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STOCKPORT: Pressure mounts on council to ditch its plan to move historic library

STOCKPORT: Pressure mounts on council to ditch its plan to move historic library

Stockport Central Library - via Google Streetview

Pressure is mounting on Stockport council to ditch contentious plans to move the town’s historic library after three separate votes went against the proposal.

Town hall chiefs are next month set to approve the relocation of services from Grade II listed Central Library, on the A6, to Merseyway shopping centre.

Dubbed ‘Stockroom’, the £14m learning and discovery’ centre would also boast a sensory room, performance area and cafe as well as ‘best in class’ toilet and changing facilities.

But opponents say the council has failed to attract ‘broad public support’ for moving the well loved, Carnegie-endowed library from its home of more than 100 years.

Debate has raged over the proposals ever since the authority successfully bid for £14m from the government’s Future High Streets Fund, with more than 7,000 objectors signing an online petition.

But, despite a post-consultation report recommending the council goes ahead with Stockroom,  three town hall committees have urged bosses to scrap the project within the space of a week.

The votes – held by scrutiny panels for economy, children and resources – called on the cabinet ‘not to proceed with moving library services from Central Library’.

The most recent was moved by Coun Colin MacAlister at the economy and regeneration scrutiny committee last Thursday (November 25).

Addressing the meeting beforehand, the Liberal Democrat said the council’s consultation had been ‘flawed’ from the outset.

“If you look at a similar building – a similar library –  in Kendall, what they did there, is they asked residents what they wanted. They didn’t present proposals to them, they asked them – that is what consultation is,” he said

“What I’m saying is, Stockroom could have all those facilities – the sensory room, the museum, the heritage and more – and it could still be a central hub in Stockport of community involvement etcetera.

“But it would not have, in my opinion, those library services that central [library] currently has.”

A passionate counter argument was put forward by Labour’s Coun Becky Crawford, however.

“What would it look like, this two-tier system where there’s a library service at the top of the hill at Central Library but all the facilities are down in the precinct?” she said.

“What does this look like if you have reduced movement or you are a wheelchair user, so if you want to go to the toilet you have to go down into central Stockport?”

Coun Crawford told the meeting the ideal was to have all services and facilities in one place  – and there simply wasn’t the room to do that at the current site.

“We have an opportunity here to provide an amazing municipal space,” she added.

And the Brinnington and Central ward councillor reminded the meeting that Stockroom would directly serve Lancashire Hill – one of the most deprived areas in the country.

She said: “These are our residents. This is a borough library but this is our community library as well.”

Coun Crawford referred back to earlier comments by economy chief Coun David Meller,who said leaving the library where it was would ‘effectively kill Stockroom dead’.

Deputy chief executive Caroline Simpson also confirmed that a ‘21st century library’ was at the heart of the council’s bid – and any substantial change could put the £14m funding at serious risk.

However, Coun MacAlister continued to dispute this would be the case.

His motion was ultimately carried by six votes to three, with all Tory and Lib Dem members backing it and Labour councillors voting against.

Words: Nick Statham, Local Democracy Reporter


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