Plenty of flaws in library design

Now the final design for the new Seaford Library has been published by East Sussex County Council in the form of a planning application (to itself), we get the opportunity to comment before the decision to proceed is made.

But any such comments need to be made against an agreed background: principally, the county council is not doing Seaford and its citizens any favours.

The need for a new library has been long established and ESCC is only now belatedly catching up on what it should have done years ago (and, in part, at the expense of Homefield Place).

Some people may fear that if they comment adversely on the building design, or the facilities to be provided, the county council will use it as an excuse to do nothing – yet again. But we must put that fear aside and hold ESCC to its promises.

The new library will be one of the few opportunities to get a decent new public building in the town for many years (hopefully an extended health facility will be a second, but that’s another saga) and the library will be with us for many years. We owe it to future generations to do what we can today to ensure tomorrow’s legacy will be worth having.

My first impression is the external appearance is disappointing. Given the current financial conditions it might be too much to expect an award-winning iconic design such as the Jubilee Library in Brighton, but surely we can expect a building of which the town can proud?

The opportunity seems to have been lost to make a building which balances out the old Caffyns garage at the other end of the terrace in which they both stand. I would not support a pastiche of the Caffyns art deco style, but a contemporary white-rendered version of the current design, rather than the proposed dull brick and black anodised aluminium, could offer a pair of strong book ends to this crucial part of our town landscape.

I have tried but been unable to find a detailed photo montage of the new building which includes the Caffyns site and wonder whether one has ever been produced?

But if the design is to be kept traditional and simple by the use of a limited palate of materials, why has the element favoured in many of the Victorian and Edwardian buildings which predominate the library area – the Sussex vertically hung clay tile – been wholly ignored?

I hope the users and staff who will have to work in the building have been fully consulted.

I was surprised to see how little provision has been made for parking and vehicular drop-offs. It seems to be limited to two on-street disabled parking spaces, one ambulance bay and two public parking spaces, all on Warwick Road where there are at present spaces for six or seven cars.

The design brief talks in terms of the public car park within 100m (for which users will have to pay) and the desire to encourage the use of public transport, but in this context that feels like a rather shallow justification for the failure to make adequate provision for a building which will house not just the library but also day care facilities and supported flats.

Yes, it is obviously a good thing the library is to be rebuilt and supported housing and care facilities will be provided in the town centre, but the terms must be right and the town not short changed, particularly as the county council will be both judge and jury as it decides its own planning application.

David Swaysland

Meads Road, Seaford