80 years of use ‘swept aside’ as county council votes to close Willingdon Library

Headteachers and pupils outside Willingdon Library SUS-180703-104403001
Headteachers and pupils outside Willingdon Library SUS-180703-104403001

Supporters of Willingon library are devastated the county council voted to close it yesterday (Tuesday).

They say the the Cabinet of East Sussex County Council took fewer than five seconds this week to vote to close seven libraries, after nearly three hours of public speeches and debate.

Among the local libraries set to be closed on May 5 are Langney, Polegate, Pevensey Bay and Willingdon.

Willingdon and Jevington Parish Council and Willingdon Residents Association were represented by the Chairman Cllr John Pritchett BEM at the meeting who made a very strong presentation why Willingdon Library should be kept open.

He said, “Our case was very strong but the Cabinet decided to close their ears to all reason. They had a choice and I told them so.

“Unfortunately they seemed to want to adopt a silo mentality and were unwilling to try to maintain a joined up approach to their various strategies and policies. The outcome was the one everyone expected, but had dreaded.

“Many spoke so passionately against closure and I was particularly pleased with the support from our Member of Parliament, Stephen Lloyd, who also spoke against closure.”

Campaigners say 80 years of use was swept aside in Willingdon in just a few seconds as the County Council chose to close the libraries resulting in local residents having to travel elsewhere if they are to continue to visit a library.

Trips which they say will be very expensive both financially and in time, and which will cause yet more pollution on local roads.

Jo Saunders, member of the Save Willingdon Library Action Group, said, “Now that the deed is done a new direction needs to be taken in the way that the service is provided in the Parish.

“It is essential that the community works together to retain this valuable resource.”

Willingdon and Jevington Parish Council now intends to look into keeping the building for community use and a new community library.

It was designated recently as a community asset after the Parish Council took the precaution of applying to the District Council.

A spokesperson said, “There is a cost to running a Community Library and the community needs to come together if this is to be achieved.”

The Parish Council says the only way this service may be continued is by volunteers forming a community group to run the library service.

Councillor John Pritchett said, “The Council and the Action Group has been very active in trying to save Willingdon library and thanks are due to all those who have worked with the Council to try to retain this important asset.

“This is the only public building in Lower Willingdon – the facility must not be lost.

“It is more than 80 years ago that Willingdon was promised a community hall and we will now be negotiating with the County Council to see what we can achieve.

“The County Council say they will consider a viable proposal and we would be very pleased to hear from any local resident who would like to work with us to help keep a library service in Willingdon.”

If you think you may be able to help contact Stephen Keogh, Parish Clerk, Willingdon and Jevington Parish Council, The Council Office, The Triangle, Willingdon, Eastbourne BN20 9PJ or parishclerkwjpc@btconnect.com as soon as possible