Library setback - hub plans dropped

St Saviours

St Saviours - Credit: Archant

Hopes of creating a new community hub and premises for Ottery Library have been dashed as county councillors ‘dug in their feet’ over conditions.

The town council decided to cease negotiations on the St Saviours building, near the youth centre, at a special meeting on Wednesday - deeming the project ‘a considerable financial risk’.

The decision was met with disappointment by campaigners for the town’s library - who had earmarked the site as a fully-accessible premises that could have secured its future.

Devon County Council (DCC) had offered its vacant office building at a favourable rate and the plan was to transform it into a multi-purpose facility for the community.

However, after months of private talks, DCC ‘refused to pay rent’ for its occupation of the ground floor for 25 years and town councillors were forced to back down.

Mayor Glyn Dobson said: “After all these meetings, I find it very difficult to recommend that we should take over St Saviours.

“We had another meeting last week with representatives from DCC, but they stuck their feet in.

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“There was little room to manoeuvre unless the town council is prepared to take on the cost involved in taking that building on and it could be many thousands a year.”

He added that the Station youth centre now fulfils the purpose of a community hub.

Councillor Paul Carter said: “It’s moved so much from the original plan of a community hub and the commercial basis to make it viable.

“I think it’s quite unfair that DCC do not seem to be playing the game.”

Cllr Paul Bartlett pointed out that when plans were first proposed, the site was serviced five days a week by the town bus – this has now been reduced to three days.

After the meeting, chairman of Friends of Ottery Library (FOOL) James Goddard said: “We are now not only back where we started, I think we are well behind.”

He said FOOL had been pleased to receive the backing of Ottery St Mary Town Council, but campaigners are now concerned about what help it will receive.