A CONSULTATION has been launched on plans to turn libraries into community hubs – sparking fears it could leave one ‘iconic’ building ‘vacant for a long time’.

The proposals, contained in Conwy county council’s draft library strategy for the next five years, were discussed at Wednesday evening’s economy and place scrutiny meeting.

It advises turning the authority’s libraries  into “community hubs that provide a wide range of services and activities”.

The idea promised “a hub and spoke approach, with staff in the town and community libraries having the same capabilities and access to information” as those in its Coed Pella office in Colwyn Bay.

However Colwyn Bay’s century-old library building, built with money raised through public subscription, needs £175,000 of “essential maintenance” and has been earmarked for closure.

Cllr Abdul Khan of Colwyn Bay

Cllr Abdul Khan of Colwyn Bay

The library, according to the draft strategy, would transfer to Coed Pella.

Chairman of the authority and Glyn ward councillor, Abdul Khan, asked what would happen to the community hub already in place at the library building if services were moved.

He said: “I see the closure of shops and it will be another iconic building going if we don’t have any plan in place.

“It’s also probably the only library that’s getting revenue from renting out space to Llandrillo College.

“My question is do we have any plan in place before we close another building in Colwyn Bay?”

Ann Lloyd Williams, section head of culture and information, said it was a consultation and no decisions had been made.

Cllr Goronwy Edwards who represents Caerhun ward on Conwy Council

Cllr Goronwy Edwards who represents Caerhun ward on Conwy Council

She said there “may be other proposals” and it would need “quite a lot of work” before any changes took place.

She added: “From the customer’s point of view it’s very confusing. If someone wants to access the council’s services in Colwyn Bay they could go to the library for some things and they could go to Coed Pella for other things.

“We know that we’ve had staff saying ‘you need to go to the library for that’ or library staff telling people ‘you need to go to Coed Pella for that’.

“For the customer it’s not logical to have services spaced across (two buildings).”

Cllr Khan replied: “I have to disagree with you. We go to different shops to do different shopping. That’s the beauty of shopping isn’t it?

“It’s worked in the past and all I’m saying is leave well alone. There is a lot of confusion within the council’s customer services but that is not a reason to close a building that could potentially stay vacant for a long time.”

Cllr Goronwy Edwards, cabinet member for economic development, said the council had to find “ways to be efficient”.

He added: “In Colwyn Bay it’s a fine old Victorian building but it has an awful lot of maintenance issues. We need to look at our carbon footprint and do more with less.”

Cllr Chris Hughes (Glyn ward) said the building had a place in people’s hearts and there would be “opposition” to the plan.

Eirias councillor Bob Squire

Eirias councillor Bob Squire

“I need to understand the rationale for it,” he added. “Not just the benefits of moving to Coed Pella – but what we might lose by moving it as well.”

Cllr Bob Squire (Eirias ward) said moving would cause issues for the elderly, who could park near the library building but not Coed Pella.

He said: “The public regularly go for advice from Citizens Advice which is there.

“It’s a well-established community hub and I think it should be left well alone. I hear what Cllr Goronwy says about it needing ‘blah, blah, blah’ but lots of buildings do.

“I think the people of Colwyn Bay will share mine and Abdul’s views and I agree we should await the outcome of the consultation.”

Officers have applied for funding to take over the now vacant Glasdir building in Llanrwst, to make that into a community hub and library.

A separate consultation on plans for the Glasdir hub is already running and closes on February 28.

Figures released in the report revealed how much the service claims it needs to spend to get library buildings up to scratch.

The amounts are:

Abergele – £42,000

Colwyn Bay – £175,000

Llandudno – £90,000

Llanrwst – £162,000

Councillors voted 15-0 with one abstention to approve the public consultation on the new strategy, which begins at the end of this month.