|Acton Arts Project Made 'Preferred Occupant' of Library
Cinema and arts centre will get lease if further assessments are passed
After nearly six years sitting vacant, the Acton Library building may finally have a new tenant.
Last Tuesday night’s (15 October) Ealing Council’s Cabinet approved the selection of Acton Arts Project (AAP) as the preferred occupant. Provided AAP passes financial and non-financial assessments, they will be granted a 24-year lease.
A spokesman for the AAP said the group hoped to have the building open within two years, when it will house a two-screen cinema, bar and cafe, and work spaces for creatives upstairs.
Council Leader Julian Bell said the deal had been “frustratingly long” in the making.
He said: “This is kind of the second time we’ve tried to push the boulder up the hill.”
There was significant community support for the move, Mr Bell said.
“I think this will be a great additional to Acton Town Centre.”
Mr Bell said the project was about improving the area, and not about financial benefit.
Opposition councillor Greg Stafford supported the choice, and asked if there was anything council could do to ensure the project remained financially viable and was supported.
He said: “Are we going to give them a bit of money?”
Mr Bell responded by saying given the severe financial challenges created by the lack of funding from the Conservative-led Central Government, additional funding would be difficult.
He said: “I can’t make any hard and fast promises, but I’m certainly happy to look at it and I’m sure we will have discussions going forward.
He said the 24-year lease would also make grant funding easier to apply for,
Acton Arts Project spokesman Mike Taylor said the decision was “fantastic” and “absolutely the right choice for Acton”.
Mr Taylor said AAP had more than 5,000 individual supporters from across the political spectrum and community groups. AAP is a group of trustees formed specifically to create a cinema and creative working space in Acton.
He said: “We have partnered with the guys who run the Crouch End ArtHouse. We are not pretending we can build and run cinemas.
“Upstairs we are partnering with a company that provides work spaces.”
Mr Taylor said AAP was in the process of raising £100,000 that would pay for planning and legal help to get the project “off the launch pad”.
He added: “Overall the project will cost in the range of about £1million, but we need to raise that first £100,000 to pay for legals and the basics.”
AAP has currently raised £44,000 of their £100,000 target, and anyone hoping to contribute can do so here.
Mr Taylor said AAP had applied to the Greater London Authority’s Good Growth Fund.
“It looks like anything we raise will be matched by the GLA,” he said.
Pledges from other backers also made the £1million target achievable, Mr Taylor said.
The date of move-in would depend on what shape the building is currently in.
He said the group hopes to have the cinema and workspaces up and running within two years, but added: “Until we get in there and actually start ripping up floorboards and testing loads you don’t know what you’ve go, but it’s a stunning building, it’s a great space, and it really needs to be opened up again.”
The Library is a Grade Two listed building.
Ged Cann - Local Democracy Reporter
October 16, 2019