Results of a consultation published by Merton Council show strong support from residents for an improved library in West Barnes, which will be built at no cost to local taxpayers. The consultation, which was carried out in September and October, asked the local community what facilities they would like to see in a new library on the same site.
Merton Council needs to make £32 million savings due to cuts in funding from central government and, as with all its other services, it is working to make its libraries more financially sustainable at a time when some councils are considering having to close libraries. Merton intends to keep its thriving West Barnes library open by incorporating a project for much-needed housing for the local area on its site. The project will be completed by a private developer at no cost to the council, and will include a library of top quality design with the facilities which residents want, following a model that has been very successful in Raynes Park Library. The next stage in the development process will be to bring on board a developer in the New Year to build the new facilities. The development is expected to be completed by autumn 2017.
Through the consultation, many comments were made in support of the development and the levels of service currently available with a number of respondents reporting that they’d like the work to happen as soon as possible. Over 425 residents responded to the consultation, 89.7% of which are current library users with 79.86% of respondents saying that they were more likely to use the library with improved facilities.
Book stock, public toilets and a children’s area were identified as the three most important facilities for the new library. Library users would also like to see more soft seating, books and classes for adults. In terms of additional facilities not currently provided at the library, the highest responses called for a coffee shop and public toilets. Responses from this consultation and from the council’s earlier engagement with community groups and other interested parties will all help guide the council in its decisions on the building design and what to include in the new library.
Merton already has an award winning library service and is a model for libraries across the country, offering good value for money to the tax payer while proving an excellent service to many residents.
Merton Council’s cabinet member for community and culture Councillor Nick Draper said: ‘I’m delighted that the local community has shown its support for our plans to develop West Barnes Library. It’s important that we take account of everyone’s views in our forward planning, so we can make our library service as efficient and cost effective as possible while giving our residents the library they want. These are difficult financial times for the council and I’m glad that residents are backing our proposals to use funding from this housing development to build a brand new library that will be sustainable for years to come. Our amazing libraries team in Merton is always thinking ahead and adapting the service to the needs of our residents.’