New Halifax library moves a step closer

How the new Halifax library might look
How the new Halifax library might look
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Council leaders have voted to press ahead with plans to build a new library beside the Piece Hall, in Halifax.

Labour and Liberal Democrat members of the cabinet listened last night to complaints from people who want the existing library and archives at Northgate restored.

But they decided unanimously that spending up to £10 million on a new building was the best option as it would free up space at Northgate for a huge clothes store which could create more than 200 jobs.

The recommendation will be put to the full meeting of Calderdale Council on November 28 for approval.

“I am sure other towns would jump at the chance of a new library,” said Coun Bob Metcalfe (Lab, Town).

Members of the “Don’t Bulldoze Our Library” campaign argued that the council’s third public consultation exercise was seriously flawed.

Spokesman Tim Kirker said the best way to regenerate the town centre was to maintain a mix of users and that included a conveniently located library.

“To replace a substantially sound building with one on the fringe of the town centre is a waste of resources and taxpayers money. The council does not have a mandate to push this scheme through,” he said.

Council leader Tim Swift (Lab, Town) said Halifax was losing trade to other towns because it could not provide the space for larger retailers.

“This is not a straight forward issue - the council needs to balance the needs and wishes of existing library users and the population as a whole.

“If we thought we could attract retail developers without needing to move the library we would not be suggesting building a new one by the Piece Hall,” he said.

John Hargreaves, the chairman of Halifax Civic Trust, said the organisation which carried out the latest opinion poll, Ipsos Mori, had acknowledged that the response rate to their representative survey had failed to meet its expectations of a minimum return of 1,500 responses.

In addition, the report of the open consultation records but seriously understates the extensive public support for retaining the library, archive and meeting rooms on their existing site.

“Why is the council choosing to arbitrarily disregard the strong evidence of public opinion expressed throughout Calderdale against re-locating the library to the Square Spire site?

“Surely account should also be taken by of previous evidence of public opposition especially in view of access problems at the new site linked with its distance from the bus station, the steep return gradient for older pedestrians and young mothers pushing prams and the hazardous heavy traffic congestion on the ring road at this point especially at peak times,” said Dr Hargreaves.

Councillor Barry Collins (Lab, Illingworth and Mixenden) said the latest public consultation was viable and debate should be about the issue not the process.

“People are saying they want a better library and the existing building is nearing the end of its design life.

“The new library will have a 60-year design life and will definitely match and hopefully provide better facilities,” he said.

Library user Stan Shaw said the 1,500 people who responsed to the so-called representative survey was a lot less than the 20,000 or so who had signed petitions over the year to keep the existing library and archives.

Councillor Pauline Nash (Lib-Dem, Skircoat) said providing a new library close to the Piece Hall, Square Chapel and the new Orange Box youth and community centre would benefit everyone.

“These proposals will create 230 new jobs and be worth £7.47 million to the local economy. And the existing library will be retained until the new one is built,” she said.