Stotfold Library set to relocate - while former site could be sold

Stotfold Library will relocate to the town's Greenacre Centre after a change of use scheme received planning permission
Books on a shelfBooks on a shelf
Books on a shelf

Stotfold Library is moving to the Greenacre Centre – which could lead to the disposal of its current premises in Hallworth Drive, a meeting heard.

The centre is used by Stotfold Town Council for its meetings, and includes Oak Hall, which is a community facility, according to a report to Central Bedfordshire Council’s development management committee.

An application was submitted by CBC on behalf of the town council to change the use of the centre in Valerian Way from a multi-purpose hall for sport and community hire to a library and cafe.

The full plans also require minor external alterations, with two ground floor windows, an extraction flue to serve the cafe’s kitchen, and replacing the back exit door, said the report.

Senior planning officer Fenella Hackney explained: “The library’s site relocation was approved by CBC’s executive in October 2022, after a public consultation.

“Officers consider the Greenacre Centre was underused as a community hall or for sporting activities.

“Businesses either used it for one-off events, didn’t return after the pandemic or have relocated to other facilities locally. This provides an improved library offer with more space and a modern layout.

“The objections received concern the loss of the availability of the hall for community space and uses. There are limitations on any events after 11pm.

“The hall was funded through Section 106 contributions. But there would be no requirement for a deed of variation, if planning permission is granted.”

Stotfold town councillor and deputy mayor Steve Hayes said: “The town council began considering this idea in late 2018, when it became apparent the main hall was considerably underused.

“From the outset, the town council wanted the building used by as many people as possible and it was widely advertised. We contacted all regular hirers after Covid, but many chose not to return.

“It was calculated the hall would remain empty 93 per cent of the time. We found there were ten other possible community venues available within three quarters of a mile from the Greenacre Centre.

“It was often booked by non-residents because of its size, resulting in larger hire charges. But these hirings became a problem unfortunately, as there was considerable mess and damage to the building on several occasions.

“Despite a maximum capacity of 300 people, there are only 30 parking spaces. After a number of weekend parties, there were many complaints about inconsiderate and dangerous parking, and of noise late into the night.

“The library service attracted 32,459 visitors during the last 12 months and 271 events were held there,” he added.

“As well as housing the library in the council chamber, we hope the remaining hall could accommodate a citizen’s advice surgery, secure space for youth council and outreach workers, a possible information point for CBC and a quiet place for our cemetery manager to meet bereaved residents.

“A modern new library for the community will support wellbeing, learning, and digital and cultural agendas. Sharing the library space with a coffee shop will be popular, and could encourage everyone to stay there longer.”

Councillors approved the development, with ten votes in favour and one abstention.