Friday, February 01, 2013

Nairn Library - uncertainty once again?

Regular readers will remember the tweet from former Councillor Graham Marsden last week on the subject of the library car park. He sees the library car park as a potential housing/shop development if that is how one would interpret that particular sortie into the digital ether.
Is there a school of though in Highland Council that might agree with him however? At the Suburban Community Council meeting earlier this week there was some conversation about the town centre that centred around the provision of a bus stop (capable of taking two buses) on the west bound side of the road in front of where a particular former Free Kirk used to stand. This was a chance to ask Colin about the situation with the lease(s) for both the library and the car park. Regular readers and veterans of the many NICE meetings will know that that car park is the joker in the pack when it comes to town centre redevelopment because the property is not owned by the local authority.

Colin explained that there are two distinct leases with the library formerly leased by the Education Department but now under the control of Highland High Life and the car park leased by the TECS department. Colin said on the subject of the car park that: “It is one of those ones that is actively under consideration is the easiest way to describe it.” He went on to say: “The library is in a good site for public use, it is one of the most ideally located libraries in Highland. It’s so central, so handy. The downside of that is that we are paying a rental on it and you have to think is that wise to keep that going. So we’re having these kind of discussions but there is no decision just now.”

When pressed on whether we might lose the Library parking area he replied: “I would hope not.”

It seems we are still in the same situation that we were at the time of the hustings with all options back on the table. You can see the debate from last April on this video here. If the library were to leave the High Street to go to either a property the Council owned or one purpose built then it would leave a hole that is for certain. The footfall loss would impact on other business. But, on the other hand, the Council would save money. The same goes for the car park, with the creation of the additional parking areas from demolitions we know have the opportunity to attract more residents and visitors into the town centre. To lose the library spaces would be a big step backwards. But if the lease were to go, then again, the Council would save money and as Oor Graham suggests, perhaps shops and homes could be built.  The P&J states this morning that the Highland Council is to discuss cuts of £20 million next week. The cuts haven’t gone away, we are looking into the unknown and that may impact on both the library in its current location and parking capacity in the town centre. Our local council members might have to make some uncomfortable decisions soon. 


Anonymous said...

No money? Pull the other one? All that money for the baths - where did that come from?

Toon Loon said...

There are many ways of skinning the cat. We all know that funds are tight and that tough decisions, and some reorganisation, are needed. If the lease on the present library premises is unlikely to be renewed, the Council - and our Councillors - ought to be mobilising a public debate now and identifying options. Just for example:

- relocate the Library into the Courthouse? Keeps it on the High St, and would make more intensive use of an important public building that following staff cuts and centralisation is under-occupied and under-utilised;

- OR shift the Council finance officials across into the Courthouse and put the library into the listed-building former church school?

- in either case, retain the so-called 'library carpark' on its separate lease to serve the public and encourage people to the town centre;

- OR put the library into Viewfield House?

- OR engage with NICE and others (the Co-op?) about a wider regeneration of this area of the town which makes use of the former social-work buildings and the listed school-building. Perhaps bring together library, tourist info and maybe Council service point into a single building, and (re)develop part of the car park area?

No doubt there are other possibilities. But they ought to be the subject of local public discussion, not stitched up behind closed doors by Highland Council officials who don't know or live in the town.

Another Toon Loon said...

@Toon Loon

At last, someone who knows the score.

burn the books said...

Just close the library and save some money. On the few occasions I go in it's obvious less people are using it, and with the spread of the likes of eBooks borrowers are going to get fewer over the coming years.

Anonymous said...

Inverness setting the agenda for Nairn once again? officials in high places that should be paid off?

Colin said...

Baron Gurn
Whilst there are no guarantees about anything, you will note that all of the savings that the Council leadership has proposed for next week's Full Council budget setting have been with the absolute aim of protecting our frontline services - including Nairn's fantastic library.
"Uncertainty" in your headline carries with it a pessimistic undertone. I know that our administration is committed to enhancing services whenever opportunities arise - as with the swimming pool.
Liz and I are very focused on protecting and developing Nairnshire in every way possible.
Please renew my subscription for the coming year :-)