We will be relocating our library service in St Thomas, but we are committed to keeping it in the local community.
We were surprised when the landlord of the current library building applied for planning permission to turn the property into accommodation earlier this year, and we said at the time that we’d hoped to be able to renew our lease when it expires in November.
The planning application was subsequently withdrawn, but conversations since have led to an offer from the landlord to renew the library’s lease at a considerably higher rent and that would tie us in for much longer period.
Reluctantly, we simply can’t afford to agree to those terms, and so we’ve decided that we will not renew the lease when it expires in November.
Instead, we and Libraries Unlimited, which run libraries in Devon on our behalf, are looking for new premises in St Thomas.
And we’re inviting community and church groups, landlords and property owners in the area to contact us if they are interested in helping to provide a library service in St Thomas.
Councillor Roger Croad, the council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for the library service, said:
“We’re committed to ensuring that St Thomas will keep its library service. We are proactively looking for a new site and are investigating some options. But, we would also like to hear from community groups, landlords and residents for their suggestions on a new location for St Thomas library.
“If anyone has any ideas for a new home for the library in the area, please contact us.”
We’re inviting local people to help identify possible alternative premises for the library service, encouraging them to leave suggestions on our website, https://devon.cc/st-thomas-library.
The library in St Thomas has been in its current premises since 2013, and has been a popular and well-used hub for people of all ages in the local community since then.
“It’s with regret that we’ll have to leave the current location, but we simply can’t agree to the increased rent, nor the length of the lease,” said Cllr Croad.
“We and Libraries Unlimited are however optimistic. November is not far away, so it may be that we’re looking at establishing a temporary pop-up library in the short term to keep the service running, heading into winter, until we find a longer-term solution for the library service.”
Councillor Rob Hannaford, County Councillor for Exwick and St Thomas, and also a City Councillor for St Thomas, said.
“St Thomas library is a hugely successful popular community hub for the whole West Exe area, around the quay basin and also neighbouring rural parishes on the west side of the city. In addition to core library services, it does a huge amount of work to support local families, increase child literacy and actively supports the work of the county council and public health, such as baby weigh ins and summer holiday activities. It also has a strong focus on training, employment, and development, provides a work hub initiative, and facilitates many cultural and community events that align well with the City Council’s corporate plan.
“It’s very regrettable that we have been put into this situation, but I know that both councils and Libraries Unlimited have already been having discussions about possible alternative options, including some vacant city council owned properties and shared spaces.
“I have now called for an urgent high-level meeting between Devon County Council, Exeter City Council, and Libraries Unlimited, including Cllr Roger Croad the Cabinet Member, the City Council Leader Cllr Phil Bialyk, and the Deputy Leader of the City Council Cllr Laura Wright, to look at all the options and possibilities.
“This change could be a good opportunity to move into a more inclusive bigger space that will allow the library to continue to expand and develop in a positive way. However, with only a few months to get all this sorted out , the fear in the community will be the possible closure of the site, discontinuation of service with no hope of return. We must all work hard together to try and ensure that this does not happen.”
Alex Kittow, Chief Executive for Libraries Unlimited said:
“St Thomas Library is a very vital and vibrant part of the local community, serving a range of people including those most in need. We saw how much this library means to the community when the landlord’s planning application was submitted earlier in the year. We do hope the community will get behind us at this time and help us find a new home in St Thomas.
“We know from our data that St Thomas Library is well used by the local community and it is important for us to find an alternative location as soon as we can. We are preparing for our winter warm spaces programme so we hope we can make this transition swiftly in order to be there for the local community and those that need support the most.”
Existing library customers can also use Exeter Library to borrow and return books while we try and set up a pop-up in the local area and find a long-term home for St Thomas Library.