Two Portsmouth shops could become new libraries

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TWO new libraries could be created in Portsmouth.

City council leaders are aiming to convert the former Bonmarche clothing store in Cosham High Street and the closed-down Elite Golf sports store, in Havant Road as part of a drive to improve literacy in Portsmouth.

The two properties are both vacant and could be transformed, which would mean the closure of the existing Cosham library, in the hope of repeating success of the new Southsea library, which opened last year in Palmerston Road.

A third new library is opening in Paulsgrove’s Allaway Avenue to replace the one in Marsden Road. This has proved controversial because the site is a smaller building.

Lib Dem councillor Lee Hunt is responsible for culture, leisure and sport on the council and said all three would be in busy shopping streets in the hope of increasing the number of visitors.

He said: ‘We know very well that the success of Southsea is something that we need to follow in the rest of the city to try and drive up literacy.

‘It has long been our aim to build permanent libraries in three locations in the north of the city and we are looking at a number of properties in Drayton and Cosham.’

But opposition politicians have questioned whether the two favoured shops are the best possible sites for new libraries.

Drayton and Farlington ward councillor Steve Wemyss, Conservative opposition spokesman for education on the city council, said better locations could be found.

He said: ‘I welcome a library in Drayton and Farlington but the golfing shop would seem to be too small to have a library inside.

‘There are other premises that are likely to be vacant very soon which would be more suitable.

‘I’ve been in there a few times and it seemed small and cramped. But we have been calling for this for a long time.

‘The best location would be in conjunction with the Drayton Institute.’

Graham Heaney, Labour candidate for the Cosham ward in the city council elections next month, said he was not sure how the council was planning to fund the new libraries.

He said: ‘I’m in favour of improving the city’s libraries service but I’m just wondering where the money is coming for all of this.

‘The city’s libraries have suffered some quite serious cuts since 2010, for example the central library no longer opens on Fridays.

‘That is the most used library in the city, people from all areas of Portsmouth visit it, so there are mixed messages coming across from the council.

‘I’m also a bit surprised because the library in Cosham has just been refurbished, so I don’t understand why they want to move it to a shop just over the road. I’m all in favour of trying to improve the service but I’m not sure what the objective is here.’