New images show how a controversial ‘learning and discovery centre’ mooted to replace Stockport’s historic library could look.
Dubbed ‘Stockroom’, council bosses hope the £14m Merseyway scheme will play host to a variety of services and amenties in the town centre.
But the proposal to move the Carnegie endowed Central library from the A6 – its home since 1915 – to Adlington Walk remains highly contentious.
More than 7,000 people have signed a petition to ‘save’ the library, with the organisers insistent it should be used for the purpose it was designed for.
Town hall bosses have pledged the Grade-II listed building will not be demolished or turned into housing – and that any alternative use will still allow public access.
And new pictures have now been released showing how the hub could look, in a bid to reassure people that moving library services to Merseyway would ‘not lead to a diminished or reduced’ offer.
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Council chiefs say that the computer-generated images have been developed following an ‘engagement process’ earlier this summer in which Stopfordians shared their views on potential uses and came up with suggestions to help shape the project.
Councillor David Sedgwick, cabinet member for citizen focus and engagement, said: “We were delighted with the positive response from residents to the Stockroom engagement survey which has helped shape these great images.
“Many people see the project as a unique opportunity to breathe life back into the town centre and are strongly supportive of the new and improved facilities it will provide.
“We have to acknowledge the significant changes that have happened in recent times and the need to affect positive change.”
The multi-million pound Stockroom project is being bankrolled by the government’s Future High Streets Fund.
The aim is ‘to breathe life back into town centres’ by bringing empty shops back into use following the rise of online shopping and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
And Coun Sedgwick says it is vital to create a ‘vibrant town centre’ in the heart of Stockport.
He said: “We need to provide our people with the very best facilities to learn and develop to reach their full potential, particularly in light of the economic challenges many families face as a result of the pandemic.
“We appreciate the current library building is an emotive issue for many, but we are keen to ensure that residents have all the correct information regarding the implications of any potential move of library services.”
Coun Sedgwick reiterated the council’s commitment not to demolish or abandon the building, stressing that ‘that public access to the building will be retained in future should library services move to Stockroom’.
“Library services would not be diminished in any way, in fact this is an opportunity to enhance the service in a larger and more accessible space,” he added.
The council believes Stockroom will act as a convenient new arrival point for the town centre, which will bring thousands of people into the town centre.
Larger than a football pitch, bosses say it would offer five times the floor space of the current Central Library and provide ‘more services, more things to do and longer opening hours’
They add that its increased scale would allow Stockroom to house more than 20,000 books, provide a new touch-screen learning area and a more accessible location for the town’s historic archive.
Proposals include a number of themed zones from Family and Community to Discovery and Learning.
Town hall bosses say the plan is for Stockroom to be an ‘inclusive space for everyone to use regardless of age or mobility’, equipped with new ‘best in class’ toilets and enhanced facilities for people with a disability.
It would be served by more than 800 car parking spaces including designated disabled and family spaces.