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Fears persist over King's Lynn library future as councils urged to provide 'decent, reassuring plan'

A Lynn councillor has claimed she will chain herself to the railings of the town’s library if the current building is sold off.

Political leaders say they wanted to put an end to past speculation that the Carnegie building could be turned into flatswhich has previously been denied – or be put to another commercial use.

But, despite the launch of a public consultation this week, some opposition representatives are worried about the future of the current library site.

King's Lynn Library will be taking part in the next heritage open day - Official opening by Andrew Carnegie. (53478392)
King's Lynn Library will be taking part in the next heritage open day - Official opening by Andrew Carnegie. (53478392)

That concern has been fuelled by a Norfolk County Council asset management plan passed at a County Hall meeting on Monday.

It contains a requirement that council-owned buildings which are deemed to be longer required to be formally declared “surplus” and then disposed of, usually via tender or auction.

Critics of the hub proposal, which could see the library moved from its present site, believe that would mean the current building being sold, even though officials this week maintained there was “no intention” to do that until a future use is secured.

King's Lynn library (49043541)
King's Lynn library (49043541)

Independent councillor Alexandra Kemp said: “I will chain myself to the library railings before that [a sale] happens.

“The Carnegie belongs collectively to the people of Lynn. The current Conservatives have no respect for the community, civic pride or local history.”

During Monday’s meeting, she had questioned the absence of a policy to “safeguard buildings that are part of Norfolk’s history”.

Greg Peck, the county council’s cabinet member for commercial services and asset management said: “It’s up to the public to make their views known on that.”

Cllr Alex Kemp
Cllr Alex Kemp

During the consultation announcement, the county council’s deputy leader, Graham Plant, said: “We know how much people value the Carnegie building – as do we too.

“We want to reassure the community that any use in the future will recognise and respect the heritage of this important building.”

The authorities say they have no firm plans for the Carnegie building, although a gallery, an art and craft centre of excellence, a pop-up events venue, community trust ownership or faith group use were put forward as potential uses during a media briefing on Wednesday.

Mr Plant again rejected claims made during a borough council meeting in the summer that there were plans for the building to be turned into apartments.

His borough council counterpart, Graham Middleton, added that he wanted to “put to bed” rumours about the building which he revealed had also included conversion into a Starbucks coffee shop.

He said: “We are committed to securing a future role for the Carnegie building which is respectful of its heritage. It is a building which I know means so much to local people.”

But Rob Colwell, Liberal Democrat county councillor for the Gaywood South division, has called for a more substantial proposal to be brought forward.

He said: “I am encouraging residents of Kings Lynn to engage in the consultation process and express their concerns for the library building, to ensure that it continues to play an important part in the future of our town.

“This is an opportunity for the town, but we can’t let the old library simply rot, with the excuse we opened it up to a community trust. Come to us with a decent reassuring plan.”

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