CASH could be set aside to move Northwich Library to Barons Quay and prepare the ageing current building for a new lease of life.

Cheshire West and Chester Council has updated its capital programme for 2020-24 ahead of a cabinet meeting next Wednesday, including the potential to spend £2 million on the move.

The local authority lists the project as a ‘scheme under development’, meaning it is an option being considered to take place by 2024, but no decision has been made to go ahead with it.

Cllr Sam Naylor, who represents the town centre as Labour CWAC member for Witton, would welcome a new library at Barons Quay – but wants the old building protected.

Northwich Guardian:

“I am glad to see that we are making progress with that,” he told the Guardian.

“I support the basic concept of protecting the old library, which is an iconic building for everyone in Northwich. That has got to be preserved, protected and used for some kind of community benefit.

“It is accepted as logic now that the current building does not lend itself to the 21st century library in terms of the digital offer and the general ambiance of the place.

“A modern library in Barons Quay will improve footfall, and of course, the desire is still there to work with Warrington and Vale Royal College to get some further education provision there too.”

Whispers of the library moving to the £80 million development have gone around for a while, but this is the first time the suggestion has been made public by CWAC.

The Guardian understands that discussions have taken place between the council and potential new tenants for the old library, who would be able to provide a culture facility at the site.

Chartered surveyor Cllr Charles Fifield, Conservative CWAC member for Weaver and Cuddington, feels that putting the library facilities into a modern building would make it more accessible.

Northwich Guardian:

He said: “As a general idea, putting aside for one moment the historical use of the building, anything that brings people into the town centre is a good idea.

“The building as it currently stands is not really fit for purpose for a 21st century library and from my recollection – while it is a nice historic building – it is a bit higgledy-piggledy and difficult for disabled access.

“There have been low-key discussions for the potential to move the library for a while so it will be interesting to see some concrete proposals.”

The report also states that Barons Quay made a loss of £1.5 million in 2019-20, which is an improvement on previous forecasts of £1.8 million, and that gap will be plugged by reserves.

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CWAC expects coronavirus will place an additional £750,000 pressure on finances related to Barons Quay.

That is based on the partial loss of rental income, the potential for new tenants to delay their opening and the future impact of the virus on letting the available units.

Meanwhile, £643,000 is expected to be spent this year on fitting out Barons Quay units that have been let.

Barrhead Travel, Geek Retreat, Portman Healthcare, Puddle Ducks, Radio Northwich and BEAR coffee were expected to be the next businesses to open at Barons Quay before the pandemic hit.