Hove Library layout changes on the cards as Conservatives claim victory with key concessions

Posted On 06 Jun 2018 at 3:55 am

Controversial changes to Hove Library look likely to go ahead despite opposition from Conservative and Green councillors and local conservation groups.

The Labour administration has been criticised for its handling of the changes, with the Conservatives claiming a partial victory for winning a number of key concessions.

Planning permission is expected to be granted today (Wednesday 6 June) for the latest proposed changes. These are to the back garden where new steps, a handrail and landing are planned.

If agreed, a children’s nursery – Hove Village – is then expected to rent the basement from Brighton and Hove City Council which owns the 110-year-old grade II listed building.

Council covid support

An earlier application by the council – to the council itself – was decided with uncharacteristic speed, generating considerable criticism.

The Brighton Society said: “The city council proposes to carry out alterations to the main ground floor library space which will destroy the most important characteristic of its internal design – the radiating layout of bookshelves within the semi-circular plan of the library.

“This almost unique layout is one of the reasons for the building’s grade II listing.

“The alterations propose to replace a significant amount of the radiating bookshelves area with a large enclosed office.

“Some of the bookshelves have already been removed and replaced with a storeroom, lift and disabled WC.

“If this latest proposal is approved only three of the original seven bays of bookshelves will remain – 43 per cent of the original number.

“This will effectively destroy the existing character of the space and with it one of the main reasons for its listed status.

“That a council, one of whose duties is to conserve and protect our listed buildings, can propose such vandalism is a disgrace.”

Councillor Robert Nemeth said that a public meeting was held at the library last Thursday (31 May), chaired by ward councillors Clare Moonan (Labour) and Andrew Wealls (Conservative).

Councillors Andrew Wealls and Robert Nemeth

He said later that the council had agreed a number of concessions, amounting to a partial restoration of surviving ground floor features including

  • removal of carpet and exposure and restoration of original parquet flooring
  • revealing of  covered shelves on all of the radial units
  • removal of all modern paint from radial units to expose the true oak finish
  • reuse of any surplus units within the library

Councillor Nemeth said: “I can’t say that I am thrilled that space on the ground floor is being lost.

“The plans were not run past me, as they should have been as a member of the cross-party working group, when the planning application was submitted for the works.

“The concessions that Councillor Wealls and I have won, with Green Party support, at least go some way towards making up for the space going.

“I look forward to the restoration work progressing quickly.”

Councillor Nemeth, who has spoken out previously on behalf of the historic and purpose-built Carnegie Library, said that it was “a key victory … that will see a historic section of Hove Library restored to its original glory.

“The news follows a public outcry over the administration’s announcement that a section of the popular library’s ground floor is to be taken out of public use to become a new staff room.”

The project was frozen after a motion at full council in April by Councillors Nemeth and Wealls won support from both opposition parties.

With the further planning application being dealt with publicly at Hove Town Hall today, work has resumed with the aim of generating an income to help ensure that the library is financially sustainable.

  1. Anthony Johnson Reply

    “Controversial changes to Hove Library look likely to go ahead despite opposition from Conservative and Green councillors and local conservation groups.”

    I’m not sure this is correct.

    My understanding is that the plans for letting out the basement to a nursery was first proposed by a cross party working group, as was reported by this site last year. It was later voted on and passed by councillors.

    • Frank le Duc Reply

      It’s the removal of more of the interior – the radial shelving – that has been criticised widely. The building is grade II listed, with the interior cited as part of the description in the listing. And controversy remains attached to the unusual haste with which the planning application was handled over Christmas and the new year. Apart from that, no one’s raised a peep.

      • Anthony Johnson Reply

        I see. However, the article jumps straight from the statement I quoted earlier to the impending planning permission decision for the changes for the nursery.

        I think it’s important to make the distinction that the plans for having a cafe on the ground floor and the nursery in the basement were suggested by, voted on and agreed across parties. The article does not make this at all clear.

        Agreed though, the previous planning application regarding the radial shelving should have been handled better.

        • Valerie Reply

          Suggested by Cllr Nemeth & agreed only by the working party of 3 cllrs plus ward cllrs.

          This should have been a P&R cttee decision.

  2. Steve C Reply

    We must protect our only library in Hove – if it wasn’t for the opposition the local Labour Party would have closed it or run it down so much that there wouldn’t be a viable library – use it!

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