Town set for new, improved library

A NEW, bigger better library and records office is back on track after English Heritage refused to list the present 1971 building in Princes Street as being of special architectural or historical interest. Pressure to list the unusual design came from H

A NEW, bigger better library and records office is back on track after English Heritage refused to "list" the present 1971 building in Princes Street as being of special architectural or historical interest.

Pressure to list the unusual design came from Huntingdon and Godmanchester Civic Society, which said it was the only modern building in the town with any architectural merit.

But English Heritage, which is responsible for recommendations on listing to the Government, said that, while the library was of local interest, it did not meet the national criteria for listing.

"We found that the library did not fulfil the very selective national criteria for listing post-war buildings," a spokesman said. "Huntingdon Library has undergone some changes and is not of special architectural interest, and there are no historical associations of note."


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He added: "The responsibility rests with the local authority to reach a decision on proposals to demolish and replace the building."

Huntingdonshire District Council, the planning authority, opposed the application for listing.

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Lesley Noblett, head of libraries, archives and information at Cambridgeshire County Council, which owns the building and wants to replace it with a better-equipped combined library and Huntingdonshire Records Office on the present library site, was delighted with the decision.

She said a recent consultation exercise had shown 80 per cent of respondents in favour of knocking down the present building and replacing it with one with toilets and air-conditioning.

"The consultation is giving us useful ideas on how to make use of the space in the new building. It will have some very exciting areas and also some quiet ones and meeting rooms," added Ms Noblett, who ran Huntingdon Library in the 1980s.

The county council hopes to submit detailed plans in September.

A council spokesman added: "The present library is one of the busiest in Cambridgeshire, yet is hot and noisy, with no

toilets or meeting room. The current Record Office in nearby Grammar School Walk needs considerable updating to meet the needs of disabled users and improve conditions for the storage of archives."

The council's plan will bring together all of Huntingdon's historical resources - its archives and local studies collections - and expert staff in one place.

"The new centre will provide 50 per cent more public space than the existing library and record office put together," said a spokesman.

Civic society secretary Richard Meredith said the group would decide in September whether to accept English Heritage's decision.

The Hunts Post believes, however, that many society members would prefer to work with the county council on the detail of the replacement building.

"If we decide not to take it further, we look forward to Huntingdon having a good library and a good records office," Mr Meredith said.

The library is expected to close next spring. Library services will be provided from Dryden House nearby, currently used by other county council employees, who will move into new offices in the £30million reconstruction of the Princes Street site.

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