A RALLY to protest at plans to relocate Halifax Central Library will be staged before tonight’s meeting of Calderdale Council.
Members of the “Don’t Bulldoze Our Library” campaign are furious the move could be approved without readers and archive users being fully consulted.
Rally organiser Anne Kirker said: “If you share our concerns, come along tonight and shout.”
The council’s communities panel has insisted on public consultation and Halifax MP Linda Riordan called on Local Government Minister Greg Clark to intervene.
He told the Commons: “I consider it important that all applicants, especially on issues of major importance, should engage with the community from the outset.”
Tonight’s meeting is due to begin at Halfax Town Hall at 6pm.
It will be asked to agree to a new library at the bottom side the Piece Hall, for the existing building and nearby Northgate House to be sold for retail development and for the council rent space in the Board Street Plaza for a public information office.
The cost of the new library and archive is unknown and the council has declined to reveal details about why it could cost up to £6 million to refurbish.
Conservative councillors are angry about the expense of the information office, which they had wanted to be incorporated into the existing library.
“Renting the space for the council’s current telephone centre costs £5.30 per square foot while at Broad Street it will be £13.07,” said group leader Stephen Baines.
“For the space required, Broad Street would cost £77,700 per year more plus the initial capital costs - it would be stupid to accept this at a time when the council is looking to reduce costs,” he said.
*There are fears that council’s grand plan for the town centre could end up being discussed behind closed doors.
Economy and environment spokesman Barry Collins said the council had nothing to hide and he was pressing for the detailed proposals to be made available for public scrutiny.
But as it stands, key decisions at tonight’s meeting might have to be taken in private because of the possible disclosure of commercially sensitive information.
It is five weeks since the council’s Lib-Lab coalition announced for the first time that it wanted to build a replacement library.
Councillor Collins (Lab, Illingworth and Mixenden) said: “It is an old design that does not allow for the service to be used to its full potential. To refurbish the library to bring it up to modern standards would not be an efficient use of money.”
Critics say that the decision to replace it is being rushed, no account has been taken of public opinion or the fact that the new building would be in a less convenient location.
Alan Shaw, a member of the Don’t Bulldoze Our Library campaign said the proposal was being driven by the needs of developers.