Community group said it feels ‘gutted on a daily basis’ passing closed Bromborough library

The leader of a Wirral community group said she feels “gutted on a daily basis” as she passes a boarded-up library that has been put up for sale.

In July 2023, Wirral Council decided to sell off Bromborough Civic Centre after over a year of uncertainty following a council decision to close it in February the year before. There had been hopes the centre would be able to reopen under private hands with two highly rated bids put forward to take it over.

Despite Labour and Conservative councillors previously campaigning to see it reopen, both parties voted to sell the community centre off after council officers had made it “absolutely abundantly clear” it should be sold to support the council financially.

The money from any sale is expected to go towards paying off an emergency government loan the council requested to help balance its budget in 2021.

Now the library and the one acre site has been put on the market which is being managed by Lambert Smith Hampton (LSH), a property consultant contracted by the council. The building first opened in 1973 but the civic centre closed in 2020 followed by the library in 2022.

The centre, which has previously been valued at £600,000, is close to a number of shops within Bromborough Village and is considered “likely to appeal to a variety of developers”. There are also no restrictions when it comes to planning and no buildings are listed.

Oliver Williams, regional land manager at LSH, said, “Demand for strategically located development sites on the Wirral Peninsula remains high and we look forward to receiving expressions of interest for a variety of local and national developers”.

However, the decision to sell the building off continues to be controversial. Mo Miller (pictured), who campaigned to see the library reopen, said, “The Friends of Bromborough Library, like many Bromborough residents, feel gutted on a daily basis as they pass the now boarded up and dilapidated civic centre that once held concerts, health, well -being and leisure groups and a thriving public library.”

She said, “We remain deeply concerned about the lack of a library particularly for the children of Bromborough who have no library in walking distance of home or school,” adding, “We hold no view on what alternative the site could be used for as nothing would be as good as the community hub that existed in the Civic Centre for many years.”

The decision was also recently criticised by the Green Party as one that “unnecessarily” damaged the community and Green Bromborough councillor Jo Bird previously said it “shows Wirral’s Labour-Conservative coalition can mislead any community and sell any loved asset at almost any time.”

Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Phil Gilchrist previously said it confirmed his worst fears and was “a kick in the teeth for all those who have worked so hard to bring life back to this building”.

Those who voted for the sale said it had been recommended because the council had “inherited an absolutely dire financial situation”. Councils across the country like Wirral are facing increasing pressure as costs continue to increase for adult and children’s social care which made up most of local authority budgets.

When asked about the decision previously, Wirral Council leader Cllr Paul Stuart said delays on a decision around a transfer had given false hope and argued Liberal Democrat and Green councillors who opposed the move were not being realistic. He previously told the LDRS, “We have to weigh out the decisions that we make that affect everybody in all parts of Wirral, not just in individual wards.”

At the July 2023 meeting, Conservative Cllr Jeff Green referred to the need to pay back the government loan to the council, adding, “There’s no point asking for help on the basis of ‘of course we’ll pay you back’ and then all of a sudden finding all sorts of ways to delay paying it back or not paying it back.

“I think in these circumstances I would need a lot of convincing we shouldn’t go to the stage this is disposed of.”

Image: Mo Miller, Chair of the Friends of Bromborough Library

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