Following a well supported public campaign, a Northfield councillor has today confirmed that, despite having previously considered the option of relocating services, a new library will be built on the current site of West Heath Library.
West Heath Library, in The Fordrough, is currently closed due to its state of disrepair. Ring fenced funds for building a new library on site are already in place but councillors and council officers had considered not rebuilding as they feared they would not be able to finance its operation.
Northfield District is facing a 35-40% cut in its budget for 2014-16 and alternatives to the rebuild were considered, including having a reduced library service available elsewhere in West Heath.
However, local residents, many of who rely on having access to a library in its current location, were determined that their library should stay and made their views clear at consultation meetings across the district.
After a public rally attended by around 100 people in April, Cllr Brett O’Reilly (Lab, Northfield) said: “Having grown up on Fairfax Road, in a single parent family, I understand entirely why a library is needed for the West Heath community, and there has never been any intention from the Labour administration in Northfield District to remove that provision. It was good to also have the opportunity to dispel the mistruths that are being spread, and confirm that the money allocated to the Northfield District for West Heath Library is still available.”
However, at the time, Cllr O’Reilly could not confirm if a new library would be built, only that options were being considered for providing some form of library service in West Heath.
And today, as 40 people gathered for a further rally and demonstration on the streets of West Heath called by Communities Against the Cuts, Cllr O’Reilly announced that the decision had been taken to go ahead with the building of a new library at the current site. He addressed campaigners, saying: “It’s deeply regrettable that the library stands there closed today and that a new one wasn’t built sooner […].
And to applause from those gathered, he announced that: “The good news is, after months and months of hard work, there is going to be a new library built on the current site”.
Subsequent speakers at the rally advised caution and said that the community must be consulted on the new build and future provision on the site. [Watch video]