LONG-held ambitions to open a new library in the north of Portsmouth have moved a step closer.
Following the launch last year of a popular library in Palmerston Road, Southsea, the city council is pushing ahead with plans to repeat its success in Drayton.
Officers have identified the area as the only one in the city without a public library within a mile of residents’ homes and said calls for one began more than 50 years ago.
Parts of the area are visited by a mobile library service delivered by Hampshire County Council – but only for two hours a week.
A number of potential locations are being considered and officers have now been granted permission to start negotiations to find a suitable property for a ‘modest’ library.
Both major political parties have taken credit for the idea and at a meeting on Friday the cabinet member for culture, leisure and sport Cllr Lee Hunt said it was part of wider moves to boost the low levels of literacy in Portsmouth.
He said: ‘It has been a long-term desire of several council administrations to do this and now we are stepping up to the plate and making it happen.’
‘Recently it has been found that one in five people in Portsmouth cannot read; that is not acceptable to me and it shouldn’t be acceptable to anyone seeking elected office in this city,’ he added.
‘If you look at the record of this administration all we have ever done is strive to improve literacy and reading. This is a policy we intend to pursue in Drayton and across the city; we are investing more even as funding is harder to come by.’
But Conservative opposition leader Cllr Simon Bosher said while he wholeheartedly welcomed the decision, until recently it had been the Conservatives leading calls for the new library.
‘It is about time,’ he said. ‘We have been fighting for this for decades and I’m glad it’s finally being sorted out.
‘Although it is a little bit rich that they are doing this now, because when we have put forward motions for a library in Drayton in the past the Lib Dems have voted to say no.
‘Their councillors have even voted with us in the past because this shouldn’t be about party loyalty, but just about getting the best for the local community.’