Campaigners fighting to keep Lichfield Library at The Friary have accused the Conservative government of being “hell bent on cultural vandalism in the name of austerity”.
Staffordshire County Council has unveiled plans to transfer the facilities to St Mary’s in the Market Square, with the current site then converted into residential accommodation.
Lichfield MP Michael Fabricant has also described the move as a “win-win” situation, allowing repairs to The Friary building while also ensuring the long-term security of St Mary’s.
But Robert Pass, from the Lichfield and Burntwood Green Party which has launched an online petition over the issue, says the decision is not being made in the best interests of the people of the city.
“This is a major decision on the future of Lichfield,” he said. “The Council have had consultations on the mobile library service and Lichfield Record Office, but we’ve not been consulted on the plan to sell the site to a private developer for flats.
“The people of Lichfield should also know that the committee that is to decide the fate of the building does not have a single member from Lichfield.
“The county council are telling us that the cost of repairs are unaffordable, but they have not released the details of these costs. We want to see a full breakdown of estimated repairs, whether all of the work is actually required and on what timescale.
“Perhaps the building could be made to last with minimal repairs until 2020 when we might be fortunate enough to have removed a Conservative government who are hell bent on cultural vandalism in the name of austerity.”
The online petition has gathered more than 1,400 signatures within its first two days and members of the Greens will be in the city centre to raise awareness this weekend.
Mr Pass said the strength of local feeling should not be ignored.
“We have had a very strong response from the public so far,” the said. “These people want their voices to be heard.
“We are calling on the council to suspend its decision on the future of the site until it has carried out an open and democratic public consultation on the future of The Friary, which includes the option of retaining the historic site in public hands.”
Cllr Parry has insisted that the county council is committed to ensuring the building has a long-term future.
“Instead of leaving buildings mothballed or allowing them to fall into disrepair, we have a county wide programme aimed at breathing new life into surplus and underused buildings to bring new jobs, homes and fresh investment into the county,” he said.
“Our review of buildings has been in the public domain for some time and, given our proposals in Lichfield, will not only allow residents to benefit from a more central ground floor library, but will also safeguard the future of The Friary building, which is need of almost £1.4million of repairs.
“It is a little surprising that the Green Party should suddenly object.”