Hundreds turn out to oppose Church Stretton library move

Council bosses were left in no doubt about the value Church Stretton residents place on their library after nearly 200 people turned out to a public meeting over the possible relocation of lending services in the town.

The meeting saw residents quiz Kate Garner, locality commissioning manager for Shropshire Council, Michael Lewis, head of Shropshire libraries and David Evans, Shropshire councillor for Church Stretton and Craven Arms, for two hours over the future of their library.

During the meeting, held at the Silvester Horne Institute, Mr Lewis said the move could save £43,000 – and that he has to cut £1.3 million from the library budget across the county.

A consultation is running on proposals to move the library from the town centre to Church Stretton Academy, half a mile outside the town.

Professor John Whitelegg, from the Church Stretton Library Support Group, said: "This is not just a campaign to protect and preserve and enhance an incredible valuable public facility, it's a campaign to protect and preserve and enhance Church Stretton.

"We could lose the library from the town centre, and the Post Office is at risk, and the bank branch, and bus services . . . are at risk as well. There is a steady decline in services and we have to say no, we will not accept it.

"We think this proposal has not been thought through. But this is not a meeting where we beat people over the head with a big wet fish and say 'you've made a bad decision, go away'. This is where we try to find solutions with those people."

Many residents expressed concern at the distance they would have to travel to the library if it was to move.

Hazel Whithouse, a retired librarian of 40 years, said: "We know that 35 per cent of the population of Church Stretton are retired and 7.6 per cent of families do not have a car. Many of these people are widows who when their husband died lost the driver in the family.

"That's why a move to a library half a mile away is causing consternation. The car parks at the school are full during weekdays, and it would be difficult to access the library at school home times.

"For non-car users, many of whom are elderly, the walk is impossible. Even those who use mobility scooters would find it difficult on a narrow pavement along the busy Shrewsbury road. Ring & Ride have already said they would not be able to take this on as a new route."

Miss Garner said she was keen to hear all comments on the proposals.

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