The demolition of a beloved 1930s library in Cambridge is just days away – and residents are still fighting to stop it.
Milton Road Library was marked for demolition in March last year, and plans were made to replace it with a three-storey building to house a larger community hub with a library and flexible community space, and seven flats.
The work is scheduled to start in earnest on Monday (February 26), but a number of passionate library users are trying to halt the project at the last minute.
Campaigner and city resident Martin Aitken has concerns about the freehold on the site being sold off.
He said: "We want to stop the demolition of the library if at all possible, even at this late hour.
"In the first place, it is a tragedy that such a fine historic building is being demolished. It is much-loved in the community.
"But there is also a lack of transparency from the county council about who will own the freehold, and what implications that will have on the new building.
"It has come to light that the freehold of the library site could be sold or passed on to a limited company that was set up to manage the redevelopment project.
"The rationale given by the county council for redeveloping the site was that it will provide a steady income stream by letting out the flats.
"So, for the county council to sell the site doesn't make sense.
"The library is an asset that belongs to the public, and we should be told what is happening to it."
Labour county councillor Jocelynne Scutt said that even she has been kept in the dark about the plans for the library.
Cllr Scutt said: "It is very unclear what the plan is for the site. I don't think the documentation for the sale of the site has been finalised.
"We don't know what is happening because we don't know the details of the agreement between the county council and this new company set up to manage the project."
She said that the public should be told if the freehold was being sold, and added: "I'm a county councillor, and my questions about the project haven't been answered.
"There is division between local residents over what should happen to the library – some people welcome a new, modern library with good facilities, while others mourn the loss of a historic building.
"But whatever happens, I'm concerned that the county council should be keeping control of its own assets."
Cambridgeshire County Council said the move was part of becoming "more entrepreneurial as a council".
A spokeswoman said the redevelopment would provide more space for the library, and historic parts of the building such as the stone portico would be preserved.
What Cambridgeshire County Council says
“The redevelopment on Milton Road will provide a new library, community spaces and seven apartments. Contractors are already onsite and demolition will start on Monday 26 February.
“The freehold of the land is being sold at market value to a newly formed company called ‘This Land’. ‘This Land’ is an independent development company which has had investment from Cambridgeshire County Council. While the council is a shareholder, we have no role in the day-to-day operations of the company.
“No money has been given to This Land by the Council – the figure of £383K was provided as a guarantee to the development company that it will cover these costs if the sale does not proceed. We are not incurring the costs ourselves. This was agreed by the Commercial and Investments Committee in December 2017.
“We are transforming our business in order to deliver on our responsibilities to the people of Cambridgeshire. We are becoming ever more entrepreneurial as a council – investing in opportunities which will both improve the county and create a gain for us to invest in our services.
“This environmentally friendly redevelopment will provide more space for the library with new flexible community meeting rooms, an accessible garden space and residential flats which will provide a regular income for the Council at a time of continued financial challenges.
“The library has been temporarily been re-homed to Ascham Road – we would like to thank everyone for their patience while work is carried out.”
Martin Aitken has set up a petition to save the library from demolition, which you can sign here.
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