Lytham folk are being urged to rally round to help revive the town’s library, six months after it closed its doors.
A group including representatives of organisations such as the town’s Civic Society and Heritage Group is making a last-ditch plea for ideas and possibly even financial backing to try and ensure community use of the Grade II-listed building – which housed the library for more than a century until last September – isn’t lost to history.
As negotiations continue between Lancashire County Council, which closed the library as a cost-cutting measure, and building owners Fylde Council over its future, the group is determined to do all it can for it to be retained as a community asset – and is looking for the public’s backing.
Dependent on reaction, a public meeting could be called over the issue.
Group spokesman Chris Marshall, a Civic Society committee member who spent almost 30 years teaching English at Lytham St Annes High School, said: “We really fear that the library service and the building it is in will be lost to the community unless the people of Lytham, or a wealthy benefactor, can save it from being sold.
“When it first came to light that the library could be closed, more than 4,000 people signed a petition to save it but to no avail.
“A bid to keep some of the building for community use, including a library service, and fund the maintenance of the building by renting out some space for commercial use was not thought robust enough by Lancashire County Council.
“It is coming up six months since it closed it doors and many community groups and the people of Lytham are very concerned about the possible loss of this treasured facility, which was originally funded by public donations and local wealthy benefactors.
“Many visitors are drawn to Lytham because of its quaint charm and the retention of its heritage but old buildings do cost money to maintain.
“Any ideas which would help the revive the building, possibly even as a centre for the arts, as can be seen in other towns, really would be appreciated.”
Fylde Council leader Coun Sue Fazackerley said: “The County Council has not expressed any plans to re-open the library service under alternative operations; they still retain user rights dating back to 1974 which allows the County to operate a library service.
“Fylde Council has enquired about the County’s intention in respect of the user rights and we are still waiting to reach an agreement that would leave Fylde with sole ownership of the premises.
“The current tenants who use two rooms on the first floor and the couple of groups that use the Hewitt Lecture Room are working with Fylde Council to maintain their operations while seeking alternative options.”
Meanwhile, Kirkham library already looks set for new lease of life as a community hub when the library facilities there are transferred to nearby Milbanke House.
Approval has been granted in principle for the Station Road building to be taken over by Kirkham Town Council and neighbouring parish councils to provide a community hub which would enable a range of services to be provided for rural Fylde residents.
Coun Liz Oades said: “The aim is for it to include a wide range of facilities and we look forward to it being put to good use.”
In the meantime it is business as usual at the library building as no date has yet been set for the transfer of library services to Milbanke.
The County Council is also yet to set a date for the conversion of St Annes Library to a community hub, the completion of which would herald the County Council’s closure of Ansdell Library, where a Friends group has put forward a business plan to take over its running.
The Freckleton Library building, which closed its doors, along with Lytham, on September 30, continues to be up for sale.
County Coun David Borrow, Lancashire County Council’s deputy leader, said: “Some of the changes agreed as part of the property strategy could be made very quickly, and further decisions to transfer buildings to community organisations, support the establishment of independent community libraries, and sell some buildings, have now been made.
“Other changes, particularly where we need to adapt or refurbish buildings to accommodate services, will take longer and we’ll keep people updated as things progress.”
Anybody interested in getting involved can contact either email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org