Five of seven closed libraries could reopen as community projects

Plans to reopen five recently-closed East Sussex libraries as community-run facilities have taken a step closer to fruition.

Wednesday, 30th May 2018, 6:05 pm
Updated Tuesday, 19th June 2018, 10:35 am
Save Polegate Library protest walk (Photo by Jon Rigby)

This comes after Ringmer, Polegate, Willingdon, Langney, Pevensey Bay, Ore and Mayfield libraries closed earlier this month for the authority to make savings.

East Sussex County Council will provide books, furniture and shelving to enable Ringmer Library to be reopened as a community library run by Ringmer Village Hall Management Committee, which owns the building.

Meanwhile, the county council is recommending approval of plans for community libraries at four other libraries it either owns or leases: Ore, Pevensey Bay, Polegate and Willingdon – with a final decision to be taken by the lead member for resources in June.

Councillor Alan Shuttleworth with residents campaigning against the closure of Langney Library in Eastbourne (Photo by Jon Rigby)

The council will also continue discussions with a community group interested in running a library in Langney, but say no decision is being made at this stage, and the council is seeking to lease the existing library building to a third party for commercial rent.

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The libraries are among seven which closed earlier this month following a major service review prompted by the need to save money due to Government funding cuts and the changing way in which people access library services.

Nick Skelton, East Sussex County Council assistant director for communities, said, “We are pleased to have received proposals from all those organisations which expressed an interest in taking over the running of these libraries.

Save Polegate Library protest walk (Photo by Jon Rigby)

“Although some libraries have closed, we have always been committed to working with communities who wanted to retain a facility in their town or village.

“The proposals we are recommending for approval are those which have in place the necessary expertise and a sound business plan, and which are capable of running without continuing financial support from the council.

“As the libraries in Ore, Pevensey Bay, Polegate and Willingdon are buildings we either own or lease, the final decision on these proposals will be taken by the lead member for resources.”

The proposals for Ore, Pevensey Bay and Willingdon would see them operating as volunteer-run community libraries with Ore run by Ore Community Association, Pevensey Bay by Volunteers Network and Willingdon by Willingdon and Jevington Parish Council.

Subject to approval by the lead member, the council would support the bidding organisations by allowing them rent-free use of the building, fixtures and fittings and an initial selection of reading materials for adults and children.

Polegate Town Council’s proposal is to pay the county council to run a community library which would offer a very similar range of services to that which was previously provided by the county at Polegate Library, while it explores options for a long-term, volunteer-run operation.

The libraries closed alongside the mobile library service as part of what the county council calls a ‘modernisation and rationalisation’ of library services.

This, it says, includes new community and teacher’s library cards, homework and study clubs in libraries and increased outreach work in the county’s most disadvantaged communities, particularly focusing on improving literacy and numeracy.

The new community libraries would not form part of the statutory library service provided by the council.