Posted on Wednesday 15th December 2021
How Burton library could look if the Market Hall move goes ahead
Plans to progress with a relocation of Burton library into the town’s Market Hall with £7.3 million Government funding has today been approved by Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet.
The project is one of seven connected projects that aim to revitalise the town centre economy which form part of the Burton Town Deal programme. The Burton Town Deal Board secured £23.8m of the Government’s Towns Fund money in December 2020. The business case for the library project will now be put forward to the Government for consideration in March next year.
Today, cabinet agreed to move forward with the proposal subject to the Government’s confirmation of the funding allocation and that an identified £1million shortfall can be either resourced from the Town Deal Board or other external sources.
Both the Town Deal Board and East Staffordshire Borough Council, which owns the Market Hall building, have backed the proposal subject to the business case being agreed. If the business case is approved, the borough council will take possession of the current library building. The site will be used for future regeneration as part of the Towns Fund programme which could include a new visitor centre on the Washlands.
This week East Staffordshire Borough Council launched a four-week public consultation on its Towns Fund Project D proposals. These include transformation of the current library building into a visitor centre with rooftop terrace as well as outdoor leisure facilities, food hall incorporating the Water Tower, landscaped courtyard and provision for new bars and restaurants.
A report detailing the library proposals was today presented to the cabinet by deputy leader and cabinet member for economy and skills Philip White.
Speaking after the meeting, he said:
As a cabinet, collectively this has been an incredibly tough decision to make. The Town Deal process means projects which will ultimately join together to regenerate the town have to be evaluated separately. This can make it difficult to see the benefit the proposals will bring when they all come together and weight these against alternative proposals and opposing views.
The fantastic proposals put forward for the waterfront area by the borough council this week, including a new public square, food hall, viewing tower and visitor centre as a gateway to the Washlands rely on the library relocating from its current site. This will be transformational for Burton, reconnecting the town with the river and creating a huge point of attraction to bring people into the town.
In turn, relocating the library to the Market Hall will allow the county council to create a first-class modern library and community hub in an inspiring space. Our benchmark will be Lichfield Library which has won national attention for the quality of the library building and has acted as a catalyst for the regeneration of the wider area.
The eight-week consultation was a vital part of the decision-making process, enabling everyone to have their say. We carefully considered the feedback of around 1,500 people who responded either via the questionnaire or at one of the face-to-face opportunities. This represents around two per cent of the population of the town. Just over three-quarters of those who responded were opposed to the scheme and we have carefully considered the reasons they gave for doing so.
We recognise that many of those who responded to the public consultation are opposed to the loss of the Market Hall as a market however, the borough council which owns the building has already made it clear that it is unviable in its current form. They will make the final decision on how the building will be used in the future but clearly no change is not an option.
The debate in the town has moved on recently and even the alternative proposals for a food hall put forward by Burton Market Action Group would appear to displace the current market traders with no guarantee that it would safeguard the future of the building. The library relocation offers a reliable way of protecting this important heritage building and in response to feedback from the consultation rising concerns about alterations to the structure of the building the plans have been revised to avoid the need for major changes.
The Town Deal process still has some way to go before the plans are finalised but we are pleased that we are able to play our part in the regeneration and improvement of Burton town centre.”
East Staffordshire Borough Council leader Duncan Goodfellow said:
The library and Market Hall proposals are just one of seven projects designed to level up Burton and address a number of challenges previously identified in the Burton Regeneration Strategy that the borough council adopted in 2019.
If the library moves to the Market Hall, both protecting this heritage asset for future generations – but also providing a focal point to attract visitors, the site of the current library forms part of a 16-acre river and Washlands facing area (Project D) in which the public call for ideas have suggested a Washlands Visitor Centre, bars, restaurants and various leisure uses.
With this proposal what lies ahead of us is the potential of a fantastic new library and community space, revitalising the marketplace, a site for a successful series of outdoor markets, a thriving higher educational zone bringing skills, opportunity and trade to Burton, a well-connected town fit to address low carbon challenges ahead – but even more importantly, a new focus on our fantastic Washlands, providing great leisure and amenity space for residents and a huge draw for visitors to bolster and level up our town and our economy and deliver a resilient, better, brighter Burton.”
State-of-the-art facilities could now transform the Market Hall and help to preserve an important part of the town’s heritage. The building would house a range of community services, including an enterprise centre for small businesses, exhibition and flexible performance space, meeting rooms, a café and more.