By Anna Whittaker, Local Democracy Reporter
A campaigner fighting proposals to close three Nottingham libraries is ‘over the moon’ after the city council confirmed an opening date for the new central library – but said the services up for closure should be funded first instead.
On May 16, Nottingham City Council announced the long-awaited £10.5m fit out of the city’s new Central Library, meaning it will be ready to open next summer.
The library is part of the same building as the new Broadmarsh car cark and bus station in the city’s Southside area.
City Council Leader David Mellen (Lab), said the new library would “help to breathe new life into the area”.
But a member of the Save Nottingham Libraries Campaign, which was set up in February 2022, emphasised the need for local libraries in Nottingham after seeing the plans.
The authority has proposed closing Radford/Lenton Library, Basford Library and Aspley Library in order to save £233,000.
Around 2,000 people signed a petition against the plans.
Stewart Halforty, who is part of the campaign, which has around 40 active members, said: “We are horrified that the council can find more than £10m to build a new library when for a tiny fraction of that they can keep open three beautiful libraries in some of the most deprived parts of Nottingham.
“We need a central library and we are over the moon that it will finally be opening.
“But parents don’t want to drag children into a city centre of an evening and park in an expensive car park, they want to take them somewhere a short stroll from their house.
“The council are denying the residents of Aspley, Radford and Lenton the ability to go to a library within walking distance.
“I would emphasise that these libraries are a safe space for children.
“It is an insult to say we need to save £230,000 to close three beautiful libraries.
“Would you really want your kids walking out of the door of Nottingham central library into the middle of Broadmarsh?”
The new city centre library, spread over three floors, will feature a children’s library, an extensive book collection, free access to computers, laptops and iPads, meeting rooms and a learning lab for school visits.
There will also be a cafe and ground floor reception area which can be converted into a performance space.
Mr Halforty added that the group is dismayed that the central library has been closed for so long.
The thousands of books and records from the former Angel Row library – which was closed in 2020 – are being stored at an industrial unit two miles from the city centre, which is not open to the general public.
The sale of the former Central Library building at Angel Row also continues, with a planning application for its new use expected to be submitted next month.
He said: “They are not doing us a favour with this new library, they are legally obliged to provide us with one.
“Having a central library closed for over two years is catastrophic.”
Councillors will vote on the plans at the Executive Board on May 24 and if approved, the internal fit-out of the library will start from July.
Cllr Mellen said in a statement: “It’s vitally important that a core city like Nottingham has a city centre library and it’s good for the whole of Nottingham that we move forward with our new Central Library development, which subject to approval next week, can start soon.
“Developing a new Central Library is a long-term plan, funded from our capital programme through careful management of the city’s property portfolio and successful sales, which will provide fantastic facilities which are expected to attract large number of local residents and visitors.
“The plans have taken longer than expected for a number of reasons – there was a need to review the affordability and designs post-pandemic and in light of financial pressures, but also to assess it as part of a wider piece of work we undertook on the whole of the library service.
“Our consultation on the closure proposals has only recently ended and we won’t be making any decisions until the autumn. One thing that emerged clearly is that the Central Library was well-used and well-liked by many, who often used it as well as their own local library, due to the extra services and amenities it provides.”