Halifax library consultation will be re-run in June

Coun Colin Stout recieves a petition against the closing of Central Library, Halifax from Anne Kirker.
Coun Colin Stout recieves a petition against the closing of Central Library, Halifax from Anne Kirker.

THE council’s ill-fated attempts to get public backing for a new library in Halifax have ended in shambles.

The entire consultation process which started in December is being scrapped and the detailed views of more than 2,500 people consigned to the dustbin.

In a humiliating climbdown, the council’s Lib-Lab coalition had decided to begin the whole process again in June - a month after the council elections.

But it might not take place at all if there is a change of political power at the town hall.

Conservative councillors have made it clear that they want the existing library to be restored rather a multi-million pound replacement built at the bottom side of the Piece Hall.

Councillor Martin Peel (Con, Sowerby Bridge) said: “The whole process has been a shambles and a sham. I haven’t met anyone who feels the library and archives should be moved, because the existing building at Northgate is in an ideal location.”

Councillor Colin Stout (Ind, Brighouse) said it was cynical to consult people again after the May election.

“We have had enough consultation - we should leave it where it is and prosecute those who built it if it is really unfit for purpose after only 35 years.”

The council’s Liberal Democrat leader Janet Battye said 1,500 people had responded to the council’s first survey on what the new library should contain and another 1,000 had responded to the second survey on whether a new library should be built near the Piece Hall.

Speaking about the consultation so far, she said: “Perhaps we did it too quickly.

“It is important that we get this right and people feel we have been fair and that we have a proper process that starts and finishes between specific dates.”

On her recommendation, the council agreed to quiz people again in June, with “independent oversight” and for the council to decide whether to build a new library and archives on September 27.

“Let’s have another go and do it together,” she said.

Councillor Barry Collins (Lab, Illingworth and Mixenden) admitted that the consultation to date had been “badly handled,” and that results so far had been invalidated by misunderstandings.

“The cabinet has been under pressure to make sure the next is valid and it must be held over 12 weeks to avoid any possible challenge,” he said.

Keith Hutson (Lib-Dem, Warley) said the issue was as much about the economic regeneration of Halifax as about building a new library.

Conservative group leader Stephen Baines said there was a still a presumption that the existing library would be pulled down.

“It is essential that we look to regenerate Halifax and getting rid of Northgate House is the start of that process but thousands of people have been saying since May 2010 that the library should not be demolished.”