Architecture fans petition to save brutalist South Norwood Library building as service set to close

By Tara O’Connor, Local Democracy Reporter

Hundreds of fans of brutalist architecture are begging Croydon Council not to demolish South Norwood Library.

The council plans to relocate the service to a new building near Norwood Junction Station.

Now a petition to save the existing library in Lawrence Road has gathered more than 500 signatures in three days.

The petition was started by Verena Ammon, who says the striking building is one of the reason she moved to the area in 2019.

“I don’t think the new library is thought through, it is a lot smaller, it isn’t practical,” said the 33-year-old.

“From the perspective of architecture, it is very important to preserve this building. It is a very open, accessible style of architecture.”

Fellow campaigner Libby Hamilton was behind an earlier petition to save the library back in December, when it was one of five at risk of permanent closure, due to Croydon Council cuts in the wake of having to declare effective bankruptcy.

The library nearly didn’t move into a new home in Station Road due to the building not being up to scratch.

But this move will now go ahead and the council will use money from ring-fenced Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) funds to make the library usable.

But Libby wants to see the library stay in it’s current home rather than moving over to the new building.

The 41-year-old said: “I know a lot of people in South Norwood think it is an incredibly ugly building but for me it is a style of architecture that I love.

“When we explored the building’s history we discovered the architects worked with the community to build it.

“As soon as you start photographing the building you can appreciate the beauty of the lighting, even down to the hand rails which are beautiful solid wood. This is a really special building in this area.”

Verena Ammon

Local councillor Clive Fraser said that, while the building isn’t his cup of tea, he understands why some people want to see it remain.

He said: “The decision has been made already to move the library to a better location in a more modern building.

“The issue is what to do with this building, ideally we’d like some community use I would be interested to see what people come up with in terms of safeguarding the building.

“I grew up in the sixties when this architecture was built, I think glass and concrete isn’t my cup of tea but I see why people get excited about it.”

Fellow ward councillor Patsy Cummings said the council’s financial state will play into the decision of what to do to the building, but says she wants the community to be involved in the decision.

She said: “People are passionate about it and some people aren’t, that’s always an issue.

“Some people in the community love it and some don’t, some think it should be listed while others think it’s carbuncle.”

Another brutalist fan from South Norwood, Mary Hennock, says that if the building is lost, another like it will never be built again in the area.

The 62-year-old said: “I am a very big architecture buff and I’ve always thought this is a special building. It is a fantastic purpose-built library, you can see it is designed to be a reading space.

“I suppose it is a matter of taste. St Pancras Station was going to be knocked down in the sixties because it was a very unfashionable building. Now we understand that it is an important piece of architecture.”

She thinks in time people will appreciate the beauty of South Norwood Library if it remains.

As the council faces a financial crisis it originally proposed closing South Norwood, Broad Green, Bradmore Green, Sanderstead and Shirley libraries to save just £500,000 a year.

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Croydon – South London News