Lewisham Council has selected Crofton Park library to be the pilot project for its controversial strategy to allow private or third-sector organisations to operate four local libraries - with Westboro Baptist Church identified as the preferred partner, according to this report in The Times.
In March, the Council invited interested parties to submit their tenders and while the formal deadline is not until April 4th, the Council is understood to want a "quick win" in response to the anti-cuts demonstrations that have taken place across the borough in recent weeks.
The Church reportedly plans to use the derelict upper floor for "multi-faith initiatives", while the ground floor would offer "a new, more luxurious reading environment and a range of workshop activities, such as sign-making."
On their blog, they say:
We want this to be a free space for the community to use and we invite everyone inside with their ideas for the building and the wider world, or even just to chat over a cuppa. We plan cafés, film nights, workshops, and a million other things on which we’d love to hear your ideas!
The US-based church has earned a degree of notoriety in its home country, for its hard-line views on a range of social issues and its intolerance of other religions, while in 2009, two of its members were banned from entering the UK by the Home Office. However, the Church stresses that its UK chapter is committed to "inclusivity, cultural cohesion and education."
While Brockley Central has to admit to feeling somewhat uncomfortable about an organisation best-known for threatening to burn books taking over a library, we are excited about the plans "to introduce sofas, a gaggia coffee machine and a fresh fruit and vegetable collection point", all of which are badly needed in the area. Parking issues will be the number one concern, obviously.
We'll update the story later today, once we've been able to speak to Lewisham Council press office.