County council says libraries in the area are safe despite a new scheme

PLANS to expand a '˜discovery centre' with more services could spell the end of smaller libraries in other areas, a veteran councillor has said.

Thursday, 5th January 2017, 6:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 11th January 2017, 4:00 am
Hampshire County Council's Gosport Discovery Centre, in High Street, Gosport. Picture: Allan Hutchings.

Hampshire County Council has previously announced plans to transform Gosport Discovery Centre, in High Street, into a community hub that will be used by various groups. Some council services will also be based there.

The scheme would be a £750,000 project and would be the first in the county.

It could then be mirrored in other boroughs.

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However, Gosport’s Liberal Democrat leader, Councillor Peter Chegwyn, fears the changes could mean that Bridgemary, Elson and Lee-on-the-Solent libraries could then close.

The county council has insisted there are no plans to close libraries in Gosport.

Cllr Chegwyn, who represents Hardway at the county council, said: ‘I welcome the investment in the discovery centre but we should not close other libraries because of it.

‘We have faced a real battle to save libraries and it is vital that we keep them.

‘They serve the local community. They are all very good and well used.

‘The building at Elson isn’t even that old.

‘A lot of people are able to walk to their local libraries.

‘If they shut, it would mean that people would have to go into the town centre. Some of them are not able to do so.

‘It might also mean that these libraries would also have to be run by volunteers.

‘It is hard enough to find these and you would be asking a lot from them, as well as having a volunteer in charge.

Cllr Chegwyn believes a decision on the plan has been put off until after May this year when county council elections will take place.

But Cllr Andrew Gibson, executive member for culture, recreation and countryside said: ‘I would like to stress that there are no current plans to close any libraries.

‘This is at a time when the county council is facing its most challenging period of prolonged national austerity measures, which has seen huge reductions in the authority’s funding from central government in recent years.

‘In response, the library service has developed new partnerships to assist with the sharing of building costs and achieved a saving of £360,000 by closing the expensive and under-used mobile library service.

‘These measures were strongly supported by the public during the consultation.’