He talks about the contrast between the small library built in 1934 and the scary former asylum nearby:
I had half-forgotten just how close it stands to the gates of the stupendous edifice now known as "Princess Park Manor". Opened in 1851 as the Second Middlesex County Pauper Asylum, boasting the longest corridor in Europe under its fine Italianate dome, this was the dreaded Colney Hatch – a blood-freezing byword for the miseries of mental illness for generations of north Londoners.Tonkin doesn't say so explicitly but the thought is implied. Isn't it mad that a society rich enough for some to enjoy accommodation such as that at Princess Park Manor can't afford a small library in the middle of Friern Barnet? It's not only mad, it's nonsense! We can afford it!
...Now the 300-odd converted apartments of "Princess Park Manor" offer, the developers say, "a luxurious living link with the glories of Victorian England". A four-bedroomed penthouse will cost you £1,250,000.