WITH Darlington Borough Council now looking to preserve services in Crown Street Library, The Northern Echo looks at the papers which have been published by the authority outlining plans to review the decision.

The cabinet papers address the key issues behind the council's U-turn.

Review remit

To consider the implications of not implementing the agreed decision to relocate the Central Library from Crown Street to the Dolphin Centre. The context for this review being the rapidly changing Town Centre environment and the better financial position of the Council in comparison to when the original decision was taken.

Available options

To confirm the previous decision to relocate the central library to the Dolphin Centre or retain the central library at Crown Street and approve plans for redevelopment – which is the Labour group's preferred option.

Reason for review

Cabinet have expressed their concern about the future potential use of the Crown Street building given the changing nature of retail and leisure within the town centre. The changing environment and likelihood of more vacant buildings within the town centre will undoubtedly increase the challenge of finding a suitable alternative use for the building therefore increasing the chance of it remaining vacant.

In summarising the context of this decision it would be appropriate to say that the likelihood of finding an end use for Crown Street has diminished since the original decision was taken and the town centre is less buoyant. In addition, the Council is in a better financial position.

Service implications

The relocation and reinvigoration of the central library at the Dolphin Centre was expected to increase usage particularly within the younger and harder to reach elements of the population. An un-amended service at Crown Street would not have the same potential to reduce the decline of usage.

Pros and cons for review

If the service moved to the Dolphin Centre there would be improved facilities and toilets; updated and increased ICT provision; improved access; ability to expand number of programmes, particularly for children and young people; and extended opening times.

If the service remains with in the Crown Street building it would mean the art gallery would remain; Local Studies would be co-located and operated at existing levels; all books stored in one building; and more space allocated to library services.

Financial implications

The annual cost to the council of staying in Crown Street would be £220,000 higher per annum than the option of moving to the Dolphin Centre. The money will be funded through the reserves from council's medium term financial plan.

Consultation plans

Consultation on the proposed designs and service standards will take place in October and November 2018, for a six-week period. Design proposals and service standards will be available on the Council’s website for interested parties to feedback on.

Decision timeline

It is proposed that in January 2019 a revised Library Service Plan is also considered by Cabinet. Subject to approval by Cabinet, the Library Service Plan can then be recommended by Cabinet for adoption by Council.