Sidmouth deserves better library and surgery says MP

East Devon MP backs re-build for Sidmouth surgery, hailing it a fantastic opportunity to have state-of-the-art library too

BUILDING a bigger doctors’ surgery and state-of-the-art library opposite is “an incredible opportunity” for Sidmouth, said its MP this week.

After discussions with Dr Ross Dell on Saturday, East Devon MP Hugo Swire urged Devon County Council to stop plans to make the current library self-service, at a cost of �80,000 and work with East Devon District Council and the NHS to solve the problem of an overcrowded Blackmore Surgery by moving the library to the small car park.

DCC has �600,000 for capital improvements, but any scheme is at least two years away, said Sidmouth’s county councillor, Councillor Stuart Hughes.

Mr Swire said: “This is an incredible opportunity for them to come together. I think the idea of persuading the library to give up its site and rebuild the surgery there, and put a 21st century library on the patients’ car park, is a fantastic opportunity.”

A keen advocate of good architecture, he said the new library could be built with a children’s library at ground level with an area able to be leased for, say a caf�, “with windows to Blackmore Gardens and a wonderful, airy library above.”

Computer stations and reading areas would make it a hub for people to meet in, he suggested.

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“The only negative thing is losing a few parking spaces, but if we had properly policed dropping off points in front of the surgery it should be sufficient.

“We are not using Greenfield sites. We have got to do it.”

Mr Swire suggested a competition be held for architects to come up with a winning design for the new library.

Mr Hughes said: “Both DCC and I have been working towards this aspiration for many years.

“Yes, we absolutely want to see a state-of-the-art local health service and modern library.

“We are continuing to work with our partners, and we need EDDC to make available the car park for a new library to be built on.”

He confirmed DCC had �600,000 in its capital budget, and added: “It will be up to the Sid Valley Practice to raise additional funding.”

He defended the �80,000 spend on the library to introduce new self-service technology, saying: “The equipment is transferable, so the introduction of it at Sidmouth’s current library this year does by no means contradict or conflict with any aspiration for a better library and health centre at a future date, which would be at least two years away.”

“This is fairly exciting and something that needs really thinking through. It is for the benefit of the whole of the town having everything central,” said Councillor Frances Newth, vice-chairman of EDDC.

“We have a wonderful team of doctors and nurses and they deserve better facilities.”

Paul Whitehouse, deputy chairman of Sid Vale Patients Forum, said: “There are so many hurdles to jump through in this process. It is a real challenge but it is community effort that makes it happen.”

He said visitors to Sidmouth’s surgery would be shocked at its facilities.

“People’s expectations have risen and our library needs to be 21st century.”