The City Council propose to carry out alterations to the main ground floor library space which will destroy the most important characteristic of its internal design – which is the radiating layout of bookshelves within the semi-circular plan of the library. This almost unique layout is one of the reasons for the building’s Grade 2 listing.
Ground floor existing plan. Ground floor proposed plan
The alterations propose to replace a significant amount of the radiating bookshelves area with a large enclosed office. Some of the bookshelves have already been removed and replaced with a storeroom, lift and disabled WC. If this latest proposal is approved only three of the original 7 bays of bookshelves will remain – 43% of the original number.
This will effectively destroy the existing character of the space and with it one of the main reasons for its listed status. That a Council, one of whose duties is to conserve and protect our listed buildings, can propose such vandalism is a disgrace.
This proposal must not be permitted.
Brighton Society objection
The Brighton Society has strongly objected in the following terms:
“Historic England, in its List Entry Summary, describes Hove’s Carnegie Library as “full of spatial interest” and, furthermore, refers specifically to its “radiating bays” to the south. It is disingenuous to argue that a significant reduction of library space on the ground floor would in any way serve to recreate the symmetry already compromised by the necessary introduction of a disabled toilet and store. Rather, further reducing the shelving space here would thoroughly destroy the integrity of the original radiating design.
This planning application jars with the Council’s own planning guidance. For example, as they would “affect its special architectural or historic interest”, the proposed alterations to the ground floor conflict with SPGBH 11. The radiating design allowed staff to supervise readers from one central point. SPGBH 11 also advises that alterations should “respect the original plan form . . . so that it remains clearly ‘readable’” and cautions against “schemes which over-intensively sub-divide a listed building”.
The City Plan Part 2, Sustainability Scoping Document (June 2016), furthermore, underlines that it is the Council’s responsibility to “protect, conserve and enhance listed buildings”. These alterations are unacceptable as they would seriously undermine the integrity of an important Grade II Listed Building in the Council’s care, merely in order to let out a small part of the basement area to a third party.
Finally, Hove Library is highly valued both as a building and as a facility. Yet there was no attempt to consult neighbours and library users directly. It should also be noted that the planning application was submitted during the frenetic pre-Christmas period, thereby further disenfranchising the local community. Particularly considering that alterations to all three floors are proposed, neighbours and library users deserve to be properly consulted before any decision on this application is considered.”
CAG recommendation is to refuse
The Conservation Advisory Group (CAG) has recommended refusal of the planning application:
Extract: “The Group recommended REFUSAL – The reason for the application is economic: toilets to the basement and removal of staff workroom would enable this area to be let for income generating purposes. However, the proposal for new staff workrooms on the ground and first floors to the south west would destroy the symmetry of a Grade ll Listed building in the Old Hove Conservation Area. Also the magnificent design would be lost.”
To object to this planning application follow this link. http://planningregister.brighton-hove.gov.uk. Click on ‘Find and comment on planning applications,’ enter the Application number- BH2017/03940, click on the Application number, and go to Comments. Click on Have your say and follow the on-screen instructions.
It is essential that as many people as possible individually object to this proposal. Otherwise we will gradually lose this wonderful library, bit by bit.
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