Saturday, 19 June 2021

Plans drawn up to build new library on recreation ground

BENSON library could be moved on to the village’s recreation ground and expanded to include a heritage centre.

The Friends of Benson Library have drawn up a proposal to relocate the facility from Castle Square in response to the prospect of hundreds of new homes being built in the village.

The group believes that the west of the receation ground in Sunnyside, near the parish hall, would be the most appropriate site.

It could include a history research centre for villagers to use and an archive store where Benson’s historical records could be stored to support the work of the Bensington Society’s history group.

A report prepared by the group for Benson Parish Council also suggests alternative plans, including increasing the size of the library on the existing site or buying an adjacent plot to provide sufficient land for expansion and its car park.

The Friends favour moving the library, saying the current site could not be developed cost effectively to meet the requirements of the increased population and there would be restrictions on space and limited parking.

The report says: “There are probably several sites in the village where a new library could be sited.

“However, the prime site would be next to the parish hall on spare land to the north of the emergency car park. This site would place the library in a central location in the village where other services are located. It would also allow a history research and archive centre to be incorporated.

“Benson village is due to expand over the coming years through the building of approximately 700 houses to the north of the village.

“This number is considerably more than was originally envisaged and will place severe pressure on the village infrastructure and its services.

The acceptance of such a large increase has been influenced by the fact that the developers are prepared to fund an edge road for Benson which is desperately needed.

“Benson library is currently significantly undersized in relation to its catchment area.

“The lack of space means that there is no room to expand in order to provide the full range of facilities a modern library is expected to provide.”

George Verdo, secretary of the Freinds, urged parish councillors to support the move in principle.

He said: “The key thing is the library is not big enough for the existing population. As we build the new houses it’s going to be in the wrong place. We want to centralise it more if possible.” Mr Verdon said Oxfordshire County Council’s library service was “very positive” about the move.

He said: “I believe it would be up to county council property services to start the ball rolling and then they would talk to everybody concerned.”

Mr Verdon said that momny from the Community Infrastructure Levy or section 106 developer contributions could be put towards the cost of the new building.

More money could come from the county council buying land next to the current library and then obtaining planning permission for two or three houses on the combined site before selling it to a developer.

Councillor Rob Jordan asked why the group hadn’t considered a two-storey building on the existing site and moving it towards the road.

Mr Verdon replied: “We would have to demolish the existing one and relay the foundations and the car parking would be totally inadequate.”

Councillor Teresa McTeague said: “Sunnyside is very much sought after by very many groups and before any commitment is made to one particular project we need to ensure it’s the best for everybody.”

Councillor Dave Olley said the village didn’t have enough recreational space as it was.

l What do you think? Write to: Letters, Henley Standard, Caxton House, 1 Station Road, Henley, RG9 1AD or email letters@henleystandard.co.uk

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