Glossop fury at new library plans

Glossopians have reacted angrily to plans that will see the old St Luke’s School on Talbot Street demolished to make way for a new library with a surprisingly large garden. Derbyshire County Council have announced that the library is moving from the Victoria Hall to a purpose built building on Talbot Street with opening planned for 2014. The news came as a surprise to most people in the town, many of whom have demonstrated a desire to see the library stay in the building it was built for.

The new library will provide "more books, a new children's and teenager's library and more computers with free access to the internet according to DCC. The draft proposal also includes landscaped outside space to give children and adults a place to sit and read. Work could start in spring 2013 with an opening planned for summer 2014.

Our roving reporters went in search of opinions about the new library plan on Monday, but couldn’t find anybody with a good word to say about it. We asked about 30 people and then we asked on Facebook, but at the time of going to press nobody was prepared to say anything in favour of the plan. A lot of people commented on the large garden and small number of books:

Why is half the library a garden? Where is the Reference Library? How often can you read books outside in Glossop weather? Will you be able to take library books into the garden to read them? - Just some of the questions that Glossopians asked when we showed them the plans. People also expressed displeasure at the destruction of the old St Luke’s school and asked where Social Services, who are currently located in the building, will go.

The cost of the library move is said to be £2 million and will leave Victoria Hall completely empty for the first time in its history. Its future, like the future of Glossop’s other public buildings, remains uncertain.

The Victoria Hall was built on land given by the 2nd Baron of Glossop to build a public library and hall. The construction was undertaken by seven people including Daniel and Samuel Wood, Edward Partington and Herbert Rhodes in 1888 and given to the people of Glossop to serve as a library and schools of

arts and science. It is held in trust by High Peak Borough Council who lease the ground floor rent free to Derbyshire County Council who maintain the library.

The upstairs has a sprung dancing floor and was used for operatics as well as dancing, but fell into disuse years ago when HPBC forbade groups to use it. If the library moves the building will be empty and its future decided by the HPBC "Open Halls Consultation". When the public were invited to view the upstairs of the Victoria Hall earlier this year they found pools of water on the floor.

Glossop Gazette's understanding is that the Victoria Hall is in a relatively sound condition and that its repair will cost substantially less than the repair of either of the derelict buildings in Glossop owned by the council. Because HPBC cannot make any decision about the building until DCC have made an irrevocable move to shift the library from the Victoria Hall, its future is in limbo.

The decision to move the library goes very much  against the wishes of people in Glossop who have demonstrated an almost unanimous wish to maintain, restore and enhance the facilities at the Victoria Hall.

Meanwhile the fate of Glossop's other public buildings depends on the outcome of HPBC's consideration to transfer the assets to a trust. A March 2012 costing suggested that it would cost around £900,000 to conduct basic repairs and maintenance on the Town Hall and Market Hall, but did not make structural inspections and warned about the risk of possible asbestos. The Town Hall is rumoured to be in extremely bad condition and no realistic estimate for repairs is available. Easton House, another HPBC owned property, is rumoured to be unsalvageable.

The jewel in HPBC's crown of Glossop Buildings is the Municipal Buildings. Using the Freedom of Information Act, we can reveal that £1.1m has been spent on the building since April 2001. The building houses the former Glossop Council Chambers, now the air conditioned office of Development Control, who will decide whether or not to approve the construction of the new library.

Read Glossop Gazette issue n°1 to see how local councillors responded to our questions about our library's future.