Tag Archives: Canning Town

Cheeky Nando’s

8 Oct

Canning Town library

Newham council’s local development committee is the unlikely focus of controversy, as it considers an application for change of use for the old Canning Town library. If the change is agreed the ground floor of the historic building will be converted to into a Nando’s restaurant.

The proposal is controversial because campaigners claim that the building once hosted speeches by the like of Keir Hardie and Sylvia Pankhurst and gave birth to the GMB, one of Britain’s biggest trade unions. In fact, that all happened next door, in the old public hall which is now occupied by Community Links.

The proposal has been denounced on social media by councillors, local Labour members and residents. The Evening Standard picked up the story and even the Morning Star has chipped in:

“This bird-brained move by Newham Council shows an utter disregard for East London’s proud history,” GMB regional secretary Warren Kenny said.

“GMB understands local authorities have been driven to the wall by the Conservatives’ austerity project.

“But we had been in talks with Newham about turning the library into a learning space – which GMB would have had offices in.

“Instead they’ve chosen to feather their own nest and allow GMB’s birthplace to become yet another chicken shop.”

The local Labour Party in Canning Town North argued the library in Barking Road should remain open to the public due to its historical importance.

A Labour spokesman said: “The library is a Grade II listed building has been owned by the council and used as a public library since around 1894.

“We aren’t against Nando’s as such; we simply believe that the proposal is in the wrong place and should be in empty properties. It would enable the old library to continue with its original function of serving the public.”

The Newham Recorder reports that the mayor has been surprised by the proposals

Ms Fiaz [asked] why no GMB councillors approached her about the issue when she was elected in May. The mayor, who is also a GMB member, said she only found out about the proposals in an article published last week.

So how did we get to this point?

Newham council decided way back in April 2011 to move the library into a new ‘community hub’ space within the Rathbone Market development. The minutes of the cabinet meeting record a decision

to make an allocation within the capital programme for the purchase of the space from the developer, for the fit out of the whole 12,000 sq ft of space and for fixtures, fittings and equipment for the new Library Plus service operated by Customer Services.

They go on to note that

Councillor Furness said that this was warmly welcomed by local ward Members.

Then councillor, now London Assembly member, and GMB stalwart Unmesh Desai was at the meeting, as was Lester Hudson. Did no-one realise that moving the Library out would leave the building vacant and in need of an alternative tenant?

The change of use for the Rathbone Market building to a library was formally agreed in 2016, by the Strategic Development Committee, chaired by councillor Ken Clark.

Subsequently, an external specialist was instructed to market the old library building and find a suitable tenant to take a lease on commercial terms with a use that would provide an income stream for the Council and provide vitality and footfall for the area.

In December 2017 the then-mayor, Sir Robin Wales, received a report on the future of the Canning Town Library building

…which sought approval for the letting of the former Canning Town Library, Barking Road E16.

The former Canning Town Library building was vacated in September 2017 when the services moved to new and improved facilities at Canning Town and Custom House Community Neighbourhood Centre.

A number of restaurant and bar chains had expressed an interest, but Nando’s was the preferred bidder, “reflecting a strong covenant with a community use.”

The report identified number of benefits, in addition to the significant commercial revenue

[Nando’s] propose to make Canning Town the London hub for their project to help the UK emerging creative community as they feel this is a place where they can really make a difference. Their own research concludes that young creatives need access to resources, to extend their creative network to reach an audience that will embrace their talents. This is something they think they can help with by providing resources, skills and experience they need. It is the intention of the prospective tenant to make part of the property available for community activity in a way that they have already delivered on other restaurant sites

Sir Robin approved the recommendation. It was also agreed that

the Director of Asset Management, in consultation with the Mayoral Advisor for Commercial Property [Cllr Ian Corbett], be authorised to finalise negotiations with regard to the Heads of Terms and to have delegated authority to conclude all matters arising from this decision.

Among those present were Canning Town councillor Ann Easter, as well as Ayesha Chowdhury, Lester Hudson, Mas Patel and Quintin Peppiatt. They, along with Ken Clark and Unmesh Desai, are all now signatories to an open letter calling for Nando’s application to be rejected!

The commercial letting of the Library building hasn’t appeared out of nowhere  – it was literally years in making. Relocating the library inevitably required a new tenant be found for the old building. If Nando’s make good on their promises to build a hub for the creative community that will be a huge benefit to Canning Town.

And it ill-befits people who have been party to the decisions that got us here to be complaining now about the proposal and its supposed lack of sensitivity to Labour history. Especially as none of that history happened in the library.

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Take it to the limit

13 May

A small earthquake happened in Newham last night. Five local Labour party branches voted for a motion to impose term-limits on directly elected mayors.

Members in Forest Gate North, Forest Gate South, Stratford, Canning Town and Manor Park (Sir Robin’s own ward!) supported a proposition put forward by the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy to amend the national rule book:

The Labour Party Rule Book 2016 Chapter 5 Selections, rights and responsibilities of candidates for elected public office.Clause I. General rules for selections for public office. Sub-Clause 1. G. i. Alternative Procedures, reads as follows:

‘For any mayoral selection the NEC may consider the use of primary elections, subject to the absolute power of the NEC to cancel or amend procedure, and subject to:

a. Procedural guidelines set by the NEC.’

Amendment

Add new sub-clause:

b. If a selected candidate is elected for two consecutive terms he/she cannot apply for selection as the Labour candidate for the same mayoral post for the following third term.

Directly-elected mayors were introduced in 2000 and, from the first mayoral elections in 2002 until 2008, the Labour Party rules stipulated that Directly-Elected Mayors who were Labour Party members could not stand for re-election after having served two terms. This time limit was removed on the recommendation of the NEC Local Government Committee in 2008 – in good time to allow the likes of Sir Robin and Hackney’s Jules Pipe to be re-selected for a third term.

As we know to our cost in Newham, directly-elected Mayors have presidential-type executive powers. These are not always balanced by adequate scrutiny from councillors – in Newham they are barely subject to any at all. 

Sir Robin has been in charge of our borough since 1995. First as leader of the council and since 2002 as mayor. In the interests of healthy democratic local governance, a single individual should not hold these powers for so long.