THE council is risking a huge public backlash by rushing into building a new library in Halifax without fully consulting users, the town’s MP has warned.
Linda Riordan says in a letter to chief executive Owen Williams: “The public has a right to have a say on such an important decision.”
There is mounting criticism about the proposal to demolish the central library and archive at Northgate and to put up a new one next to the Piece Hall.
Linda Riordan MP wrote, un her letter to the council chief executive:
“Involving rather than excluding people’s views would, I am sure, avoid any public backlash and would mean the best possible decisions are taken for the long-term future of Halifax.”
Her broadside at Calderdale Council leaders follows mounting criticism about their proposal to demolish the central library and archive at Northgate and to put up a new one at the bottom side the Piece Hall.
Halifax Civic Trust has described the site as “ill-judged” and the organisers of the “Don’t Bulldoze Our Library” campaign have urged the 16,000 people who signed their petition in 2009 to lobby the key council meeting on December 7.
The Courier asked the cabinet this week whether there was to be any public consultation, how much the new library might cost and exactly what is wrong with the old building.
Calderdale Council’s Liberal Democrat leader Janet Battye Liberal Janet Battye said: “We have been consulting - the designs are on display in the town hall and the library.
“We want people to see what we have in mind and for as much as possible to be in the public domain.”
But she was unable to reveal any costings for the new building or details about why it would cost up to £6 million to restore the existing library, which was only built in the early 1980s.
Conservative councillors claim the new library could cost “almost twice that of refurbishing the current premises.”
In her letter to the council’s chief executive, Mrs Riordan says: “It is only a few weeks since the plans were made public and I am concerned that the whole process seems rushed.
“I do not think it is good enough for detailed plans to be worked up after a decision is taken. Surely, elected members should be taking decisions on plans that are in front of them, rather than what might be in front of them?”
Mrs Riordan said she had received numerous representations from people calling any decisions to be halted until all the facts and figures are put on the table in public.
The council’s community services panel is due to consider the proposals for the new library, plans to demolish nearby Northgate House and build a retail store on the site when it meets next Thursday.
Councillors also plan to sell Heath Training Centre in Free School Lane, Halifax, to help pay for the new library.
According to a cabinet report: “The site is situated within an area of significant demand for high value users, such as residential and food retail, and could be disposed of generating a capital receipt.”
The former grammar school building was put up in 1879 and occupies the site of the original school, which was built on the authority of Queen Elizabeth 1.
As well as council staff, it is used today for the council’s music and PE schools and several voluntary organisations.