the current financial situation that this is a wish rather than something that the council will be in a position to delivery any time soon.’
- ‘Technical failure on Zoom meant I only caught the first 20 minutes. …. For future councillors will need a technical support checking the chat on Zoom!’
Communicating With Residents
Saturday’s meeting was the only one organised by Cllr. Ben-Hassel since she was elected in 2019 after the death of Maggie Mansell. There has been no regular email or printed newsletter on Councillor activities. There have been no regular updates on social media. Communicating with residents is an important part of the role of Councillors and most fail to do so. All candidates for the four Nobrury in the Council elections could be asked to pledge:
- to hold a minimum of 2 advice surgeries a month, linked to a coffee morning session to report on and discuss new issues such as new planning and licence applications;
- to hold a minimum of four general ward public report back meetings a year;
- to hold additional public meetings on specialist issues e.g. affecting smaller neighbourhood areas in the ward;
- to circulate to all households at least four times a year a newsletter about the activities of Councillors;
- to circulate to all households in smaller neighbourhood areas leaflets about new issues affecting those areas.
While this may seem a lot to expect it should be remembered that the Councillors are supposed to be supported by members of their political party, who can help organise the meetings and deliver the newsletters and leaflets.
Opposing The Slot Machine Application
There is growing concern about the application by Merkur Slots UK Ltd. To turn the former Barclays Bank premises at 1432/1434 London Road into an alleged bingo hall, closing at 1am and at 2am on Fridays and Saturdays
One resident who has submitted his objection states:
- ‘Clearly with only 4 bookmakers within a literal stones’ throw of one another, the applicant regards this an investment area ripe for gamblers who have nothing to do when said bookies are closed or between activities and for those who may not be able to afford bookies’ minimum stakes, or the applicant has seen an opportunity with an un-tapped audience.’
- ‘It will be a most unwanted addition to the area for local residents and probably shop keepers (purveyors of fast food and alcohol accepted).’
- ‘It will serve no useful purpose to the community.’
- ‘It will be situated in a busy area where there is very little parking and poor public transport links.’
- ‘The proposed hours of opening are unsociable.’
- ‘Closing time will gourge punters and staff on to a busy main road and will generate unwanted noise to local residents.’
- ‘It will be an offensive business to some local residents.’
- ‘It is my understanding that Croydon is to be London’s City of Culture in 2023 – quite how this application rests with the objectives of those responsible for that – should it come to pass – is totally beyond comprehension.’
Another resident argues that the opening of this so called bingo place should not be allowed because it will:
- create more noise pollution in the residential areas around;
- attract undesirables to the area
- will encourage gambling addiction within the community of Norbury
He asks whether adequate security will be provided.
His final point is that given ‘there are many places of worship in close vicinity of this site Norbury Islamic academy, Liberty Church and Bismillah centre mosque is it really appropriate to have gambling places so close to our places of worship!!’