Whiston Library up for Demolition, Sale

By on Thursday, February 5, 2015

Whiston_Library_KnowsleyKnowsley Council will knock down the former Whiston Library and sell the land.

In July 2013, the council announced they would be closing the library as of 1 April 2014, due to budget cuts. A community group, OWL (Our Whiston Library), formed in October 2013 to negotiate a way to save the building and services.

Bootle-based FE provider Hugh Baird College stepped in with a proposal to fund it as Whiston Library & Community Hub, with OWL volunteers to run it day-to-day.

The college withdrew shortly after the lease period began, however, citing rising costs and unexpected infrastructure problems.

Between May 2014 and January 2015, OWL continued to liaise with council officers and formed a business plan, but negotiations ended when the council deemed the building unfit and said OWL’s plan could not save it.

KMBC reject business plan, OWL reject alternative

“The business case presented by OWL to take over the former library building on Dragon Drive and operate a community-led library service did not demonstrate that it could operate a sustainable service from the site,” Cllr Eddie O’Connor, Knowsley Cabinet Member for Leisure, Culture and Community, told Prescot Online.

“In addition, the building required costly repairs and maintenance for which no funding was available.”

OWL Chair Paul Shaw said much of the building’s condition, including damp and the ruined wooden tiled flooring, was due to recent neglect, however.

“Taking the windows out in June 2014 was a very poor business decision and increased risk to the asset,” he said.

Knowsley Council did offer OWL a vacant shop unit on Molyneux Drive, which Cllr O’Connor says was “much more affordable” and came with “financial support of up to £10,000 in the first year of operation.”

The group turned it down due to its condition, size and location outside the Whiston boundary, however.

Attempts to find alternative sites in Whiston failed, meaning the town now loses its one remaining borough council-owned building.

Volunteers feel ‘let down’

“In a time when community cohesion is required the council have let the people of Whiston down,” Mr Shaw said in an email to supporters and volunteers.

He added that none of Whiston’s borough councillors had stepped up to help OWL, although Prescot councillor Denise Allen had lent her support.

OWL continue to operate as a registered company, made up of volunteers from Whiston, Prescot and beyond, but have not announced their future plans.

More library cuts to come

Late last year, Knowsley Council announced more reductions in library services, including shorter hours and potential job losses.

Prescot Library will open only part-time under the new proposals.

The council blame cuts of £94 million in central government funding.

[Disclosure: The editor of Prescot Online is former Chair of OWL and remains a serving board member.]

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