A clutch of retail units at Merseyway are to be converted into a library and other community facilities using Future High Streets cash, a project aimed at helping Stockport to recover from the “economic devastation” wrought by changing shopping habits and the pandemic.
The £14.5m Stockroom project, to be delivered by Grahams Construction, will see Stockport’s library services relocated from the Central Library on Wellington Road. It is a move that has proven controversial with local stakeholders.
However, last night the council’s cabinet rubber-stamped the Stockroom project, unlocking the funds to deliver the scheme and dashing the hopes of those lobbying for the library to stay put.
“This is in the best interests of the people of Stockport for the long-term,” said Cllr Elise Wilson, leader of Stockport Council.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to spend £14.5m of government money to improve our town centre and to help hundreds of our businesses build back from the economic devastation of Covid-19.”
Stockport hopes the 47,000 sq ft project, designed by Aew Architects and SpaceInvader, will increase footfall in the town centre and act as a catalyst for the revival of an area with a high number of vacant retail units.
Cllr David Sedgwick, cabinet member for citizen focus and engagement, described Stockroom as “a golden opportunity” for the town, defending the relocation of the library.
“If Stockport Central Library was thriving and if the town centre was busier than ever we would not be here today.
“We simply cannot ignore the huge decline in usage of the current Central Library building which has seen visitor numbers almost halve in eight years. We now have a golden opportunity, which is too important to ignore.”
Throughout the planning for Stockroom, which will be five times larger than Central Library, the council has pointed at similar projects elsewhere as examples of how they can benefit the local community.
One of those projects is Storyhouse in Chester, which received 1m visits in its first year in operation.
While Stockroom can now go ahead, an alternative use for the Central Library is still being explored.
The council’s preferred use for the building would be as the new home for the Continuing Education Service, currently based on Hardman Street.
Four other options are being explored:
- A new primary healthcare facility for the town centre
- A new community enterprise space in the town centre
- A co-working/shared workspace
- Relocation of the Coroner’s Court from Mount Tabor.
A decision will be made next summer.