New chapter for library

PROPOSALS to re-house a village library have taken a step forward after positive discussions with residents, it has been claimed.

Seahouses Development Trust, North Sunderland Parish Council and Northumberland County Council are considering moving the facility – currently based in the grounds of Seahouses First School – into the newly-refurbished Seahouses Sports and Community Centre.

Last week, more than 70 people attended a meeting at the centre, on Stone Close, to give their views on the potential plan.

And the proposal has received encouraging feedback.

Jon Riley, chief executive at the Trust, said: “The purpose of the meeting was to ask the community if they think it is a good idea or not.

“It was the best meeting that we have organised with over 70 people there, which shows that people are interested in the issue.

“The key question is does the community think it is a good idea, and I think they do.

“It is a step forward, definitely.”

The Trust has been working with the parish and the county council for almost a year to consider how to improve the library and other council services on offer in the village.

Prompted by county councillor Pat Scott, the group is exploring how best to protect these services for residents in light of the ever increasing financial pressures on the council.

Elsewhere in Northumberland, library services have been transferred to buildings that are then managed by volunteers, or have been re-located in development trust buildings.

The Trust’s work on refurbishing the sports and community centre has completed its second phase, after securing a number of grants, which has allowed the complete remodelling of the building, providing office space, a café, disabled access and an overhaul of all the facilities.

Now, consideration is being given to how the library could be re-located there.

Mr Riley said: “Our concern was we would be doing something that the community doesn’t want or doesn’t need but after the meeting we think this is definitely the right thing to be doing.”

There were fears by groups who currently use the centre that they would have to be moved should the library re-locate.

But these worries have been allayed.

“We explained to them that this was not the case,” said Mr Riley. “If the library was to move in we would have to do some additional fund-raising to modify the building so there would be enough space for everyone – both for the library and the groups that are there at the moment.

“The centre is a two-storey-sized building used as a large open space so we would divide that in two, to accommodate a community hall and the library.

“We wouldn’t be building out or up, it would be internal work.”

The re-location is not a done deal.

Mr Riley added: “The library is operated by the local authority so it is really down to them now to make a decision having heard what people think in Seahouses. It will also boil down to finance and funding.”