By Pauline Latham
MP for Mid-Derbyshire
Belper is currently going through an exciting time. Tesco’s disposal of the Meadows Edge site represents a unique opportunity for the town to grow and change.
It would therefore seem fitting that facilities across the town were updated in line with the development. Given its current state, it would seem that the library is just such a service that would benefit from major re-development.
Libraries play a key role in communities, and function as a social hub as well as a place to access books and learning.
As it currently stands, the Belper Library is not fit for purpose. Its lack of disabled access is restrictive and limits the very community spirit and inclusivity that libraries are supposed to provide. Large parts of the building are also completely unusable, owing to concerns for public safety.
When it was in control of the council, Derbyshire County Council’s Conservative Group had allocated £1.5 million to build a new library in Belper, as it was felt that there was little worth in restoring the existing structure.
Prior to losing control of the council, Derbyshire County Council’s Conservative Group had been holding advanced and serious discussions about rebuilding the library.
It would seem, however, last year’s newly elected Labour-controlled council are no longer interested in seeing this project through. In fact, it has come to my attention that of the money put aside for the Belper Library, £250,000 has now been ‘siphoned off’ for the relocation of the Heanor Library.
In my view, this creates a worrying precedent that the fund for Belper can be dipped into for whatever Derbyshire County Council’s Labour Group deems necessary.
It is with this in mind that I will be making representations to Derbyshire County Council, urging them to ring-fence the fund and speed-up the project. There are a number of possible locations that would be perfect for the library, and I am informed that a report will shortly be published by the council giving a number of prospective sites. I think that ultimately, it is local residents that are most qualified to decide the location for the new building and where the community would most benefit from the construction of a library.
That is why I would encourage those with views on this subject to contact Derbyshire County Council directly and let me know that they have done so. Belper is a wonderfully vibrant and friendly community, and I am sure that the addition of a new library would only serve to further this.
That is why I hope that Derbyshire County Council will choose to do the right thing, and go ahead with the relocation of the library. I of course will be keeping a close eye on this matter, and will be providing updates as often as I can to constituents. Should you wish to raise anything with me, or you require guidance in making representations to the council in this regard, please do not hesitate to contact my constituency office either by calling 01332 676 679 or e-mailing me at email@example.com.