Emsworth community divided after dramatic library u-turn

Emsworth library
Emsworth library

A COMMUNITY is divided after councillors made a dramatic U-turn on moving one of the busiest libraries in Hampshire.

Hampshire County Council (HCC) had approved plans to move Emsworth library from St Peter’s Square into the town’s community centre in North Street.

We had been hoping the library could move to the community association building, but it has become apparent the scale of the work involved and the costs are too great, and so we’re very disappointed to say we’ve decided not to go any further with plans for the move

Despite more than 1,000 people signing a petition to stop the move, the council went ahead, saying it would save £30,000 a year - but it has now emerged the potential costs involved outweigh the savings.

Councillor Andrew Gibson, who is in charge of culture at HCC, said: “We had been hoping the library could move to the community association building, but it has become apparent the scale of the work involved and the costs are too great, and so we’re very disappointed to say we’ve decided not to go any further with plans for the move. The lease on the current library building runs until 2018, and it is still our intention to find a better value-for-money solution.”

The library receives an average of 83 visits every hour, but costs almost £76,000 a year to run.

Ray Cobbett, the former county councillor responsible for setting up the library in 1997, said it was ‘welcome news’.

However the Emsworth Community Association (ECA) said the U-turn was a ‘shock’: “Although there was initial reluctance on the part of ECA, we decided to fully support the move in the long term interests of the Emsworth community. This is a set back to our plans to make the centre a hub for advice, knowledge, culture and leisure. Along with most Emsworthians, we want a modern functioning library to remain in Emsworth and we will work with HCC to ensure this happens.”

Emsworth councillor Brendan Gibb-Gray had also backed the move.

He said: “We are all disappointed HCC have decided against moving the library to North Street as this would have been an ideal location in so many ways.

“I am now working with the county council to find a new home for the library when the current lease in Nile Street expires. We will do all in our power to ensure Emsworth retains a vibrant and modern library fit for the 21st century.

“The ECA trustees have completed a tremendous amount of work in an attempt to facilitate this move as they realise it would have given our building and the work we do a renewed sense of purpose.”