Campaigners make a stand against Gosport library closure threat

PASSIONATE communities have been out in force to ‘fight tooth and nail’ for libraries which could close.

Tuesday, 11th February 2020, 5:34 pm
Updated Thursday, 13th February 2020, 11:49 am
Campaigners are not happy about the possibility of Elson library closing. They attended a consultation with Hampshire County Council at the library on February 11. Pictured front is Maureen Pettit, Edna Holt, Ann Kearney. Back row, Jan Almond, Veronica Walker, Linda Hall. Picture: Belinda Dickins

Elson Library in Gosport held a drop-in session on Tuesday which saw dozens of residents discuss how they use the space and what a lifeline it is to this community.

It comes as Hampshire County Council consults on plans to cut 10 libraries or reduce opening hours by a quarter to save money.

Veronica Walker, who has lived in Elson all her life, said: 'It's not just about losing a library, it's a community hub, not just for the elderly but for young and children. It would be a great loss.'

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Friend Jan Almond has been running a book club out of the Chantry Road library for the last 12 years.

'We need to fight tooth and nail for our library,' she said.

'I know they have got to cut money but there's got to be ways of doing it.'

Many groups use the large space in the library to meet on a regular basis, including the art club, camera club and sewing group. Many have a lot of equipment which it would not be practical to take down to Gosport Discovery Centre, the next nearest library.

Edna Holt, a member of the sewing club and dolls house group, said: 'We'd be willing to pay if it would help. [Groups] are very good for mental health, it's such a help to go somewhere and talk about it. I absolutely love it, if we didn't have this it's a long way to anywhere else.'

Diane Ring from Lee Choral Society uses the library service to order large quantities of music books for the group. She said: 'I think it's just amazing, it's worth every penny. We're totally dependent, [Elson] is just lovely.'

County councillor Peter Chegwyn said: 'It's too good to lose. It'll be criminal to take this away, people will be so isolated.

'We're looking at ways to save it.'

The council has received 15,000 consultation forms already.

Nicola Horsey, assistant director of community and regulatory services, said: 'It's not just about shutting libraries this consultation, we're looking at ways of increasing income.

'If people can come forward with some good ideas we can look at those, if it means we don't have to close libraries that's excellent.

'The response has been amazing, it's obviously been quite controversial but we knew that would be the case.’

Elson resident Jenny Curtis used the library as a way to get out of the house when she was ill during the last year.

On the prospect of closure, she said: 'It's so wrong it's despicable. We know everyone has to make cut backs but they can make cut backs in other ways.

'If I hadn't had this library to come to, I would have been a prisoner in my own home. I just feel really defeatist about this and I think the decision has already been made, no matter how much fuss we kick up.'