Beckenham Library move could result in 40 per cent book loss

Consultants hired to assess a multi-million pound plan to relocate Beckenham Library to the nearby public hall say it is “difficult” to recommend proceeding with the project, in documents set to be discussed on Wednesday.

Among the concerns raised in consultants’ reports are that there may not be room for up to 40 per cent of the library’s current book collection at the new site if the move goes ahead.

Bromley Council in November voted in favour of putting £70,000 towards exploring the viability of moving the library to Beckenham Public Hall.

The move would see funding pumped into the old hall, while the old library site would be redeveloped into up to 46 desperately-needed new residential units.

The feasibility studies from that decision are due to be discussed for the first time at a September 2 meeting of Bromley’s scrutiny committee for public, renewal, recreation and housing issues.

One report, prepared by public service specialists RedQuadrant, offers mixed feedback on the proposals.

News Shopper: Plans for the new library include space for 30,000 books - a 40 per cent reduction on the current library. Plans for the new library include space for 30,000 books – a 40 per cent reduction on the current library.

“It is our conclusion, if carefully managed, the relocation of the library could be successful, but it is difficult to make a strong recommendation for the continuation of the project,” their report states.

In its reasoning, the report acknowledges the proposal would enable a “beautiful and inspiring” new library to be built, which would be closer to public transport links.

“The move to the Public Hall would bring more areas of the borough to within a 15-minute travel time of a library by public transport, and only small areas of the borough would be disadvantaged in this way,” it states.

“The design exercise shows that a beautiful and inspiring new library could be achieved. This would allow a separate space for library activities, improved facilities including customer toilets and a kitchen and a town centre location.”

However, there were issues – including that the new library would be significantly smaller than its predecessor.

“It is clear that there will be a net loss in community space and dedicated library space compared with the current allocation,” it said.

The new library design only has space for 30,000 books according to documents – a 39 per cent reduction on what is currently offered at the existing library.

Fears were also raised over a dearth of community opinion on the plans, given the impact of the coronavirus impact on consultation on the latest plans.

The concerns are also outlined in another feasibility study set to be discussed.

News Shopper: Cabinet members discuss the move earlier this year. Cabinet members discuss the move earlier this year.

“In summary, for the proposal to be cost effective for the council, some compromises will have to be made in terms of the provision of community space and bookstock. We believe however the project could provide a high-quality of library and accessibility to a larger audience,” it stated.

It has seen the council endorse a plan to undertake a lease disposal of Beckenham Public Hall, which would be in return for investment in the building and the provision of community use in the new facility, which will be discussed for the first time at tomorrow’s meeting.

The scrutiny  committee is set to meet from 6.30pm.

News Shopper | Bromley