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save our dugdale petition home pageWhen news about changes at Thomas Hardy House leaked out in March 2020 a petition was launched that has now amassed more than 2000 signatures. Last week the Enfield cabinet agreed to move the local studies and archive service to the Civic Centre.

Enfield Council has revealed that the future location of its archives and local studies centre will be the ground floor of the Civic Centre, where there will also be exhibition spaces for art and archive artifacts. The news was revealed at a cabinet meeting last week which reviewed the council's ongoing programme to streamline and improve services. The freed up space on the first and second floors of Thomas Hardy House (the home of the Dugdale Centre) will be used to create a children and family services hub, bringing together services that are currently scattered between various locations around the borough.

The changes at Thomas Hardy House are controversial in various respects:

  • Civic sector organisations such as the Enfield Society are concerned about the future of the highly regarded archives and their specialised accommodation in Thomas Hardy House.
  • There is concern about significant loss of museum exhibition space when the first floor is no longer available.
  • Community groups are unhappy about the loss of meeting rooms on the first floor, which are used for a variety of activities.

The paper approved at the cabinet meeting appears to provide assurances on all these points:

In relation to the archives and exhibitions:

"As part of our investment in Culture, in line with the new Culture Strategy, the Civic Centre will also form part of the borough’s cultural infrastructure. This will include relocation of the Local Studies and Archive in a move intended to indicate the central importance of heritage to the borough with the reading room in a ground floor location adjacent to the reception area, raising its profile and improving accessibility. The facility is being designed to achieve National Archives accreditation. The reception area of the Civic Centre will also provide additional gallery space with revolving exhibitions of local art and artifacts from the archives."

In relation to community space:

"There are a wide range of community halls, community centres, school halls, libraries with community meeting rooms, and cultural buildings such as Millfield House, Salisbury House and Forty Hall in addition to committee and meeting rooms at the Civic Centre that currently have capacity and should be able to accommodate any displaced users."

However, none of this can change the fact that the Dugdale is in a more convenient location for visitors and serves as a one-stop cultural venue - theatre, art gallery, cinema, museum, archives, meeting rooms, food, gift shop. In the future there will be two locations, not exactly neighbouring one another, each with only some of these attractions, and community groups will have to scout around for suitable meeting places.

floorplans for childrens service hubThe children's and families hub will occupy the first and second floors of Thomas Hardy House. The first floor currently houses the archives and local study centre, permanent museum exhibits and meeting rooms previously used by community groups 

Build the Change

These relocations are part of an ongoing council programme called Build the Change - a package of measures designed to streamline and improve services while saving money.  They include staff being concentrated in fewer buildings, the creation of hubs for frontline services (as well as the children and family services hub there will be a housing and homelessness services hub at Edmonton Green and possibly a mental health and wellbeing hub), and the introduction of new IT systems and working practices. As well as reconfiguration of the two floors in Thomas Hardy House, the programme will involve major refurbishment of several floors in the Civic Centre and the council will move out of several current locations.

The council has already vacated Triangle House in Palmers Green. Some surplus buildings owned by the council will be sold. These include the Claverings Industrial Estate, which was built in the 1950s. The council occupies around 40 per cent of the estate and lets out the rest. Rather than modernise the existing buildings, the cabinet agreed in principle to sell the estate with a view to its being redeveloped to provide modern, energy-efficient employment space.

Further details can be found at the links below.

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