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Crunch decision over Bancroft postponed to September

PUBLISHED: 23:38 18 July 2008 | UPDATED: 13:28 05 October 2010

TOWN Hall bosses have postponed a decision on the future of the famous Bancroft Archive and Local History library amid pressure from East Enders. Tower Hamlets council’s ruling cabinet was due to debate the proposed £1.2 million sale of the former Mile End Vestry Hall at its next meeting on July 30. But the issue has now been withdrawn from the agenda for that meeting. Councillors have delayed it until September 10

Ted Jeory

TOWN Hall bosses have postponed a decision on the future of the famous Bancroft Archive and Local History library amid pressure from East Enders.

Tower Hamlets council's ruling cabinetwas due to debate the proposed £1.2 million sale of the former Mile End Vestry Hall in Bancroft Road at its next meeting on July 30.

But the issue has now been withdrawn from the agenda for that meeting.

Instead, councillors have delayed it until their September 10 meeting.

The council claimed the delay had nothing to do with any public pressure.

There are merely "more pressing issues" to discuss, a spokeswoman explained.

Bancroft would be sold under current council proposals to Queen Mary college, part of the University of London.

The college would then lease out space to the Wiener Library, which needs to move from its leased premises in Marylebone in the West End by the end of the year.

The council has been trying to meet the university's demands, but has yet to come up with any alternative premises for the East End's own archives and history library.

To the fury and mounting concerns of historians, the authority has even suggested breaking up the collection.

It has suggested sending the history library south to the Museum in Docklands, four miles away on the Isle of Dogs, and the archives west to the Royal London Hospital's collection in Whitechapel.

But the East London Advertiser has discovered that neither the museum nor hospital trust has even confirmed to the Town Hall whether it has the space.

The Museum in Docklands has yet to begin any feasibility study.

The paper understands that delaying the cabinet decision will give the museum's board of external directors time to examine the council's proposals.

Cabinet councillors are also now coming under pressure from party colleagues.

Tower Hamlets Labour party debates an emergency motion next Thursday (July 22) that suggests moving Bancroft's entire collection to Bethnal Green Library, half-a-mile away.

It is an idea also supported by Labour's London Assembly member John Biggs, who said: "The Bancroft collection is extremely important and needs to be in one place.

"I'm very much a supporter of Queen Mary college and the role it plays in the East End.

"But any disposal of Bancroft must ensure the collection has a permanent home and nothing is broken up."

Bethnal Green & Bow MP George Galloway this week tabled an Early Day Motion in Parliament, backing an idea by East End historian Tom Ridge, who has suggested keeping the archives at Bancroft and inviting the Wiener Library to take over the former Poplar Board of Works in Poplar High Street.

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