Campaigners say petition shows strength of opposition to Lichfield Library plans

Campaigners say a 5,000 signature petition shows the strength of local anger over plans to relocate Lichfield Library.

Staffordshire County Council has put forward proposals to move the facility to St Mary’s in the Market Square, allowing its current home at The Friary to be converted into residential accommodation.

The Friary building which currently houses Lichfield Library. Pic: Elliott Brown

The Friary building which currently houses Lichfield Library. Pic: Elliott Brown

But a petition organised by the Lichfield and Burntwood branch of the Green Party has now amassed 5,000 signatures, enough to trigger a fresh debate at the council once a verification process has taken place when it is handed in.

Simon Partridge, spokesman for the Greens in the area, said the council now needed to think again.

People signing the Lichfield Library petition. Pic: Lichfield and Burntwood Green Party

Simon Partridge gathering signatures for the Lichfield Library petition. Pic: Lichfield and Burntwood Green Party

“The fact that we have passed the 5,000 signatures mark in only a month shows the strength of local feeling there is on this issue,” he said. “The reaction we’ve had from people on the streets of Lichfield has been overwhelmingly supportive of our call for a consultation – people want transparency from their county council.

“Many, many people in this city are angry that decisions regarding the future of a vital public service and a much-loved Lichfield landmark have been taken behind closed doors without any regard for their views. They’re angry that the relocation of the library and the sale of The Friary have been presented as a done deal.

“We share their frustration at this appalling lack of democracy and look forward to hearing what councilors have to say when they debate the petition.”

Although the volume of signatures has reached the target, Mr Partridge said the Greens would continue to collect them until the end of the month.

“The voices of Lichfield citizens have been utterly ignored so far,” he added. “We want to give as many people as possible the chance to add their name to our call for a public consultation.”

Staffordshire County Council has insisted the plans would secure both St Mary’s and The Friary in the long term.

Cllr Ben Adams, Cabinet member responsible for libraries, said: “This proposal guarantees the presence of the library in the centre of Lichfield for the next 30 years and safeguards the future of two landmark buildings at the same time.

“If the petition has gathered enough signatures for a debate I welcome the opportunity to explain again what is happening and why I firmly believe this is in the best interests of the city and the taxpayer.”

Founder of LichfieldLive and editor of the site.

14 Comments

  1. Phil Shaw

    11th April, 2016 at 7:41 pm

    I think the move to St Mary’s is a great idea. It better utilises public owned property. We should be thinking in the long term…..the library already offers electronic loan services. In 10 years’ time most people will visit the library virtually and loan electronic books (remember it is only 10 years since the I-Phone appeared the world is changing fast). The current library is underutilised for the amount of space it occupies and we are all paying for it via tax. It is very important that we have a community library space in the heart of Lichfield and St Mary’s delivers this. I do wonder if we had petitions when the library moved it moved from the Current Registery office to the Friary?!?

  2. Simon Partridge

    12th April, 2016 at 7:33 am

    I hope Phil Shaw won’t mind me using the same answer here as I’ve posted in response to his identical comment on the Save Lichfield Library Facebook page.

    Those of us who have organised the Save Lichfield Library petition disagree with much of your argument, Phil, not least the “public owned property” bit. The only publicly owned property involved here (The Friary) is being flogged to developers by the county council while St Mary’s Church will remain the property of Lichfield Diocese, part of the C of E’s £6.7bn worth of assets. If the library DID move to St Mary’s church we would STILL all be paying for it via tax, but that tax money would be paid to Lichfield Diocese in the form of rent.

    However, we defend your right to express your opinion which is precisely what our petition is about. The county council have taken decisions behind closed doors on the futures of both a vital public service and a valuable (in every sense of the word) publicly owned bulding. We think that everyone in Lichfield should have the opportunity to express their opinion on this matter, just as you have been able to do here, and have it listened to (and, who knows, maybe even acted upon) by the county council.

  3. Thornton

    12th April, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    Why then is the campaign called ‘Save Lichfield Library’ and not ‘Don’t sell the old Friary School building’? Your argument seems to have nothing to do with the library and everything to do with changing ownership of a building from public to private hands.

  4. Pamela Palmer

    12th April, 2016 at 5:31 pm

    Because 5,000 people and counting in Lichfield want the Library to stay on the existing Friary site, not crammed into an old church!

  5. Mat

    12th April, 2016 at 7:42 pm

    I would also like to take issue with this theory that all book loans will be electronic in 10 years. Why? Digital books have been around for 30 years but still the paper kind exist. Phil, you seem to be ignoring also the fact that many people in our community do not have access to digital hardware like e readers. What is more, where will the multitude of other services that the library currently provides be housed? Where will 25 computers for people with no internet access go? Where will the mother and toddler groups meet? Where will the science fayres and theatre groups be sited that on a yearly basis are attended by our school children. Finally, what happens if the diocese decides it wants to sell St Mary’s. Questions, questions, questions.

  6. AgitatorofPeople

    12th April, 2016 at 8:57 pm

    The church is a terrible place for a library, it still has a consecrated chapel, will we expect only books that are only worthy according to church volunteer librarians to be on the shelves? will eyebrows be raised if books that go against church teachings are loaned or if a newly released book that is controversial will they stock/loan it? and will the library volunteers be from the ranks of St Marys? with their own ideas applied to library users, it was only recently women were allowed to become Bishops, but only with safeguards just in case the community does not approve! all pretty uncomfortable stuff and hardly a leading example in our modern community.
    Keep the library as a secular education and meeting space in the Friary open to all, regardless of faith or no faith, race, age and sex and certainly not in a consecrated CofE Church with its own religious rules and beliefs.

  7. Asellus aquaticus

    13th April, 2016 at 1:05 pm

    Who says that St Mary’s can’t adapt to provide those services? Who says that the Library is going to become controlled by the Church of England?

    Wild assumptions and ridiculous scare stories really aren’t very helpful in trying to secure the future of the library.

  8. Frustrated

    13th April, 2016 at 4:42 pm

    This is the first step, in a plan to move the library, from council control to community control.

    http://www.staffordshire.gov.uk/leisure/librariesnew/Help-shape-library-service/Which-library-has-been-allocated-to-which-category-final.pdf

    Stage 1 is to keep 20 libraries in council control and have 23 community libraries.

    Further stages, will be to move Lichfield and other libraries to community control, as it will remove the need, for paid library staff, transferring responsibilities to unpaid volunteers.

    This will fit perfectly, a community group from St Mary’s will take responsibility for running the library, in the near future. The council will save further money and St Mary’s will be responsible for running the library.

    Sell off the old library premises, once they have moved out, they will never be able to move back.

    A number of years ago, we were told, selling off all public assets and sending all contracts, to the private sector, was to save all of our services.

    Now we pay far more and get far poorer services.

    Lichfield library and library staff, thanks for all of the enjoyment you have given us. We will all miss you, it will take some of us longer than others, to realise, just how much.

  9. Rebecca Sadler

    13th April, 2016 at 11:16 pm

    It’s shameful that a city like Lichfield, a place that markets itself as Staffordshire’s cultural centre, is going to lose its big, bright and cheerful library building and try and cram the service into an old church alongside the tourist information office and the city museum! The library will be a shell of its former self, with less choice for readers and less space for all of the services it should be providing.

    It’s truly disgraceful that Staffordshire County Council are selling off a key public asset and that Lichfield District Council are supporting it – without even consulting the people of Lichfield first!

  10. AgitatorofPeople

    14th April, 2016 at 10:04 am

    Asellus Aquaticus, how would you adapt a church with a consecrated chapel into a secular building? how would you guarantee that people of other or no faith belief will not be put off from using the library because it is in a Christian church building? and the Church will be the “Landlord” with the rent paid for the lease from the public purse, I would put that in the bracket of a controlling factor.
    Hardly wild assumption or scaremongering, the future of the library does not require it to move into a church.

  11. Asellus aquaticus

    14th April, 2016 at 1:49 pm

    Agitator, St Mary’s currently hosts a non secular museum, photographic and heritage collection, a non secular tourist information centre and a non secular cafe. Why should the library be different?

    Building uses change. The current library site wasn’t always a library.

    I agree that it would be an appalling abuse of power if the CoE was to try to influence the content within the library, but unless you’ve got some evidence to back that prediction up, then yes, it’s pure scaremongering.

  12. Mat Hayward

    14th April, 2016 at 4:30 pm

    So Assellus, you are ignoring that a change in tenure is not a significant change. That a building we own, will be sold and so with it the control of where our library is sited. I would hope people could see beyond the next 2 years and realise that we have a duty to preserve places Luke libraries and the buildings that we as a community own. As Harold Mammalian said ” Selling the family silver is a short term policy that deprives future generations” What will we sell in 5 years time? Beacon Park? It makes economic sense judging by the price of land for development. Sometimes it pays to look beyond the short term smash and grab policies.

  13. AgitatorofPeople

    14th April, 2016 at 4:32 pm

    Asellus, Just because the Church historically hosts various functions does not make it right. Secularism champions human rights above discriminatory religious demands. It upholds equality laws that protect women, LGBT people and minorities. These equality laws ensure that non-believers have the same rights as those who identify with a religious or philosophical belief. Secularism ensures that the right of individuals to freedom of religion is always balanced by the right to be free from religion.
    You are correct the current library building has not always been a library, it was previously housed in a purpose built Library & museum at what is now the Registry office on Bird St. The Church however has always been a Church a building used for public Christian worship.
    And finally Harry Potter that fantastic book series by JK Rowling has had many objections and legal challenges on whether it should be allowed into CofE and other “faith” schools libraries on the grounds of “Witchcraft and Paganism” not prediction, the reality of religion on views outside of its own scope. The present library has none of those problems or connotations associated with it, that is why it should stay.

  14. Ken

    15th April, 2016 at 10:54 am

    Here’s an idea. Why doesn’t Lichfield Diocese sell St Mary’s (a prime retail location) to developers, move the community elements currently housed there (cafe, museum etc) into the Friary and donate the proceeds from the sale to help complete the backlog of repairs on the library?

    Why must we, the taxpayers of Lichfield, sell our Friary to “safeguard” a building owned by an organisation sitting on over £6 billion of assets?

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