Pledge over closed library
St Annes Library will open as soon as practically possible, a leading county councillor has pledged.
The Grade II-listed building has been closed for more than four months now after debris fell from the ceiling.
A full survey of the library, which dates back more than a century, is still ongoing and the work required to allow customers in again is likely to last into next year.
But County Coun Peter Buckley, Lancashire County Council cabinet member responsible for libraries, has vowed it is definitely a case of when the library reopens, not if.
County Coun Buckley, who lives in St Annes and represents the north end of town at County Hall, has been concerned at community claims the cost of the required work might prove prohibitive and spell the end of the library.
“That will not be the case and I can assure everyone that everything possible is being done to reopen the library as quickly as possible,” he said.
County Coun Buckley was particularly moved by seven-year-old St Annes schoolgirl Emilia Ficorilli’s story that she was missing the library so much that she had included its reopening on her festive wish list to Father Christmas.
The cabinet member for libraries invited The Gazette along on a tour of the building and briefing from county council building officials on what the survey had shown up so far.
That looks likely to last until at least the end of this year and then work will start on rectifying the problems.
After a piece of plaster fell from the ceiling in the library’s main room in August, the building was closed immediately and has been mothballed since, with books and other items still in place.
“With it being a listed building, the surveying process has been a long and detailed one but we have had an initial estimate of what the work is likely to cost and it has been budgeted for,” he said.
“There were plans to close the building for a time anyway to allow for the incorporation of extra facilities as part of a community ‘hub’.
“So it is just a case of being given the go-ahead for work to start once the surveying is complete.
“I have had a lot of feedback from people who have been concerned that there appears to be nothing going on inside and that the library has just been left.
“But the surveying experts have been inside and their work is vital.
“The workmen, with their equipment and vehicle will follow once the full extent of the work is known.”
The library dates back to 1904, with an extension added in the 1930s and some problems with foundations of the extension have been among the problems highlighted.
“In some ways, as much of a shock as it was, the masonry fall was a good thing as it allowed us to take a detailed look at the building and ensure it is fully fit for the future,” added County Coun Buckley.
County Coun Buckley was accompanied on his tour of the library by his colleague County Coun Ed Nash, Lancashire member for St Annes South, which includes the library.
He said: “I have heard a lot of concern about the library’s future and it is good to hear it is just a matter of time before it opens again.”
Annette Ford, chairman of the Friends of St Annes Library, was relieved to hear of County Coun Buckley’s pledged.
She said: “It’s reassuring to hear that the library will be back in use as soon as possible.
“A timeline would be helpful but I fully understand why that isn’t available at this stage.
“It is much missed. Some St Annes people are using Ansdell Library but there are difficulties for some travelling there without a car.”