A scheme to DEMOLISH Halifax Central Library and build a new shopping centre is set to go ahead, council leaders have revealed.
A £10 million replacement library will be built near the Piece Hall by the end of 2015.
They say a representative sample of 1,500 residents has given “substantial” backing to the idea to free-up land at Northgate for large clothing stores.
However, a majority of 1,255 individuals who completed a council questionnaire favour restoring the existing library and archives at cost of less than £4 million.
Calderdale Council’s Labour leader Tim Swift and deputy leader Janet Battye (Lib-Dem) said the results of the third round of public consultation showed clear support for redevelopment which could create 230 jobs.
“Three quarters of those who took part in the representative survey shop in Halifax and two thirds said it needs more large stores and recognised chains,” said Coun Swift (Lab, Town).
“Of those who expressed a clear preference, at least half want a new library and under 30 per cent want the existing building to be retained.
“We take that as a clear signal in favour of redevelopment and it will be the recommendation we make to the council meeting on November 28,” he said.
Councillor Battye (Calder) said: “There is a group of people strongly attached to the existing building. These are mainly older, existing users who want it to stay where it is.
“But this is not just about the library - it is about making the best use of an important town centre site for the benefit of everyone.”
Previous attempts to get public backing to replace the library have ended in shambles with thousands of completed questionnaires having to be torn-up.
In an attempt to resolve the issue, Calderdale Council’s Lab-Lib coalition decided to recruit Ipsos Mori to mail out questionnaires and run an open consultation exercise.
But critics say even that was badly handled.
Members of the “Don’t Bulldoze Our Library Campaign” collected 1,297 signatures on a two-hour petition calling for the existing library to be refurbished and gathered 3,261 names on a flyer.
“In our criticisms of the questionnaire, we have expressed strong reservations about the wording of the option choices, which obfuscate the central issue of enabling respondents to express a clear preference relating exclusively to location,” said spokesman Tim Kirker.
Conservative councillors have made it clear that they want the existing library to be restored rather an expensive multi-million pound replacement built at the bottom side of the Piece Hall.
According to the council, the existing library is used by 1,000 people every week but it needs major refurbishments: “The heating, lighting, life etc are all out of date and the building does not meet modern day standards. As a result it is inefficient and expensive to run.”
A new one would help attract visitors to the Piece Hall, which is being restored at a cost of about £19 million.
The council admits that it would be further from the bus station, down a hill and along cobbled paths.
But it would also create space at Northgate for larger retailers which the council’s advisors say could bring 230 new jobs and be worth £7.5 million to the local economy. It would also increase business rates income that the council could use for local services.
The council has already agreed to demolish its administrative offices, Northgate House, and refurbish existing office accommodation.
Since the latest round of public consultation began, the Broad Street Plaza has opened with a cinema, hotel and eateries new to the town.