The following comments on the Surrey County Council plans for Weybridge Library Community Hub have been sent by PPDRA to SCC Leader and Councillor for Weybridge, Tim Oliver.
Below are some comments from the Committee of Portmore Park & District Residents Association on the Surrey County Council plans for the Weybridge Library building, as set out in the Consultation Planning Application submitted to Elmbridge (EBC 2023/2312) which offered no opportunity for public comment.
We believe the comments below reflect feelings widely held within the local community, and hope that you and the Library Community Hub design team will give them genuine consideration.
Support for aims
- We strongly support the use of the Carnegie model to guide and inspire redevelopment of Weybridge Library as a library and integrated community hub.
- We are delighted that Surrey County Council has allocated budget for this.
- We believe that there is a great opportunity to create an appealing, engaging and popular new library and integrated community hub in the current library building, if a more community-centred design is developed.
Disappointment with current plans and process
- We are very disappointed that the current SCC plans for the library building show a lack of imagination and integration, and appear to ignore community input, particularly in the proposals for hub elements on the first and second floors, which seem like little more than refurnishing existing rooms.
- We implore SCC to reconsider, and to reshape the design with more community involvement (which we understand is already envisaged for finalising the ground floor library element).
- We are disturbed by the opaque planning process by which SCC can grant itself planning consent, without any clear opportunity for public comment on the current plans: EBC says “please consult the relevant authority”, yet the SCC website doesn’t suggest how to do that.
- We want to avoid a repeat of the 2004 New Walton Bridge fiasco, when SCC spent hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money awarding itself planning consent for a deeply flawed, oversized bridge and twin-loop junction design, and on trying to fend off public opposition (happily unsuccessfully, as a public inquiry imposed a much better bridge and junction design which conserved valuable riverside public amenity land and saved Weybridge residents from the extra rat run traffic the twin loop junction would have invited).
- We hope for a planning process for the Library Hub where evidence and community input and comments are recorded and publicly visible (an essential element of the EBC planning process).
What a better design can offer
- We hope to see an integrated library and community hub created, with:
- Appealing, inviting entrances from Church Street and Churchfields
- More open and flexible design of the hub elements to meet multiple community uses, creating a desirable destination for all kinds of local residents
- Outdoor spaces as well as indoor spaces (including a terrace, and a landscaped seating area by an improved Churchfields entrance, as recommended by Elmbridge Borough Council)
- We hope for a design which makes the first floor of the Community Hub a more desirable community destination, through increasing its space and enhancing its facilities, e.g. by:
- Extending its area laterally, incorporating doors onto a new open air terrace on the roof of the planned single storey extension, with outdoor seating and tables (thereby, as a visiting county councillor observed, making it a far more profitably lettable space for functions)
- Enhancing its catering potential by expanding the kitchen area (in line with comments from Elmbridge Borough Council), not reducing it
- Offering cafe facilities for visitors, to help make the hub a genuine local destination
- Increasing the flexibility of the internal space of the whole first floor, making it more open and adjustable to accommodate more varied community activities
- Providing controllable shading for the west facing windows, to reduce the main room’s greenhouse-like summer heat, without reducing its admirable winter light
- Reconsidering the design and location of a business hub element, to make it better suited to use by multiple small businesses and individuals (the current design looks outdated and inappropriate), and thereby enhancing income.
Wider community involvement
- We support suggestions by the Weybridge Society for bringing the building to life by having a visibly operating Brooklands Radio live broadcast studio on the ground floor, as part of a more open plan, integrated and flexible hub design, shaped with the help of community input.
- We support the views of local EBC councillors that it is essential to have wider community involvement in defining and shaping local community facilities which will serve Weybridge into the future.
- There are strong local concerns about negative impact on the Centre For The Community of transition period proposals to relocate Library services there, displacing current activities.
- We wish to see transition achieved in a way which avoids negative impact on the Centre For The Community.
- We would support a proposal to relocate library books to the former bowling green pavilion (subject to relocation of current services provided there to other EBC owned properties) for the duration of any works, with the more socially interactive library services relocated to the Centre For The Community.
Lifetime management costs
- We wonder if sufficient consideration has been given to the longer term benefits of investing more now in energy efficient measures (e.g. triple glazing, insulation, heat recovery, etc), which could significantly reduce lifetime energy costs.
Thank you again for suggesting that comments are sent to you, in your role as our county councillor.
We sincerely hope that there will now be an opportunity for proper public input into the creation of an amended and improved design for the community hub within an extended library building: a design which is much more community-centred and user-centred than the current proposals.
Chair, Portmore Park & District Residents Association