Cabinet to consider overturning decision to move library
Stephen Harker, the new leader of Darlington Borough Council, together with his Cabinet colleagues, asked officers to produce a report highlighting the implications of not going ahead with the relocation of the central library. The report will be considered at the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday 11 September 2018.
Councillor Harker said: “Since the decision was made two years ago, things have changed a lot, in particular the challenges faced by the town centre retailers. We felt, before finally implementing the decision, it was appropriate to consider whether it is still the right decision to make. I have considered the report and will be recommending to my colleagues that we overturn the decision and instead look to revitalise the Crown Street building by investing up to £2m in its modernisation and repairs.”
The report outlines plans for creating a new-look library at Crown Street, should Cabinet decide to overturn the original decision. Councillor Harker added: “Finding an alternative use for Crown Street now feels much less likely than when the decision was made. The proposals to improve Crown Street and to provide some services, such as a ‘Quick Pick and returns’ scheme at the Dolphin Centre, will deliver many of the advantages of the relocation without the need to relocate the service.
“There is a cost of non-relocation of £220,000 per annum, the cost reflects non-delivery of savings associated with the relocation plus the cost of repaying borrowing associated with the £2m investment planned for the Crown Street building. We can accommodate this because of our good financial management as our finances have improved since the decision was originally made.
Reflecting on the challenges and opportunities in the town centre, Councillor Harker added: “The changing nature of the town centre has been very speedy, particularly in the last six months. Like many other town centres, Darlington has its challenges. But we have a great town centre, with 85% building occupancy, which is a strong performance given all that is happening in retail. We are incredibly pleased to have secured House of Fraser in the Town Centre although we know more work is required and the Council will play a full part in assisting the new owners to keep this key business open. We are carrying out a consultation on the Town Centre masterplan and we are confident the town centre will continue to thrive and prosper in the future, although it will understandably be a changing picture over the coming years.
“With all of this in mind, I feel it is best for the town centre that the library service remains in Crown Street, and that we do all we can to enhance the library service at the same time to attract as wide an audience as possible, and achieve many of the benefits we envisaged when planning to move to the Dolphin Centre.”