Manchester Civic Society opposes Stockport Council’s intended closure of Stockport Central Library and the relocation of library services to the Merseyway Precinct.
Relocating library services and collections away from the Central Library building, with no plan identified for the future use of the building seems an abdication of responsibility. The future options appraisal commissioned from CBRE concludes that changing the Central Library’s core use would pose real cost issues. SAVE Britain’s Heritage has considerable experience of how such a lack of planning works out and observes that management will only become more complicated and controversial over time and risks becoming an increasing cost burden on council resources.
Stockport’s Central Library was gifted to the town by the Carnegie Foundation in 1913 and has served the people of Stockport for over 100 years. It is a listed building (Grade II) and stated to be a good example of a Carnegie Library. The listing statement makes particular mention of its strong, well-proportioned composition, with striking use of contrasting materials and fine craftsmanship, and as a mature example of free-Classicism. The considerable retention of historic fabric throughout is also highlighted, as is its siting in close proximity to other distinguished features of central Stockport, the Town Hall (Grade II*), the former Stockport Infirmary (Grade II), the War Memorial Art Gallery (Grade II*) and the statue of Richard Cobden (Grade II). They form a rich mix of early C20 buildings.
It is possible to refurbish this handsome building so that it continues to deliver library and other key services for the people of Stockport. Mancunians now enjoy their transformed Grade II*Central Library, a feat achieved with distinction by their City Council, on time and in budget. Stockport made a great success of regenerating the Covered Market, with a heritage-led project.
Stockport has shown that it can rise to a challenge such as posed by the continued provision of library services within the central civic core. We respectfully urge them to do so.