Halifax Civic Trust and the Campaign to Save the Northgate Library
Statement by Dr John Hargreaves, Chair of Halifax Civic Trust following CMBC Council vote to demolish Calderdale Central Library on 28 November 2012
This is a deeply regrettable decision taken in the face of intensive and extensive public opposition. The controlling Labour-Liberal Democrat group failed even to convince all of their own supporters of the merits of their case with one former Liberal Democrat Mayor abstaining and another Liberal Democrat councillor voting against the proposal and others privately expressing their doubts to members of DBOL. Councillor after councillor criticised the scheme on the grounds of the excessive costs of relocation over refurbishment, which would impact on other council expenditure priorities, necessitate massive prudential borrowing, adversely affect access to the library for older people and jeopardise the lifelong learning opportunities of large sections of the local community. The council should consider the implications of their controversial decision and abandon this ill-conceived, costly and unnecessary scheme.
DBOL Protest at Calderdale Central Library and Archives 22 November 2012
Statement by Halifax Civic Trust Chairman Dr John Hargreaves
Halifax Civic Trust supported DBOL’s protest outside Calderdale Central Library on the morning of November 22nd, and has campaigned consistently for retention of the Library and Archive on its conveniently accessible Northgate site.
We are protesting against the unnecessary demolition of the finest combined purpose built Archive, Library and Meeting Room facilities in West Yorkshire, which have not yet been open for thirty years and which remain fit for purpose.
They are hugely valued by all sections of the community and especially mothers with young children, members of Calderdale’s ethnic minority communities and older people with mobility problems on account of their convenient location next to the town’s bus station, the hub of public transport across Calderdale.
Library users have made their support for retention of the existing facilities at Northgate abundantly clear not least in their support for the DBOL petition to Parliament which attracted almost 17,000 signatures and most recently in their responses to the open consultation within the Ipsos Mori survey commissioned by CMBC.
We have challenged the one-sided introduction to the IM consultation questionnaire, the diffuse and the unclear wording of key questions, which failed to provide respondents with an opportunity to express a clear preference on the issue of location and the selective reporting of its results by CMBC.
We are concerned that downsizing of the facilities and re-location to a less conveniently accessible site will undermine service provision, synergies between meeting rooms and special collections and jeopardise the life-long learning opportunities for some of the most vulnerable sections of Calderdale’s communities.
We are not opposed to appropriate retail development within the town centre but are opposed to the loss of a valued cultural asset occupying a relatively small section of the Northgate site. There are other opportunities for retail development around the existing Library building, on other disused town centre and peripheral sites and through the proposed re-development of the Pennine Shopping Centre to increase the retail offer. But we firmly believe that the vibrancy of the town centre as a shopping and tourist destination will be enhanced by retaining other non-retail attractions which augment the footfall and by ensuring that development is proportionate with the Halifax’s acclaimed historic townscape.
Message of support from Lady Antonia Fraser DBE for the campaign to retain Calderdale Central Library on its existing site at Northgate, Halifax
I was privileged to perform the official opening of the new Calderdale Central Library on its conveniently accessible, centrally located Northgate site in 1983 and to revisit the library on its tenth anniversary in 1993. I continue to treasure the paper weight which I was presented as a memento of the opening ceremony, which sits on my desk as a constant reminder to me of my participation in this landmark event for Halifax and Calderdale. On both occasions I was impressed by the fine purpose-built facilities. I would like to encourage members of the community to express their support in the current consultation for the retention of these excellent facilities, which are not yet thirty years old, on their existing site.
Lady Antonia Fraser, DBE
21 August 2012.
Letter from Dr John Hargreaves Chairman of Halifax Civic Trust, published in the Halifax Courier Friday August 31st
‘At last! A new home in the heart of town’ was the Halifax Courier headline which announced the opening of the new Calderdale Central Library in February 1983. It seems incredible that a mere twenty-nine years later we are contemplating its demolition and re-location to a less convenient location. The distinguished author Lady Antonia Fraser DBE who performed the opening ceremony and who is now publicly supporting the campaign to save the library has indicated how impressed she was on both her visits with its excellent, well-designed, purpose-built facilities. There are no more conveniently accessible combined library, archive, local studies and meeting room facilities anywhere in West Yorkshire.
The building remains one of Calderdale MBC’s greatest achievements and one of its most popular cultural assets. The 16,700 people who petitioned for its retention at Northgate in 2009 testified to that and the numbers signing more recent petitions have re-affirmed the value local people attach to this facility remaining on its existing site. Its conveniently accessible location adjoining the bus station is particularly valued by older people with mobility problems, but also by young mums and toddlers and students undertaking research in secondary and higher education. One older library supporter has described the library as her university and the library is probably the major contribution to life-long learning within the local community, which makes it all the more surprising that Cllr Ashley Evans (Your Say, 27 July) should be so eager to see it removed to a less favourable location which may impact negatively on its usage by some of those sections of the local community who value it the most.
Philip Hellawell’s (Your Say, 17 August) dismissive attitude to its architectural significance is perfunctory. The Library ranks with Bull Green House as one of only two imposing town centre buildings designed in-house by the local authority in the twentieth century. It enhances Halifax’s reputation for having a range of interesting buildings dating back to the medieval minster. The Library’s fine Woodkirk stone facing and angular construction resonates with the Lloyds Banking Group building at Wards End, blends well with the adjoining Woolshops development and complements the Victorian shops on Northgate.
However, its location is the key to its success as a community resource as other surrounding Pennine towns have recognised. Burnley, Keighley, Huddersfield, Bradford and Leeds all have prominent centrally located libraries. Moreover, as Mary Portas has argued, regenerating town centres needs to consider the non-retail as well as the retail offer. The library like its slightly older neighbour Woolshops, has made a significant contribution in its own right to the regeneration of Halifax Town Centre, generating footfall through its community appeal and stimulating through its exceptional local studies collections an interest in Calderdale’s historic identity, which itself contributes to the town’s unique selling point.
It is disingenuous to suggest that the town’s economic regeneration depends exclusively on the re-development of this one site. The proposed re-development of the Horton Street Pennine Shopping Centre offers exciting opportunities for retail development and other strategies to further encourage motorists to shop in Halifax might also be considered. Those who have not yet responded to the consultation are urged by Halifax Civic Trust, which is supporting the DBOL campaign, and now has the support of Lady Antonia Fraser, to vote for Option B and secure the retention of this valued cultural asset and community resource on its existing site.
Dr John Hargreaves, Chairman Halifax Civic Trust
Halifax Civic Trust has consistently opposed the demolition of the purpose-built highly valued Central Library, Archive and Meeting Room facilities in Northgate and remains unconvinced by the case currently being advanced by CMBC for re-location of the facilities at the Piece Hall. We are therefore urging our members and friends to engage in the latest consultation organised by Ipsos Mori on behalf of CMBC and to express their support for retention of the existing facilities on the Northgate site by choosing OPTION B and explaining in their comments why they believe that the facilities should be retained on their existing site. We also encourage our members and supporters to oppose re-location of these facilities by writing to the press, local councillors and MPs and signing further petitions which will be available at a series of events organised by DBOL (DON’T BULLDOZE OUR LIBRARY) commencing on Saturday 21st July from 10.00 a,m, until 12 noon, with similar events to be announced later before the deadline for responses closes on 30 September 2012.
Halifax Civic Trust considers the presentation of the case for re-development of the Northgate site in the consultation document to be highly one-sided and lacking in clarity and the options offered in the questionnaire ambiguously worded, unnecessarily diffuse and determinedly evasive on the central issue of location. In particular, we deplore the failure to provide a clear opportunity for respondents to signify their unambiguous support for retention of the facilities on Northgate site given the intense public concerns expressed during previous consultations and in the massive petition which attracted over 16,000 signatures. We believe that having a centrally-located library and archives facility with community space for meetings evening parking and easy drop off facilities enhances the opportunities for lifelong learning for all sections of the community in Calderdale. Moreover it accords with the expert advice from figures such as Mary Portas about how to successfully re-generate town centres which Halifax Civic Trust strongly supports by ensuring a mix of retail and non-retail attractions. We consider that demolishing a spacious, well-used and conveniently located building popular with a wide cross-section of the community ranging from young mums with children to older people with limited mobility is profoundly ill-conceived. We also believe that the existing well-proportioned building designed by a local architect with its quality Woodkirk stone exterior blends well with both the Victorian buildings on Northgate and with the adjoining twentieth century buildings in Woolshops and the Bus Station.
Dr John Hargreaves,
Chairman Halifax Civic Trust
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The Halifax Civic Trust is a voluntary organisation which aims to improve the quality of the Halifax townscape and celebrate, enhance and safeguard the outstanding built and natural environment of Halifax, which John Betjeman famously described as ‘a town of hidden beauty’. By campaigning, raising public awareness, supporting or opposing planning applications as appropriate, we hope to make and keep Halifax an attractive place to live and work.
Anyone can become a member of the Halifax Civic Trust and if, like us, you wish to celebrate and enhance Halifax’s outstanding built and natural environment, we warmly invite you to join us. Our programme of challenging and informative general meetings on a variety of issues relating to the local environment is open to everyone. We also hold an annual awards ceremony at Halifax Town Hall to recognise quality in local building design, construction and refurbishment and regular executive meetings to monitor planning applications and discuss other issues. Individual membership is currently available at only £10.00 per year (£5.00 for students) and corporate membership rates are available on application.
We very much hope that you will decide to join us and strengthen our voice within the local community.
John A. Hargreaves (Chairman)