Protests are expected on Thursday evening as Hillingdon Council sits to decide on plans that could see Uxbridge Library move from its current location on the High Street to the civic centre.
The report in front of the council’s cabinet contains recommendations including that if approved the council ‘agrees to the relocation of Uxbridge Library from UB8 1HD (High Street, Uxbridge) to UB8 1UW (Middlesex Suite & Civic Centre, Uxbridge) subject to satisfactory planning approval being granted’.
The proposal will see the current library, which is spread over a purpose-built multi-storey building, moved onto a single floor. While the council has said that this will mean a ‘step-free experience’ allowing for better access, some residents have raised concerns that there could be a loss of space and therefore fewer books and services on offer.
However, within the report, there is a commitment by the council to ‘deliver services equal to or better than at the existing site’. As part of its considerations, the council has said that the carbon footprint of the current Uxbridge Library is too big and the proposal to move it was based on sustainability concerns.
In its report, the council writes: “It is the council officer’s view that the current Uxbridge Library building is no longer fit for purpose, it is not compliant with equalities or health and safety at work legislation, and the legal comments in this report state that if there was no existing proposal to relocate Uxbridge Library such a proposal would have to be developed in order to protect the safety of all library users and to comply with the council’s legal obligations.”
The report adds that disabled people couldn’t be safely evacuated from floors 2-6 in the event of a fire or other emergency. Changing the current lifts to evacuation lifts would cost £350,000-400,000 but would also require a generator or secondary power supply for which there is not sufficient space. There’s also a fire risk with having a battery back-up in a library filled with combustible materials.
It adds: “This would be in addition to the cost of decarbonising the building to meet the council’s climate change action plan commitments, which are estimated at £1.6m.”
The proposal has faced heavy criticism from residents and councillors alike. At a meeting in November during a petition hearing, Cllr Tony Burles labelled the proposal ‘ludicrous’. He made the point that while Uxbridge High Street continued to lose shops the move would only steepen the area’s decline.
Cllr Burles added 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’.
Petitions against the plans have received thousands of responses. The largest on change.org has seen 3,656 people sign. It reads: “It is disheartening that at every turn, our council seems determined to cut services that benefit everyone within Hillingdon. We cannot allow them to disregard the importance of accessible spaces like our Central Library which contribute significantly towards education, culture, social cohesion, and community development.”
Protests outside the civic centre will start at around 6:30pm on Thursday, roughly half an hour before the cabinet meeting is scheduled to discuss the proposal. The decision at the meeting is likely to prove pivotal in the next steps of the council’s plans but with planning permission still required it will not be the final say on the matter.