Town hall bosses have promised Stockport’s historic Central Library will not be demolished or turned into housing.
It comes after a 7,000-strong petition opposing its potential move to a new ‘learning and discovery store’ at Merseyway was presented at a meeting of the full council.
The authority successfully bid for £14.4m in government cash to repurpose retail space at Adlington Way – with a new ‘21st century library’ key to the proposal.
The first stage of a consultation – technically an ‘engagement exercise’ – is now underway to canvas residents’ views on what they would like to see at the ‘Stockroom’ hub.
Opponents of the scheme feared the relocation was a done deal, after council chief Caroline Simpson said removing the library proposal could put the Future High Streets Fund money at risk.
And they believe that would then leave the Grade II-listed building on the A6 at the mercy of developers or inaccessible to ordinary members of the public.
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But the council has now put out a statement seeking to allay people’s concerns over the future of the much-loved library
Published on its social media channels, it says the authority has ‘some clear pledges for the future of the Central Library building’.
It reads: “We want to let people know the building will not be demolished or abandoned and we will not sell the freehold of the building or allow redevelopment for any residential use.
“Should a decision be taken to move library services from this building as a result of a full consultation, we would seek alternate uses that are sensitive to the building’s historic character, retain public access and allow the opportunity for community uses.”
The message has been put out five days after Deborah Hind, of Stockport United Against Austerity, presented the mayor with a petition boasting 7,266 signatures.
She told a full council meeting: “We firmly believe that the USP of Stockport is its history. Our town, built around the origin of the River Mersey still retains many of its heritage buildings.
“However, too many have been lost or had their usage altered.
“Unfortunately we are now in a situation where we could lose another treasure – our historic Carnegie Library – an English Heritage listed library of the north that has been the home of Stockport Central Library for over 100 years.”
She described the consultation process as ‘confusing and unclear’, adding: “We have no idea of how phase one of the process will be assessed to progress or not to phase two.
Miss Hind continued: “Many towns who cherish their heritage-listed libraries, including Manchester of course, have done this with a resulting increase in footfall.
“We do not know if the library in Merseyway will be anything other than a branch library, the only plan we have seen is for a library kiosk.”
She concluded by noting that more than 7,000 people had indicated they wanted to keep Central Library as a library – and urged councillors not to ignore the strength of feeling.
The full meeting of Stockport council was held at the town hall on Thursday, July 15.