Stockport Council has launched a consultation on the future of library services in the town centre after an engagement process on plans for Stockroom, a £14.5 million learning and discovery hub in Merseyway, secured strong public backing.
The council is calling on residents to share their views on moving library services from the existing Central Library building on the A6 to Merseyway. The consultation follows an engagement process on Stockroom, the results of which were revealed last week, that saw strong support for a range to cultural and community uses for the development.
Stockport Central Library has seen visitor numbers fall by almost half (42%) from April 2012 to March 2020. Book loans have also dropped significantly, particularly amongst young people aged 15-19 who are taking out 61% fewer loans than in 2017.
Stockport Council has based its proposal for Stockroom on examples from other towns and cities where library services are now successfully delivered in comfortable, accessible spaces on the High Street which are in keeping with the demands of 21st Century users.
After opening in 2017, Chester Storyhouse received one million visits in its first year. Four-fifths of these visits – almost 800,000 – were for the library, café, and community facilities. Children’s book loans increased by 50% as Storyhouse helped to inspire a love of reading in children and young people. In the London borough of Tower Hamlets, the local authority has reimagined library services in the borough with the creation of new learning and discovery spaces called The Idea Stores. Visitor numbers quadrupled from 550,000 to more than two million each year. Meanwhile, participation in adult learning classes doubled to 8,000 enrolments annually.
Repurposing eight former retail units in Adlington Walk, Stockroom will provide modern, accessible library services in a home that is larger than a football pitch and has five times the floor space of Stockport’s Central Library Building.
Cllr David Sedgwick, Cabinet Member for Citizen Focus and Engagement said:
The way people live has changed. People now learn, work and shop more online, seeking out information and accessing services through technology.
“We have responded to these changes to put forward this innovative proposal for a new 21st Century Learning and Discovery space which will attract new visitors to Stockport Town Centre and also inspire a lifelong love of learning among children and adults.
People need to take this opportunity to have their say on the future of these facilities in Stockport.”
Regardless of the consultation’s outcome, Stockport Council has confirmed it will continue to preserve public access to the Central Library building, pledging not to sell the freehold or redevelop it for residential use.
How to take part in the consultation
The consultation will run for eight weeks, commencing on Monday 23rd August and closing on the 18th October 2021. Stockport residents are invited to take part by completing a questionnaire on the council’s consultation wesbite.
Information on the consultation as well as paper copies are available in all public libraries in the borough.
The £14.5 million funding for the development of Stockroom has come from the government’s Future High Streets Fund, which aims to back schemes designed to increase town centre footfall and breathe life into declining high streets across the country.