First Northamptonshire library up for sale at Higham Ferrers

Higham Ferrers Library is up for sale and will most likely close at the end of the year.

Friday, 29th November 2019, 9:46 am
Updated Monday, 2nd December 2019, 10:58 am
The library is expected to close at the end of December.
The library is expected to close at the end of December.

The library is being sold by the county council for £400,000 although the authority says it would still welcome offers for the building that would allow it to continue as a community managed library.

The library, which will cease operating on December 31, is one of 22 the council wants to hand over to community groups in a bid to reduce its annual library running cost bill.

Only 22 of the 36 libraries in Northamptonshire will remain with statutory protection – with five of these managed by community groups.

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Community organisation Higham Ferrers Library Group had been planning to take over Higham Ferrers library but decided it could not afford to do so earlier this year as they could not find the annual £19,000 in rent asked for by NCC and were unwilling to put their own finances in jeopardy.

Hopes were raised a couple of months ago when a local businessman showed an interest in buying the library but that fell through.

A spokesman for Northamptonshire County Council said today: “The current Higham Ferrers library building is now being marketed for sale by Northamptonshire County Council.

“The decision to sell the building follows an extensive consultation and evaluation process which saw the county council work with community groups and district, borough, town and parish councils to draw up a strategy for the future of the 36 libraries in the county.

“Higham Ferrers Library was not identified to be part of the council’s statutory provision for the county and therefore would only be able to continue in the form of a Community Managed Library.

“Whilst a viable community proposition for Higham Ferrers library has not emerged, the county council would welcome offers for the building which would allow continued library provision in the form of a community-managed library access point.

“This would be for an interim period while the potential for a permanent relocation solution is explored. The current provision will cease from this building on 31st December.”

Higham Ferrers Community Library Group leader Paul Needle said seeing the building advertised on Right Move ‘felt like a kick in the teeth’ and the library was still used by local people and very busy for Rhymetime on a Tuesday.

He said: “The library has been a valuable space for all manner of uses and is the finest asset in the town. It just seems so strange that the county council can’t see that so much more could go on and as already does go on.”

The building has a long history in the town and was formerly used as a Sunday School. Although it is part of the conservation area it does not have a conservation order on it.

Northamptonshire County Council lost a judicial review at the High Court last year bought about by county library users who were concerned at plans to close a number of libraries. The authority then changed the plan, proposing to hand over the majority to community groups.

This is the first of the libraries to be put up for sale although a community group is planning to buy and run Desborough library.

The Cando Care day centre moved out from the Higham Ferrers library and from the start of this month has been operating from Irthlingborough library.