Selling off the family silver

Councillor Robert Askey has said that he would not wish to see the family silver sold off when the notion of giving up part of the Library’s car park to a developer was first mooted last year. He now changes his view of the car park as “unused, the family tin” that should be sold to a developer.

Residents in Beardell Street and local amenity groups objected robustly to the planning application for a developer’s grim and inappropriate proposals for the Old Forge site that backs onto the Library. An intensive residential development lacking in sensitivity for the conservation area, and overwhelming in its scale, massing and bulk, its lack of off-street car parking provision, clearly anticipated an opportunity to take on part of the library’s car park. We were appalled to hear revelations at two previous Joint Committee meetings that discussions/negotiations were being carried out between individual members of the Joint Committee and a developer to broker a deal which would involve an exchange of car park land for a fitted out extension to the rear of the library. Under the weight of objections, the application has been withdrawn, leaving the door open for dirty dealing.

Whilst we laud the proposal of an extension, which would achieve the favoured option proposed under the library refurbishment programme, we do not countenance selling off any public assets to do so. Moreover, the extension would have to be self-sustainable in generating income as a revenue stream to continue its operation. But we are acutely mindful of the revenue difficulties the refurbished library is facing in delivering its new services. It does not make sense to overload the library with non-core and unrelated activities however community orientated those functions might be – café, art gallery, performance space, crèche, workshops to support local enterprise, rented commercial space, internet café, have been suggested.