Much debate at packed meeting to discuss plans for Redditch Library - The Redditch Standard

Much debate at packed meeting to discuss plans for Redditch Library

Redditch Editorial 24th Jan, 2023 Updated: 24th Jan, 2023   0

ALMOST 50 people of all ages packed into  a meeting room at Redditch Library to discuss the proposals for the future of the service.

The well-attended get-together was led by Worcestershire County Council’s citizen director Hannah Perrott.

The authority’s representatives included WCC deputy director Coun Marcus Hart and Redditch Borough Council leader Coun Matt Dormer.

The event was held as part of the consultation which runs until February 24.




A report would then be compiled, taking into account the answers given, and it would be presented to Worcestershire County Council’s Cabinet. That would be followed by a formal decision process.

 


So what is the proposal for Redditch Library?

The proposal put forward would see the library moved into the Redditch Town Hall building and the current library bulldozed to make way for a plaza. The aim is to create an area for bars and restaurants and increase footfall into the town centre.

Coun Dormer said currently a lot of people heading to Redditch confined their visit to the Kingfisher Centre and did not really venture to the outside areas.

With regard to the Library itself, the majority would be housed in the Town Hall with the exception of some of the archives which would be relocated to The Hive. The reasoning, the borough council says, is to better-preserve the artefacts.

Ms Perrott said those archives not located in Redditch would be made available digitally.

 

Why knock down ‘perfectly good library’?

Coun Hart made it clear this process had started after the borough council had told the county council the space where the library was sited was needed.

He added it was the county council’s responsibility to provide a library service and that would be done, whether it was in the current building or the Town Hall.

Several people questioned why Redditch Borough Council was knocking down a purpose-built, well-kept and well-used library.

In order to secure the Government-allocated Town Fund cash – £4.2million for the library part of the plan – Coun Dormer said several outcomes needed to be fulfilled.

Consultants had earmarked that in order for the town centre to thrive, there needed to be a better flow of people from the Kingfisher Centre into the rest of the town.

Coun Dormer said the library was ‘in the way’ and the outside part of the town centre was not attracting the businesses it should be.

“If we move the library would people still use it? The answer most likely is ‘yes’.”

If the move did not go through, the council would have to give the cash back – some people said the ‘government could keep the money and they would prefer to keep the library where it was’.

One woman labelled the move a ‘vanity project’, adding: “You need to be more imaginative and thrifty – you’re blinded by the zeroes (on the £4.2million).”

Redditch Labour leader, Coun Joe Baker, said the party opposed the move and, should it get control of the council at the elections in May, would be reversing a move – if that was the outcome.

Coun Matt Dormer and Coun Marcus Hart listen to questions from the crowd. Picture by Tristan Harris.

 

So why the Town Hall?

Since the Covid pandemic, the way Redditch Borough Council had operated, like many other organisations and businesses, had changed. More people were working either all or some of their week from home.

This had led to the Town Hall having lots of vacant space.

A community hub is being created there – whether with the library or without it if it stayed in its current home – and the building already houses some other organisations. NHS services based at Smallwood House, including mental health provision, will be moving there and the borough council is in discussion with other organisations.

The council argues it makes sense to provide a ‘one-stop shop’ where people can access a variety of services.

The borough council reiterated its view that all the services – from books, shelving to computers and IT space  – would comfortably fit in the new Town Hall space which was marginally bigger.

 

Other Worcestershire Library moves 

A question was asked about other library moves in similar towns. A comparison was made between this move and Bromsgrove Library which was relocated next to the council offices at Parkside.

Carol Brown, head of Library Services, said Bromsgrove Library had experienced a 38 per cent increase in footfall in the first two years of its move. That flattened out but by the end it still had more library users than it had before.

Some people argued this was a bad example as Bromsgrove’s was moved closer to the town centre and close to the big Asda supermarket, rather than further away. They added the Town Hall was so much further for people, especially those arriving via public transport and the bus and railway stations.

 

Is it a proper consultation or a ‘done deal’?

At one point, a mobile phone went off  with the ringtone ‘End of the Line’ by the Travelling Wilburys. Whilst annoying when that happens, it also seemed timely for the meeting’s next questions.

Some people expressed concerns that because the deal had been signed between the borough council and government for the cash, all the proposals would go through.

But it was made clear it was a ‘proper consultation’ for the people of Redditch to have their say and the answers people provided would be fed into the process and have a baring on the decision.

 

How do people have their say?

Anyone wanting to convey their views on the future of Redditch Library and whether it would be moved can click here to fill out the survey.

Paper versions of the Redditch Library Consultation Survey are available and can be requested by calling 01905 822722, by emailing [email protected], or by visiting Redditch Library where paper surveys are available.

Library staff will be on hand to help people fill out the survey online if they need assistance.

 

 

 

 

 

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