Canning Town Library could be turned into a Nando’s

Nando's could turn the ground floor of Canning Town Library into a branch. Pic: Rachael Burford

Nando's could turn the ground floor of Canning Town Library into a branch. Pic: Rachael Burford - Credit: Archant

A public library that hosted political speakers such as Keir Hardie and Sylvia Pankhurst, and gave birth to one of Britain’s biggest trade unions is set to become a Nando’s.

The chicken chain has applied to transform the ground floor of Canning Town Library into a restaurant, with a dining area outside and illuminated signage at the front.

Residents in the area have described the plans as an “abomination”.

The Grade II listed library and neighbouring public hall were completed in 1894. Trade unionist Keir, suffragette Sylvia and Nobel-prize winning author Bertrand Russell addressed crowds at the hall.

After a speech there in 1889 trade unionist Will Thorne formed the National Union of Gasworkers and General Labourers — which later went on to become GMB — and helped organise the London Dock Strike of the same year.

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The Canning Town North Labour Party said the library in Barking Road is historically important and should remain open to the community.

A spokesman said: “The library’s a Grade II listed building owned by the council and used as a public library since around 1894. We aren’t against Nando’s as such; we simply believe that the proposal is in the wrong place and should be in empty properties. It would enable the old library to continue with its original function of serving the public.”

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Newham resident Josephine Phillips said: “Stop this abomination of a much-loved community asset. It has been a much-loved library to countless generations of us that grew up here.”

Others pointed out that Barking Road already has more than a dozen chicken shops. said: “We have more chicken shops and restaurants than could be necessary.”

The library closed last year and services were moved to a nearby community centre in Rathbone Market.

Newham Council received enquiries from several bar and restaurant companies to take on the space, according to a planning report.

Council officers noted it was costing “£2,000 per week to maintain the security of the building” and Nando’s was identified as the “preferred occupier”.

Nando’s had applied to remove a spiral staircase in the building but dropped the plans after complaints from Historic England. Council officers have recommended the Nando’s plan be approved at a meeting on Monday. Historic England deemed the latest plans “acceptable”, the planning report said.

Nando’s has more than 90 restaurants in London. A spokesman said it was “really excited [to bring] our delicious Peri-Peri chicken to the area and creating new jobs”. They added: “We know the library building means a lot to the community. That’s why we’re planning to keep as much of the building’s original features and character as we can.”

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