Library cops a new home in the town
HUNTINGDON Library is set to move to the rear of the town s police station next year. It will allow the demolition of the building in Princes Street, which opened in 1971. However, Cambridgeshire County Council promises the library will re-open on its pre
HUNTINGDON Library is set to move to the rear of the town's police station next year.
It will allow the demolition of the building in Princes Street, which opened in 1971.
However, Cambridgeshire County Council promises the library will re-open on its present site in 2008 in a high quality building with better facilities.
Huntingdon and Godmanchester Civic Society says the 1971 building is one of the few pieces of late-20th century architecture in the town worth retaining.
News that the Huntingdonshire Records Office will also move from its location in Grammar School Walk, near the Cromwell Museum, to purpose-built accommodation in the new library building will be welcomed by Huntingdonshire Local History Society.
The new library will be part of a £30million redevelopment scheme for the county council's offices in Princes Street and George Street, including a new combined courts complex due to open next year.
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It will house the county court, currently in George Street, the magistrates' court, which sits in the 18th century Huntingdon Town Hall and, for the first time, a part-time crown court. The town has not had a higher criminal court since assizes and quarter sessions were abolished in the late 1960s to make way for crown courts.
Richard Meredith, secretary of the civic society, said the present library building should be listed as being of architectural importance, unless the county planned a high quality replacement.
"I can't think of any other late-20th century building in the area that should be kept," he said.
"What's more, it's convenient - close to the bus station, the shops and the market place, and it's on a direct line between Hinchingbrooke School and the town. A lot of students use it."
Lesley Noblett, head of libraries, information and archives for the county council, has fond memories of the library in which she worked for 10 years in the 1980s and early 1990s.
"I appreciate that it's a much-loved building and has done very good service to the town, but it's no longer fit for the purpose," she said.
"It's really showing its age. There are problems with heating and lighting, with overheating in summer and with the level of noise upstairs because of its open structure. It's pretty inflexible."
The new building would have meeting and interview rooms, toilets and modern facilities for disabled users and employees.
While the new facilities are built, the library - the second busiest in Cambridgeshire after the central library in Lion Yard, Cambridge - will move to Dryden House, behind the police station, probably in spring 2007.
The old county records will be moved to the new library from their present first-floor accommodation in an old building in Grammar School Walk.
Lesley Noblett said: "By moving the records office to the library, we would be able to put together the records service and our own local studies services, which are used by the very same people."
John Newton, project manager for developers DE Clegg, said demolishing the current library and building the new one would take between a year and 16 months.
Huntingdonshire District Council's tourist information centre, which is housed in the library building, will stop seeing visitors face-to-face from September 1 this year, the council's cabinet decided nearly a year ago.
Staff will transfer to Castle Hill House, in St Mary's Street, from where they will deal with inquiries on the telephone or by fax or e-mail.
Face-to-face activity may resume when the customer service centre opens in the district council's planned £20million headquarters, a spokesman said.
The St Neots centre is not affected by the move.