A scheme to convert the former Argos unit in Mersey Square into a cultural and social hub is likely to go ahead despite ongoing concerns over the future of the town’s Central Library.
Under the proposals for One Stockport Hub, the 3,000 sq ft former retail unit would be converted into a “Covid-secure temporary library”, the council said.
As well as library services, the centre would provide access to computers, advice and education services, and information on the local history of Stockport.
The change of use application also seeks permission for a range of future uses, including retail, so as to maintain flexibility of the site over the longer term.
The creation of the Merseyway library has raised question marks over the future of Stockport Central Library, located on Wellington Road, which has been closed since the start of the pandemic and requires hefty investment.
Some residents have expressed concerns that the creation of additional library facilities elsewhere in the town could result in Central Library being closed permanently.
In considering the application for One Stockport Hub, Stockport Council’s conservation officer expressed their own concerns over the future of the grade two-listed library.
The officer said: “The potential for long-term closure of the Central Library is of some concern. This is a nationally important, purpose-built Carnegie library of special architectural and historic interest and, if vacated, it would be challenging to convert the building to alternative uses without causing harm to its special interest.”
In a report last year, Stockport Council described the building as an “architectural gem” but added that work needed to make the building safe and Covid-secure was “costly” and would require “a range of physical adaptations and a much greater number of staff”.
It is not known whether or not Central Library will reopen but the scaling back of its operations and the creation of One Stockport Hub is predicted to save the council £70,000 a year, the report said.
At present, there is no official proposal to permanently close Stockport Central Library but the council said it plans to conduct a review into potential future uses of the site.
The authority added that any plans to permanently relocate the library services would be subject to stakeholder consultation.
While One Stockport Hub would provide a temporary solution to the town’s library provision, the council has additional plans to create a larger, permanent, community and cultural hub within the former M&S and BHS stores in the town centre.
That project, known as StockRoom, would consolidate several public services, including a library.
Stockport Council is awaiting Government sign-off on its £14m bid to the Future High Streets Fund to help it progress the project. If the bid is approved, the facility would open in 2023.
One Stockport Hub, plans for which are due to be given the green light on 4 February, would act as a “precursor” to StockRoom, according to the council.