Kent County Council have recently published a response to the consultation held last year regarding the refurbishment of Dartford Library. The various articles we have published about the background to this story are covered in an article from November covering the draft minutes of Dartford Borough Council’s Scrutiny Committee in November.
The full consultation response can be accessed at consultations.kent.gov.uk. However, here are some of the salient points:-
- Dartford Borough is the smallest District in Kent with a Population of 97,365 (2011 Census). The estimated Town Centre Population, those within a reasonable walking distance of the Library, is 30,000. The number of people that work in the Town Centre is 4,700.
- The number of active borrowers at the library for July 2013 to August 2014 was 7,424. This is broken down as follows:
- KCC/ LRA received 349 formal responses to the consultation on the proposed changes. It is not known if all respondents to the consultation are members of Dartford Library – if they were all to be members this would represent 5% of the total Active Borrowers.
- Of the 349 responses 200 (57%) were in favour of all changes with a further 82 (23%) wanting to see changes being made. In contrast 67 (19%) were opposed to the proposals. A further breakdown of these responses can be seen below.
- Two petitions were received, one for and one against the proposals.
- The first petition was gathered under the opening statement ‘we the undersigned totally oppose the overall new layout and changes to Dartford Library by the KCC’ and collected 991 signatories. Investigation into the first page of signatories has indicated that of the fifteen, ten are members of Dartford Library.
- The second received under the statement ‘we are signing this form in agreement to the proposed changes to Dartford Library. We want a library that all people can access and use. We agree that new facilities and some changes are needed to make the library a hub for an inclusive community’ collected 22 signatories. People signing this petition are Good Day Programme Clients. No further personal details were captured as part of these petitions and so it is not possible to give a more in depth profile of the respondents.
The feedback can be broken down as follows:
- 200 respondents supported all elements of the refurbishment with:
- 45 explicitly outlining their support for the inclusion of a kitchen;
- 48 demonstrating support for the changing place; and
- 65 indicating their support for a scheme that seeks to establish social inclusion placing Dartford Library at the ‘heart’ of the community.
- 16 respondents (5%) are broadly supportive raising concerns about, for example: soundproofing; the open plan nature of the designs; preservation of the historic nature of the building; moving the meet and greet nearer to the door; and moving the children’s area to the rear of the library for safety.
- 2 of the respondents supported all plans for the library but did not like the proposal to open up the entrance to the museum.
- 66 people gave feedback associated with the changes to the Tiffin Room which currently houses book stock, study tables and computers. This can be broken down into the following:
20 respondents (6%) do not wish to lose local history space;
32 respondents (9%) did not want the Good Day Programme using the community facilities; and
14 respondents (4%) did not see the need for a kitchen.
- The remaining 67 respondents (19%) are opposed to all changes
- In response to the remaining questions, feedback surrounding the furniture and colour was extremely mixed with no defining theme being immediately identifiable. However, a large number of respondents were keen that these be in keeping with the historic nature of the rest of the building.
- Views surrounding the book stock were again varied with responses ranging from completely unsatisfied to very satisfied and all suggestions for additional stock are to be considered.
- Finally in response to the question seeking feedback on the use of the community rooms very few responded. Of the eleven that commented on this element of the proposal, three indicated that they would not use the space and the remainder suggested that this room could be used by a variety of groups and clubs in Dartford.
- Now that this consultation has come to a close and all those with an interest in the future of Dartford Library have had a chance to share their views, Kent County Council and Libraries, Registration and Archives are going to consider and reflect upon those responses received.
So whilst, there is no indication of what KCC plan to do next or the timescale involved, I suspect that little credence will be given to the petition signed by the 991 people ‘totally opposed to the plans’. The results of the actual consultation show a clear majority of people in favour of the changes. Also, it should be remembered that the recommendation on the original proposals, which were to be considered by DBC’s Development Control Board in August before being withdrawn, was that ‘no objections be raised and the matter be referred to the Secretary State for decision.’