£700k facelift to transform Biggleswade Library into community hub

But one councillor expressed concerns about cramming ‘too much into a small space’

By Euan Duncan, Local Democracy Reporter
Tuesday, 2nd August 2022, 12:36 pm
Updated Tuesday, 2nd August 2022, 3:36 pm

A £700,000 investment in one of Central Bedfordshire’s “core facilities” has been backed by the local authority’s executive.

But an independent councillor has warned against cramming too much into too small a space.

Biggleswade Library is set to become a multi-functional building in the current financial year under Central Bedfordshire Council’s improvement project, the committee heard.

Biggleswade Library

“The plans include a major renovation for the library to upgrade it to the latest standards,” explained Conservative Arlesey councillor Ian Dalgarno. “A children’s centre is part of this programme in what’s back office space and a large garage.

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"Other proposals are to have the registration service in the library, with a waiting area for customers and a private meeting room, and for a small satellite office for council staff reducing their need to travel to other offices.

"Overall comments showed a positive support for the scheme. I welcome the extra support from Biggleswade Town Council.

"There's significant funding with an investment of £700,000 in this financial year's budget. Building costs are rising substantially by between 15 and 25 per cent.

"The library's electrical and mechanical infrastructure is outdated. This would upgrade these to a more sustainable and efficient system within the premises.

"Biggleswade Library is one of our core facilities," he added. "Delivering an improved information technology zone, a larger children's library space and new book ranges, better wireless internet facilities and study and reading space, as well as teen and young adult areas, will boost the offer in the town considerably."

Registration services are currently delivered from The Limes in London Road, according to a report to the executive.

"The children’s centre doesn't have a permanent base and this would provide one," said the report.

"The registration service and satellite office’s inclusion would result in a small overall reduction in public library space, but a new layout would help minimise the impact."

Independent Biggleswade South councillor Hayley Whitaker described it as "a quart into a pint pot", acknowledging "some of this is fantastic".

With planned growth for the town, she said: "We need to be mindful of creating something which isn't just fit for purpose now, but also in the future.

"It's a little disingenuous to say there was support for the whole plans. The library service proposals were generally quite good, but clearly we're struggling for space already.

"Basing the children's centre there is widely supported. But the results were at best ambiguous over the registration services and satellite office provision.

"We've a highways depot in Sandy, a few miles away, where it's easy to build extra office space. I question why we're trying to crowbar a satellite office for CBC workers into this library.

"That area could be used for more books to make it a future-proofed design. The concerns around the registration services are ensuring there's privacy if you're reporting a death, when there's so much else happening in that space."

Councillor Dalgarno, the executive member for community services, replied: "The registration services will be at the front of the building."