Library’s new chapter won’t begin this year

Lytham Assembly Rooms, the new home for the town's library
Lytham Assembly Rooms, the new home for the town's library

The wait for a return of a library service to Lytham will run into next year, it has been confirmed.

The first statement from library operators Lancashire County Council on a likely date comes more than three months after the town’s Assembly Rooms was approved as the new venue – and almost two years after the service was closed at its previous location in the Institute building on Clifton Street.

County Coun Peter Buckley, the County Council’s cabinet member for community and cultural services, said: “We are still working to bring the library to the Assembly Rooms.

“This can sometimes take longer than anticipated, to ensure that the necessary legal agreements are all in place.

“Work will then need to be carried out within the building. We’re currently looking to open the library there next year, and we’ll let people know an opening date once this is clearer.”

David Gill, chairman of the Lytham Town Trust, which is responsible for the Assembly Rooms, said: “Many of your readers will have seen the scaffolding that has recently been erected around the Assembly Rooms.

“This is planned maintenance to keep the building watertight and is unconnected with the proposed re-opening of the library.

“We are working closely with Lancashire County Council towards the planned opening of the library early next year.

“In preparation for this we will be upgrading the toilets, kitchen and improving access to the front and rear of the property.

“Discussions regarding the lease to the County Council are ongoing.

“No date for the commencement of the internal works has yet been agreed.

“Unfortunately this is all we can say at this stage.

“We are entirely in the hands of the County Council.”

The decision by he previous Labour regime at County Hall to include Lytham among a swathe of library closures across the county as an economy measure sparked a storm of protests, include a petition bearing more than 4,000 signatures.

The pledge by the Conservatives to re-open as many of the county’s libraries as possible when they returned to power in 2017 raised hopes that the library would return to its traditional home, as has since been the case at Freckleton.

But despite a campaign by the Friends of the Lytham Institute and Library and support from Fylde MP Mark Menzies, the County Council opted for the Assembly Rooms as the new venue on budget grounds.

Since that decision was made in June, the statement issued to the Express this week has been the first indication of when the new-look library service will open – and the fact the wait goes on has sparked further frustration.

Lytham resident Ann McGettigan, who led the initial protests at the closure of the library, said: “Who would have imagined we would still be waiting for the return of a library service?.

“The Friends worked very hard to try and restore it to the Institute and the fact that was the not the case is still extremely frustrating.

“But any library is better than no library and I can’t believe we are still waiting.

“There is a danger that children in particular will get out of the habit of attending the library and all the benefits on offer there.

“My grand-daughter Cara loved going to the library but it has been two years now and we are still waiting, It is such a shame.”

Mr Menzies said: “It is imperative that Lancashire County Council lets people know an opening date for Lytham’s new library as soon as possible.”

By coincidence, St Annes Library is also closed until early next year as building work goes on after plaster falling from the ceiling in August 2017 led to the discovery of a number of structural defects.

A temporary library has been sited elsewhere in the town to cover its closure, while Ansdell Library has also had its hours extended.