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Peace rally shows the importance of open public space

June 22, 2012 3:06 PM

A couple of Saturdays ago, a rally took place on the public space in front of Willesden Green library. The rally was organised as part of London Citizens' CitySafe campaign.

After the riots that so badly affected London last summer, London Citizens aim to create 'CitySafe Zones' across the capital - public places where people can feel safe and seek refuge from in difficult situation. One of these Zones is being developed on Willesden High Road, which incorporates the space in front of the current library building.

Sadly, in the next couple of months, Brent Labour are planning to take away this public space as part of their plans to redevelop Willesden Green library. Gone will be the open area that is currently used for community events and markets, as the new building will be far, far closer to the edge of the road. This, apparently, is to make the library more "connected" with the street.

As part of the plans, a space will be provided. However, whereas the current space is in clear sight of the road and passer-bys, the replacement will be sandwiched between the new four-storey library on one side and a five-storey residential block that will be built by the developers on the other. The result will be to create an open public space that is neither open nor particularly public.

I have major concerns over how safe this space will be. The space will often be in the shadow of the surrounding buildings, especially during winter, and there is no line of sight from the main road. This could potentially make the space a magnet for anti-social behaviour and there are not even plans for street-lighting to help prevent this from occurring.

Brent Council and the developers don't seem to believe there is a problem. As the space will be overlooked by one of the residential blocks, they believe that this will prevent it becoming a trouble spot. In effect, they are asking the residents to police the area.

I sincerely hope that the Labour-run Council will reconsider the Willesden Green library redevelopment to save this vital public space.

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