Warning for Whitchurch: No going back if libraries close

If key facilities in a market town – such as libraries or leisure centres – are closed, they will be gone forever, councillors have warned.

Warning for Whitchurch: No going back if libraries close

Discussions are currently taking place about the possibility of Whitchurch Town Council taking over the management of services, including play areas and youth activities.

Councillor Gerald Dakin, Shropshire member for Whitchurch, said: "If we lose these important services I cannot see them coming back again, so it is very important we all get together and start talking."

Fellow Shropshire councillor for Whitchurch, Peggy Mullock, added: "I think it is time we should sit round a table and discuss what we can do. This needs to happen sooner rather than later."

The issue was discussed at Thursday's Whitchurch Town Council meeting.

During the meeting a presentation was given by Neil Willcox, locality commissioning manager for Shropshire Council, about the future of services.

He said: "There is an opportunity to all work together here. I am here because of the extremely difficult financial situation Shropshire Council is in. It is under huge pressure.

"Town councils will need to give us some kind of indication by September about what it might want to look at running or help to run. We are also asking surrounding parish councils if they are willing to contribute to the future running costs of services on the understanding their residents use them."

The services in Whitchurch which are currently under threat of closure include youth activities, Whitchurch Swimming Centre, Whitchurch Leisure Centre, six local play areas and playing fields, Whitchurch Library and customer service point, Whitchurch Civic Centre, Whitchurch Waterways and Country Park, and Shropshire Council car parks.

Mr Willcox added: "We are currently in discussions about transferring the freehold of the civic centre to Whitchurch Town Council and think it would be good to also transfer the library and customer service point to them as well as it is in the same building.

"The leisure centre is currently based in Sir John Talbot's Technology College so the school, town council and us are all meeting next week to discuss this.

"The cost to Shropshire Council for all these services is currently £273,718. So if Whitchurch Town Council was to take them all on it would mean a 60 per cent increase in council tax – costing an extra £90 a year for a B and D household."

The meeting also heard about plans to extend an arm of the Shropshire Union Canal into the town.

Whitchurch Waterway Trust is desperately seeking grants to start work but it has already had a bid turned down by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

It is now applying for £60,000 from European Tourism Funding towards starting on groundworks. Whitchurch Town councillors agreed to send a letter of support.

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