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Moving library in Hillingdon branded ‘ludicrous’ at council meeting

Hillingdon residents have pleaded with the council to reconsider its proposal to relocate Uxbridge Library from its current location in the town centre. The plan, which will see the library moved to the Civic Centre has caused consternation for some residents who submitted three petitions in opposition.

At a meeting to discuss the petitions, Cabinet Member for Residents’ Services Cllr Eddie Lavery heard from three residents and one councillor all of whom asked him to reconsider the proposal. In front of a nearly full public gallery questions of accessibility, size and sustainability were discussed.

During a three-minute speech, Cllr Tony Burles labelled the proposal “ludicrous”. He made the point that while Uxbridge High Street continued to lose shops the move would only steady the area’s decline.

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The reason the council has given for the building’s closure is one of sustainability. It recently described it as “one of the council’s assets with the highest carbon footprint and with underused spaces,” and that the new space would be ‘state of the art’. However, Cllr Burles points out that instead of moving the library, it could be retrofitted to be more carbon-friendly.

He stated that the move’s “obvious motive” was to raise “the sale of the library site.” The three speakers took turns to express their concerns which generally centred around concerns that older residents and young families might be put off visiting the library if the location were to change.

One petitioner said: “In harsh weather, the new location might be a step too far for people with mobility issues.” One speaker also mentioned residents might be put off from visiting the Civic Centre due to a fatal stabbing that occurred on the premises in 2019, saying it is still a concern for some people.

Out of the three petitions, one set up on Change.org in October received by far the most interest. Currently live, it has 2907 signatories with around a third being verifiable Hillingdon residents.

The current Uxbridge Library is spread over six floors while the plan for its new set-up would mean only one floor would be available in the Civic Centre. This was raised by another speaker who asked: “How is it possible to have a vast collection in such a small space?”

Questions were also raised about how the proposed library would deal with surge times. It was pointed out that 72 people had been counted during a recent high point of visitors to Uxbridge Library, however, the petitioner contended that the new space would only be able to accommodate 47 visitors.

One petitioner, Josie Mitchell told the hearing that the plan was “too precipitous” and requested that the council “delay, consult and reconsider the proposal.” The resident says she has experience as a library worker and believed that efforts should be taken to ensure there was a public consultation before any decision was made.

Cllr Lavery summed up at the end of the meeting telling the assembled residents that there was likely to be a period of consultation before the plan was brought before the cabinet. He said that the petitioners made “good points about surge capacity that I will double check,” and added that work on the final proposal was still in motion.

He did not confirm if the proposal would be ready in time for the next cabinet meeting in December but also refused to cancel the scheme. The next cabinet meeting is December 14.

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