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College tried to get hands on Bancroft in 1990s—we stopped it!

PUBLISHED: 12:12 30 July 2008 | UPDATED: 13:29 05 October 2010

Dear Editor,THE emergency resolution on Bancroft Library raised at the Labour Party’s monthly meeting helped initiate debate. But it failed to clarify the major difference between the official Town Hall decision-makers and that of former Labour MP and MEP Stan Newens who also chairs Labour’s heritage society. A group of us in the early 1990s successfully campaigned against the-then Lib Dem council’s policy of selling off the Bancroft to the college to help pay for its costly programme of building seven neighbourhood town halls

Dear Editor,

THE emergency resolution on Bancroft Library raised at the Labour Party's monthly meeting helped to initiate debate.

But it failed to clarify the major difference between the official Town Hall decision makers, including the Cabinet, and that of former Labour MP and MEP Stan Newens who also chairs Labour's heritage society (Advertiser Letters, July 24).

It will be no surprise to anyone that I would be wholeheartedly in the (local historian) 'Tom Ridge' camp, which means finding an alternative for the Weiner Museum if absolutely necessary. My preference would be the old St George's town hall in Cable-street.

But at the same, there is no case whatsoever in moving the Tower Hamlets Archives from the very suitable location at Bancroft-road in Mile End.

It is no secret that Queen Mary College (next door) has long coveted the one remaining public building as an extension to the university campus.

Our Town Hall officers have failed to recognise that they, not Queen Mary college, are in the position to dictate the terms for the future use of this beautiful Victorian building.

The Cabinet should instruct its officers that these terms must include the full restoration of the old Vestry Hall, the archives and our history library.

The objective, a world-wide facility of mutual benefit to both the university and the public, in line with the original Joseph Carnegie covenant (1906).

A group of us in the early 1990s successfully campaigned against the-then Lib Dem council's policy of selling off the Bancroft to the college to help pay for its costly programme of building seven neighbourhood town halls.

This was in response to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's policy of taking away two-thirds of London's revenue, the Business Rate, which has not been restored by Blair or Brown.

Perhaps Cllr Peter Golds (Tower Hamlets member for Blackwall & Cubitt Town) is right to say that today's 'Town Hall' is the costly Rich Mix arts centre in Bethnal Green (Advertiser Letters, July 24).

Our success last time in saving the Bancroft was persuading a tribunal that there were historic covenants protecting the functions of Bancroft Library building.

This time, Queen Mary college hopes its lower price bid will succeed... by adding a non-enforceable promise of providing a 'home' for the Weiner Museum. This must not happen.

Belle Harris

Tredegar-square, Bow

(former Tower Hamlets councillor)

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