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Protest against sale of library

Updated: Jul 23, 2021

Residents rallied to try to prevent the imminent sale of Milton Road library.

More than 100 local residents attended a protest ‘read-in’ organised at short notice at the library on 23 June to express their concern that the new library, opened with a great fanfare only in 2019, is up for sale to a private investor.

The Hurst Park Estate Residents’ Association and the Friends of Milton Road Library are spearheading a campaign to pause the proposed sale of the recently reopened Milton Road Library so that options to safeguard its future as a community asset can be explored.

The new library opened with a great fanfare in 2019 after the old library was demolished and rebuilt. The new building was developed by This Land Ltd, a company set up by the County Council, which is its sole shareholder and 'controlling entity'. Now it seems that the long-term future of the building as a community asset may be under threat, as This Land Ltd has put the whole building on the market and it is now under offer.

In 2019 the library was granted a 25-year lease at an annual rent of £51,000 a year. The flats above were intended to be sold, although they are still empty. The City Council contributed about £100,000 to the cost of the development in order to provide community rooms for meetings, talks and classes as a permanent asset for the community.

Andrew Milbourn, Chair of Hurst Park Estate Residents’ Association, said

“There is now a real risk that this vital public asset could be lost in 23 years’ time when the lease runs out, especially if the building is sold to private investors who have no interest in retaining it for the people of Cambridge in the long term, This is not what people expected when the building was re-developed with the input of the local community. We therefore want the council to immediately pause the proposed sale while alternatives are investigated. These alternatives need to safeguard the future of the library for considerably longer than the term of the lease.”

Richard Robertson, Chair of the Friends of Milton Road Library, said:

“The new library was built to serve the community, using public funds, and we want to ensure that it remains a resource for them in future. The county council have only a 25-year lease to occupy the library and community rooms and two years of that have already elapsed.

“We call upon the new coalition running the county council to safeguard our library permanently, We want them to pause the sale of the building so that all options can be carefully considered. This might be by extending the lease to 125 years rather than 25, or to buy back the property itself so that it once again becomes a public asset.”

Hilary Cox Condron, County Councillor for Arbury, the division in which the library is now situated, and Vice Chair of Communities, Social Mobitity and Inclusion, said:

“Our libraries are safe civic spaces where communities gather, our imaginations are sparked and new conversations, knowledge, ideas and perspectives are discovered: absolutely critical as we work together to make the changes we need for a better future. I, along with my fellow Councillors, am fighting for the future of Milton Road Library for generations to come. The joint administration has only been in control for a month, and we have a large ship to turn - protecting the library was one of our first priorities. We stand with residents in outrage and determination - it is not over yet...”

HPERA has set up a petition and asks anyone who is concerned about the sale to sign it and to write to their councillors. More than 550 people had already signed the petition by Sunday morning.

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