Planning for the future of Calderdale libraries

Cllr Press

Almost £2m of investment in our libraries will be announced alongside plans to change service delivery in partnership with local communities at Calderdale Council’s Cabinet meeting on Monday 2 September.

Elland Library is set to be refurbished and transformed at a cost of £1.5m into a community hub providing a range of services. Essential roof repairs costing £240,000 will be carried out at Todmorden Library following structural work earlier this year, and in late 2019 work is set to begin on a new library in Mixenden next to a new GP surgery, pharmacy and shops  to improve services for children, young people and families in the area.

There are also plans to improve accessibility and refurbish the gardens at Rastrick Library in partnership with the Friends of Rastrick Library, with a possible relocation of Mytholmroyd Library into the newly renovated station building to provide modern facilities and extend opening hours.

The Council’s recent review of all libraries identified a number of buildings in a severe state of disrepair due to age or vandalism. In these cases the Council has been working closely with Ward Councillors, community groups and local businesses to look at new ways of delivering services in an alternative location.

However, several smaller community libraries remain at risk unless community-led solutions can be found.

Cllr Susan Press, Calderdale Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Services and Communities, said:

“Across the country councils have had to drastically reduce their library services, but unlike many local authorities we have continued to invest in them because we know how much they matter to communities.

“Our long-term commitment to our libraries continues and we are proud of the investments we have been able to make, including the opening of our flagship Central Library two years ago. However, it is getting harder and harder to provide a service in every location because of the financial pressures caused by austerity.

“This year, for example, we had to reduce our book fund by £50,000 to balance the budget and the reality is that some of our buildings are just not fit for purpose any longer.”

The list of libraries where the Council is seeking to work in partnership with the community includes Beechwood Road in Illingworth, which is in a bad state of repair and attracts persistent vandalism. The Council is due to meet with local people and Ward Councillors to consider options for alternative service delivery.

Bailiff Bridge Library closed in February 2019 due to serious structural deterioration of the roof and it would cost an estimated £310,000 to bring the building up to standard. The Council has been working with the Community Association to try to identify another suitable building in the area, but unfortunately an alternative has not been found so far.

The severe state of disrepair at the prefabricated Walsden Library building means substantial investment would be needed to maintain it and keep it safe for the future. In the past two years Council staff have held a series of discussions with local community organisations, schools and businesses but an alternative location is yet to be found. Calderdale Council will continue to work with Ward Councillors, Todmorden Town Councillors and local organisations and businesses – however if a solution has not been found in the next three months the building will have to close.

Cllr Press added:

“Our officers have worked tirelessly to try and find solutions to all these issues, as we promised we would when our libraries review began; however it has not been possible in every area. So we are appealing to local communities across Calderdale to help us relocate and deliver services in alternative locations that enable us to continue to provide the modern services that our residents deserve.”

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