Council to investigate family's library offer

PUBLISHED: 12:30 28 June 2013 | UPDATED: 15:36 28 June 2013

John Crockford-Hawley, Richard Nightingle and Peter Crew.

John Crockford-Hawley, Richard Nightingle and Peter Crew.

Archant

THE costs associated with Weston Town Council taking over the former historic library building are being investigated after a businessman put in an offer to buy it.

Last week the Mercury reported businessman Richard Nightingale, who runs family firms Nightingales Removals and Property, wanted to buy the empty building from North Somerset Council.

He said he hoped the library, which is 112 years old today (Thurs), can be used as a free community space with the day-to-day running left to the town council.

The council’s policy and finance committee met on Monday night, when members offered encouragement for the idea but said they could not make a definite decision to go ahead with the plans until they had received professional advice.

An initial survey shows the building is mostly in a good state of structural repair, but converting it for its proposed use could cost between £150,000-300,000.

Running costs have been estimated by North Somerset Council at being just under £60,000 per year.

Councillor John Crockford-Hawley, who successfully campaigned to get the building listed by English Heritage, said: “I must admit that to start with I was a hint sceptical.

“Why should a local business want to give money rather than keep money, particularly in these straightened times?

“But I was soon won over. The family has indicated a genuine desire to retain and reuse the old library as a centre for worthy local causes and community groups and furthermore to have this council on the premises as constituent user and custodian for a peppercorn rate.”

The town council would occupy the upper floor of the building, using it for the council chamber, mayor’s parlour and offices.

The ground floor and front of the building would be for community use, and a number of groups are interested in using space in the building.

The council is now investigating which community groups could utilise the space and how setting up a charitable trust to manage the community use would work.

Further building, mechanical and electrical surveys also need to be carried out.

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