Monday, January 23, 2017
Lancashire County Council has agreed to transfer the ownership of two buildings to Penwortham Town Council to enable it to establish a new independent community-run library, alongside other community uses, and a new community theatre, subject to final agreement over the terms of the transfer.
The council agreed earlier this year to reduce the number of buildings it owns and rents, and form a network of multi-functional buildings known as Neighbourhood Centres, to provide a base for a range of different services in one place. The decisions made as part of the council's Property Strategy included reducing the number of buildings where library services are provided.
During public consultation on the Property Strategy the council agreed to explore proposals by community groups and other organisations to take on responsibility for running some of the affected buildings and services.
Today's decision means that ownership of both the Penwortham Library and Penwortham Young People's Centre buildings will transfer to Penwortham Town Council.
Penwortham Town Council plans to convert Penwortham Branch Library into a new 'Penwortham Library Theatre' and develop the site into a centre for social interaction for the community of Penwortham.
The intention is for the new 'Penwortham Library Theatre' to be a community hub for many of the local arts and voluntary community groups within the town. The building will provide a town information desk, a small museum of Penwortham town artefacts and provide a platform for local community groups to meet and promote themselves.
The county council will also provide support to enable the town council to establish an independent community-run library in the Young People's Centre building.
The council's support package to establish this independent community-run library, which is in addition to the statutory service provided by the county council, includes £5,000 to provide public internet access and cover set-up costs, as well as shelving, an initial supply of books from the county's store, and advice from a dedicated community library manager. When the independent community library becomes operational, the council will also continue to provide support through an annual grant of £1,000 to provide public internet access.
The decisions to go ahead in principle with the community asset transfers take into account a number of factors, including the funds which the council could otherwise potentially have raised from the sale of the buildings, and whether Penwortham Town Council has the capacity, governance and financial resources to make a success of their proposals. All of the proposals are subject to further discussion and final agreement on the terms of the transfer.
County Councillor David Borrow, deputy leader of the county council, took the decisions relating to the community asset transfers, as well as decisions around buildings which the county council no longer needs.
County Councillor Marcus Johnstone, cabinet member for environment, planning and cultural services, made the decision to support establishing the independent community library.
The following buildings are no longer needed by the county council and will be disposed of: Lostock Hall Library and Children's Centre; Padiham Young People's Centre; and Rosegrove library.
County Councillor David Borrow, deputy leader for Lancashire County Council, said: "Through our property strategy we are making sure we have the buildings we need to provide good access to good services, while making some of the huge savings we need make due to ongoing government cuts and rising demand for services.
"We received more than 60 business cases from community groups interested in taking over a variety of buildings and have been considering those proposals very carefully. We have been particularly taking into account the longer term sustainability of what is being proposed, and the buildings' market value, bearing in mind that asset transfer will mean forgoing funds which could be raised by selling them.
"This is a time-consuming process but we have a duty to do things properly. I'm very pleased that we have been able to take this decision, in principle, to hand over two more buildings, this time to Penwortham Town Council, and make a decision on a further four buildings we no longer need."