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Central Library/Northgate House

From James Baker

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

I noticed on HebWeb that the Halifax Civic Trust have decided to oppose plans for a new Library in the town centre. I think this is a real shame, and they are missing some of major points here.

Firstly Northgate house is unfit for continued use. Although it was only built in the 70s it was done on the cheap by the then Tory administration and it is a shoddy bit of modern construction, that is failing down on the inside.

It costs Calderdale £800,000 to run the building every year and having the Library there risks it's future. It will be cheaper to knock it down and build a new building than to keep it running. The effect of getting rid of Northgate House an utilising other council buildings more efficiently will be reduced revenue costs and savings to council budgets that can be spent on services.

Secondly we will get a brand new state of the art library, and archive. This will ensure the library will have a secure future. It will also have improved accessibly. I don't get the argument that it is miles out of town, the piece hall once developed will become part of the town centre. There will also be a free city centre bus linking up everywhere up.

Thirdly the Northgate house site can be sold to retail developers to bring much needed jobs into Halifax centre. The money from this sale will cover the costs of the new library.

From Ian M

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

So a new carbuncle gets built in Halifax.

Hebden, Todmorden and all the other smaller libraries under threat all get closed as they are no longer needed. We can all travel along the valley to the new centralised library. Great idea if you don't happen to work in Halifax.

Love the totally unnecessary dig at the Tories though. Thought we might have had a day without them being blamed for something!

From James Baker

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Ian no libraries are getting closed, stop scaremongering. In fact rather than close libraries down, this council has opened up such as the one at Kings Cross.

Northgate house is a 70s carbuncle. Getting it down and getting something new up in place will be a breath of fresh air.

I'm looking forward to going to visit the new Piece Hall and checking out a state of the art library at the same time. It's just what Halifax needs.

From Ian M

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

James, no-one is scaremongering. Local libraries are under threat!

In 2004 there were twenty seven libraries in Calderdale, now there are only twenty two. One in five libraries across West Yorkshire are earmarked for closure, the vast majority in small towns. Scrapping the mobile library service is being viewed as an easy target for cost reductions.

In the remainder,staff levels are being cut. Opening hours reduced. New books are not being ordered, existing stock not replaced. Automated checking systems are appearing across the district replacing real people.

These are reductions of local services that have already taken place. I would rather the money for a new building was spent on maintaining the existing service that provides for all users rather than on a shiny new building that only provides for those who can reach Halifax!

From David Cant

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

The demolition of the Central Library and Northgate House is being proposed, it appears, based on a number of false assumptions.

1. The buildings are no longer 'fit for purpose'. However, with a reasonable refurbishment plan - on the figures quoted in the Courier (I know) on 7 June 2011 not much over £7m (and this was probably for a top class scheme), the buildings could be made viable for the future.

2. The proposed new Library and Archive on the site of Square Church could be built in the present economic climate. The Council does not seem to want to grasp the nettle (to quote the Chief Executive) of restricted financial circumstances.

3. The services provided at this new location will adequately replace those at the existing site. With a reduction in floorspace of approximately 50% it is difficult to see how this could be done.

4. That local people will have forgotten the furore when a similar scheme was proposed a couple of years ago. Any councillors with short memories should take note especially if they are up for election in May.

I'd urge everyone who reads this to have a look at the proposals and let your councillor and MP know how you feel. A key meeting is on 7th December, when the Council will decide whether to proceed with this scheme.

From Cllr James Baker

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

David just to answer your points.

1. The cost to refurbish "Northgate House would cost up to £15m and to refurbish the central library and archive would cost up to £6million". According to Barry Collins Labour Cabinet Member for Economy and Environment. Where would this £21M come form?

2. The proposed site will be built from the sale of Northgate house. The new development is just what you need in a recession to get the economy going.

3. The design for the new library hasn't been finalised, you could always build up. Modern libraries

4. Local councillors are elected to make decisions and stand by them. If you don't like them don't vote for those councillors, that is your choice. Vote for politicians who never say what they believe in for fear of upsetting voters instead.

Ian - The Libraries that were shut since 2004 were done under the last Conservative administration, before there was any major pressure on local authority budgets from cuts.

There are no planned library closures in Calderdale which is what you claimed. That is scaremongering. Yes sadly there are reductions in service, but everything is being done to keep libraries open, and this current council administration has even opened new ones, such as the one at Kings Cross.

You make the point about not spending money on a new library and spending it on existing services. There is an important difference difference between the cost of the new library, paid for by a combination of receipts from selling the land at Northgate and the old library plus borrowing, and the revenue costs of council services paid for from Government Grants and Council Tax that funds existing library services.

Getting rid of Northgate House and utilising other council buildings more effectively will reduce revenue costs. Leaving more money to spend on existing library services.

From Ian M

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

The figures I quoted for closures across Yorkshire are fact and are not, as you say, scaremongering.

If there are no planned library closures in Calderdale, will you confirm that the mobile library service is not under threat of being axed in the libraries consultation?

A library is still a library even if it has wheels, or do the old and disabled who may struggle to reach a town centre library not come under the remit of "everyone different everyone matters."

And for goodness sake, stop blaming the previous administrations for all that is wrong in the world. It really is tiresome and beginning to wear thin. Every Government is elected to make changes hopefully for the good, not to continually claim "its not our fault, they did it"

From Graham Barker

Thursday, 24 November 2011

James: First, building shops for big-name retailers on the Northgate site is more likely to suck money out of Calderdale than bring it in. Existing locally-owned shops will suffer, and even the construction work probably won't go to Calderdale companies. The bricks-and-mortar retail sector is in trouble anyway, as today's Arcadia results confirm (up to 260 stores to close). The fact that CMBC seems willing to sign up to a very expensive and unjustifiable deal to take space in the Broad Street development suggests that it's struggling to attract retail tenants.

Encouraging and supporting small businesses, particularly in manufacture, will do much more to stimulate the local economy, so where are CMBC's initiatives on that front? I'm not aware of any.

Second, if you think the refurbishment of Northgate House would cost £21m (though you overlook the weasel phrase 'up to' when quoting Barry Collins), the question to ask is not 'Where will the money come from?' but 'Where's the justification for that cost?' What annoys me about the whole Halifax regeneration debate is that multi-million pound figures are treated as holy writ. Our elected representatives should demand, and our overpaid senior council officers provide, a breakdown of all these figures so we can judge how credible they are. Instead, it seems that the bigger the figure, the less scrutiny it gets.

Third, while there may be 'no planned library closures in Calderdale', I think we all know how much credence to attach to that. Libraries have always been among the more dispensable local authority services, so to suggest that more may close or be cut back over the next few years is not scaremongering, it's being realistic.

From Cllr James Baker

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Ian I take the point that there are Library closures across West Yorkshire, so perhaps I was reacting too strongly when I said you were scaremongering. I'm talking about Libraries across Calderdale though. I speak to Janet our council leader about this and she assures me that there are no planned closures. Yes there is a consultation about how savings can be made from the budget, but this doesn't mean things including in the consultation are going to happen.

I'm not blaming the previous Conservative administration for everything that is wrong with Calderdale, just pointing out the fact that more Libraries closed when they were in power. Despite the difficult economic times this current council hasn't shut any libraries. In fact it has opened new ones.

Graham, I disagree about big shops in the city centre hurting trade. The reason being you have to factor in the overall lure of Halifax as a shopping destination. If a city centre lacks the big retail names then people will go elsewhere such as Leeds or Manchester for their Christmas shopping. Some new big named shops, a new piece hall development and a new library building will help make Halifax a place worth visiting.

With regards to what else Calderdale is doing to support business. Through the Economic Task Force the council has invested over ?3m in the local economy ? creating 50 apprenticeships, supporting new businesses. Supporting growth and businesses is one of Janet's five key pledges as leader.

As you are aware Calderdale is Lib-Dem led with support from the local Labour party. Every Lib Dem and Labour councillor I know is committed to doing everything they can to protect front line services such as Libraries.

From Stephen Curry

Thursday, 24 November 2011

I share Graham and Ian's concerns about potential library closures. Does anyone else remember those immortal words of John Major in 1992 "We have no plans to increase VAT." So for "We have no plans to cut libraries" read "Anything can happen there are no guarantees"

The proposal surrounding the demolition of Northgate House has been tied to redevelopment for retail. But because the space left by Northgate House alone is insufficient to attract the interest of the likes of Primark the site has to include the removal of the library and archives. Three points made here and on other local forums that concern me most are:

  1. The drawings currently available for the proposed new library are merely sketches with little detail. It seems that the footprint is smaller than that which we have now so we will possibly be spending a 12 million for an inadequate building. Guidelines for building archives are seriously strict these days and I would foresee the cost of the building escalating significantly as the work required is undertaken
  2. What happens to the archives between time the old is demolished an the new is built? Shipped away to Wakefield for two years? Will they actually come back? Policies change don't they? If the storage for the archives is smaller, will it be split between Halifax and Wakefield?
  3. The figures being bandied around are only guestimates, as councillors seem bound to secrecy. How then, can any of us judge if we are getting a better financial or practical deal for the public without proper plans to view or real figures to work with.

16,000 people objected to the re-siting of the library just a few years ago. They have just been ignored. Halifax MP Linda Riordan asked council for a "full, open & transparent" consultation process re the library and the Northgate site. At this rate the decision will be made before the next election, so for anyone to say the councillors are elected to make such decisions and if you don't like it you can vote them out, ignores the fact that it will be too late to undo the damage if they are wrong. The Calderdale executive should take heed and not make any firm decision next month without further proper and open consultation with the public.

From Ian M

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Cllr, you appear to have avoided answering the question I asked!
Is there is a proposal to scrap or greatly reduce the Calderdale mobile library facility within the libraries consultation?

A simple yes or no will suffice!

From Cllr James Baker

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Ian decisions about the Library service will be made on 12th December. The consultation results have been published and the most preferred option Is b. concentrate mobile services on those who are housebound or in residential care, saving 100,000 pounds (46% yes). Given that I would guess there will be some reductions in the mobile Library services. With the rest of the savings being made from reduced opening hours. However I am not a Calderdale councillor and don't know what the cabinet will decide.

Mobile libraries are funded out of revenue costs though. This has nothing to do with the money that would be spent on building the new library that would come out of the money gained by selling the Northgate House.

I signed the petition to save Northgate house myself, that was before I was even aware the plan was to move the current library to a brand new position. That wasn't made clear to me by the campaigners in Halifax town centre who were running the petition. I was told it was just going to be shut and the archive lost.

I think we are all agreed the archives need to be kept safe in the design of the new building. There will be a full consultation on any plans before they are approved.

Personally I can't wait for the new development and building. I've been to some great new libraries recently and a new state of the art building in Halifax will be fantastic.

From Mick Coughlan

Friday, 25 November 2011

I realise I am coming a little late to this thread and that many of the main points have been covered but please bear with me.

Libraries these days are for more than borrowing books. Internet use, research, meeting rooms and study areas are all part of it. The site proposed has a much smaller footprint than the current one and therefore something will have to go. The fear expressed by many is that the archives will be top of that list as the conditions for effective long term archive storage is far stricter than it was even in the late 70's.

Which brings me to the madness of demolishing a relativley new building and re-building. CMBC claim to be green - we are encouraged to re-cycle and on the whole I think our borough has taken this responsibility on and it works - but not the council who think it is ok to demolish these building when it is cheaper to re-furb (based on £15m for Northgate House and £6m for the library).

I have exchanged tweets with Coun Tim Swift regarding the figures being quoted and the response did suprise me somewhat. If a public organisation is to consider such a large project as I understand it they need to put the tender out to a European Tender. This way anybody can quote for it and the best possible price can be obtained. Have CMBC done this? No. What they have done is take known problems and then used what is known as "benchmarking" to come up with the figure. So really it is not much more than a guestimate.

The sketches for the new library also concern me. What is depicted is a modern glass structure and this will be built alongside the c18th Square Chapel and the Piece Hall. Where is the requirement to sensitivity to the built environment in this?

I also have concerns over the claimed interest from Primark for the Northgate site. Primark, last year turned in poor results. Why then would they wish to open a new outlet in Halifax when they already have ones in Huddersfield, Bradford, Leeds and Manchester. I would think CMBC would be better placed if they went after other retailers such as Selfridges etc. and that they aspired to better than what everyother town has.

Coun Baker suggests that if we don't like it then we should be voting out those who make the decisions - it not as easy as that though is it. If you look at the Calderdale libDems website you will find under the heading "A fresh start for Calderdale" that one of the reason why the previous administration had to be removed was because of "loss of confidence in the councils leadership" and among the reasons for this was that the wished to "bulldoze halifax Central library". So what is said in opposition is so easily forgotten when in power. If these claims were made by a retailer for goods or services and then ignored then we would be entitled to our money back under the sale of goods act!

As recent as last July Coun Collings visited Skircoat Ward Forum and told us there were no plans to demolish the library - it is staying where it is.

I will be joining the demo on the 7th outside Halifax Town Hall as I see this scheme as only part of the way CMBC are pushing forward against the CT payers wishes with schemes that affect us greatly. CMBC should reject this proposal as it stands and begin a honest, transparent and open consultation with the people of Calderdale. All the figures should be made available and there should be a dialogue - a 2 way conversation not just a box ticking exercise. And if the result of that consultation is that the peole of Calderdale say "No" then they should walk away from this scheme.

From Cllr James Baker

Friday, 25 November 2011

Mick everyone is concerned about wanting to keep the archives it is clear we need to keep these in the new library building. All we have at the moment is a sketch of the new building.

There will be a full consultation on the plans before it is built so concerns about glass buildings next to old ones can be accompanied. Personally I like the mix of well designed glass next to old buildings. The floor space maybe an issue but you can build up or create mezzanine floors. There are lots of possibilities, of course you have concerns but that doesn't mean they can't be addressed.

Northgate House is an inefficient building with poor insulation, it is not environmentally friendly to run. Even if the existing library were refurbished, it would not be the modern state of the art building that Calderdale deserves. You should see the new eco-friendly Library building down in Brighton for an idea of the type of fantastic asset we could have in Calderdale.

You are right in opposition we did oppose the Library being pulled down. Sometimes what you say in opposition is wrong, just as sometimes you make mistakes when in power. We now talking about moving the Library to a new state of the art building, and the reality of spending £800K a year on Northgate House to keep it running is all the more real when faced with having to make budget savings. When the facts change it is sensible to change your mind too.

I'm sure Janet will try to make as much information available for public scrutiny as she can. Some contractual things are legally only available to Councillors. Maybe that should change, but that is the state of the current law

The question of where the money for a refurbishment for Northgate house would come from still needs answering. It's all very well saying we should spend £21M on a complete refurbishment, but that's £ 21M less to spend on services.

From Dr Michael Taylor

Friday, 25 November 2011

It appears that some of the contributors to the discussion about the plan to redelop the Northgate site and provide a modern, efficient and state of the art central library next to the Piece Hall will never be satisfied with any answers they get.

One fact that has received no attention at all is that much of the space at the back of the existing library building isn't used for the library at all. The existing parts of the building that are used are not used efficiently because of the poor structure of the inside of the building.

The proposal for a new library and archive, coupled with the redevopment of the Piece Hall and the possible reopening of the Industrial Museum will create a vibrant cultural quarter in Halifax where all the major attractions are close together.

Meanwhile, the Northgate site will be redeveloped for non-food retail, something Halifax (and Calderdale) lack.

Renovation and renewal are fine if the basic structure of the building is good. However for both Northgate House and the Central Library it is simply not possible to provide state-of-the-art premises, hiowever much money is spent.

In my view, if we are to spend money on providing a first class library service, then we have to decide whether to do a proper job or a patch up job.

Since it is possible to fund much of the new library and archive from the sale of land or property, it makes good economic sense to do so.

It is also a very good use of public money to create substantial numbers of construction jobs in the Calderdale area, both in the demolition work and in the building of the new library and archive and in the priovate sector by encouraging new retail development.

There is the added bonus in creating new retail jobs.

Some people need to open their eyes and see the bigger picture!

From Glyn Sutcliffe

Friday, 25 November 2011

The controversy surrounding the proposed demolition and relocation of the Central Library and Archives is a separate issue from the recent CMBC consultation and review of existing Library facilities. Both are important to the future of CMBC Libraries under the Council's responsibilities as a library authority, but I think the two issues have been conflated and confused somewhat in this discussion.

The main criticisms of the Cabinet's proposals to relocate the Central Library and Archives to the Piece Hall is that the Piece Hall site is too small to accommodate a modern Central Library with all its attendant services and that this would result in a greatly reduced standard of service.
The Cabinet has produced no detail to substantiate its proposals and from my enquiries with the Council leadership has no intention of doing so. There is no cost/benefit analysis, no civil engineering involvement, no indication of how many floors the new building might have, no consultation concerning the Grade II* listed building remains of Square Church, no consultation with The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professions (CILIP) or other relevant corporate body. Because of the refusal by the Cabinet to do the groundwork, despite the executive backup we all pay for, all figures remain disputed until properly attested. This extends to all refurbishment as well as construction costs for Northgate and the Piece Hall development. No press figures are reliable although many contibutors base their arguments on these figures and this falsely legitimises them or gives them a credence they do not possess.

Not unlike the Cabinet, James Baker and Michael Taylor appear to be enthusiasts for change without due regard to thorough preplanning. James Baker's assertion (24 Nov) that he was misled by DBOL campaigners about relocation when he signed the petition opposing the demolition of the Central Library is unfounded. The petition was completed in 2009 two years before the Cabinet's Piece Hall proposal was put forward, or any member of the public was aware of it, and it related to the Council's previous idea of relocating the Archives to Bankfield Museum and the Library to the new Broad Street development. Divorcing the Archive Service from the Library Service demonstrated a complete lack of understanding by the authority concerning how modern services in this connection are constituted. The Council has yet to demonstrate that it has recovered any credibility following this public relations disaster.


What James Baker has not told us is that the Brighton development was a PFI initiative for which Brighton will be paying millions for the next 18 years. All our neighbours are keeping and refurbishing their Central Libraries. Leeds (opened 1884), Manchester (1934), Bradford (1967), Huddersfield (1940) and Keighley (1904), are not pushing their Central Libraries to small unsuitable sites which are less central, they are upgrading them. Calderdale should do the same for our Central Library. It will be the cheaper option.

There is much use of the phrase 'state of the art'. Libraries are dynamic communications and knowledge systems constantly changing and renewing. Such services can be delivered by adapting traditional buildings. It is simply not necessary to rebuild within 30 years to achieve this. The current Central Library was built in 1981-3 and is the most modern building of all neighbouring libraries. The archive integration is 'state of the art'. Commercial expediencies are driving the move to sell off Northgate to the highest bidder.


Michael Taylor says: 'One fact that has received no attention at all is that much of the space at the back of the existing library building isn't used for the library at all.'

This demonstrates a complete lack of understanding. The areas of the Central Library which the public does not see are mainly staff areas. What the majority of the public do not appreciate is that a great deal of work has to be done in staff areas in order to deliver the service in the areas to which the public has access. Areas and services not open to the public include: reserve stock, bibliographic services, inter-loans administration, book and other resource ordering and preparation for open use. Also support for the branch library network, schools service and children's services etc. and all the infrastructure to support IT provision including online information retrieval and catalogue and web presence. To suggest this is all dead space because it is not accessible to the public is wrong and misleading. Also incorrect is the assertion that the library floor space is used inefficiently.

From S Berry

Saturday, 26 November 2011

1) James Baker 22/11 states that 'Although it was only built in the 70s it was done on the cheap by the then Tory administration and it is a shoddy bit of modern construction that is failing down on the inside.

Let's look more closely at these statements.

Obviously the dates of construction are a matter of public record but if Mr Baker cannot get that right is anything else he says right?

What does it matter if it was a conservative administration? That has no relevance to the current debate. Presumably it is Mr Baker trying to score cheap political points ? to no purpose.

If it was such a shoddy piece of modern construction why was it signed off and accepted?

And again, if it was such a shoddy piece of work can Mr Baker give a figure to the amount which has been spent to keep such a sub-standard building in continuous use for the past 30 years, and why as CMBC not done anything about this alleged shoddy construction in that same 30 years?

I can state that the external stonework and its method of construction are as good now as they were when it was put up and I will gladly meet Mr Baker on site at any convenient time to explain this further and in more detail.

It was not a bit if shoddy construction and if Mr Baker can substantiate such a broad claim I would be interested to read his reasoning. Having been in Northgate House at the end of August I saw no sign of anything falling down, nor were there any Health and Safety signs warning me of such impending doom

2) It may be a carbuncle but that is no reason in these economically difficult times to knock it down. I am sure we could all find similar 'carbuncles' in the town centre but no-one is calling for their demolition. Again an irrelevance.

3) Local councilors are elected to look after the people and town of Halifax. They are not elected to rubber stamp a plan proposed by the unelected and preposterously named 'Cabinet' This whole affair is predicated on the fact that the 'cabinet' wants to sell off the Northgate House/ Central Library site. Everything else is made to fit around this. They circulate to councillors a document which is contains half-truths, inaccurate and emotive statements (The library in not fit for purpose apparently ? well as someone who has spent on average 2 hours per day 3 days per week over the past three/four years researching my family history from the library then I must have been in a different library). This document also uses the child like artifice of putting certain words in bold to make them seem more important, as well as repeating words like 'exiting' when describing a retail development. What is exciting about a shop? Any councillor who has the well-being of the town of Halifax, rather than what the 'cabinet' wants, at their heart and can vote on such an important step based on such a ludicrous document should really think long and hard

Finally let me ask you to look at the stonework to the Goal Lane elevation. There are some (minor) problems here but CMBC's response had been simply to fence it off and leave it. Surely a responsible council (having spent virtually no money on external maintenance of the Central Library over the past 30 year) would have resolved that problem. But no, presumably they think it strengthens their case for demolition. How sad.

The other point to note is that the question of where the functions carried out currently in Northgate House, were it to be demolished, seem not to be mentioned. Is this the elephant in the room?

In short, Northgate House and the Central Library were not built on the cheap, and as someone with 25 years experience in the dimensioned stone industry, including working for the supplier of the natural stone at the time of construction, I know the buildings are as sound now as they were when built.

From Cllr James Baker

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Mr Berry I'm entitled to my views and I happen to think this is an excellent idea, as do many other people. Wasn't it in the late 70s that plans for Northgate house were but into place? Possibly I don't have the exact date and time this building entered the world correct. It's entirely possible I'm not right about everything! I would hardly say that makes me wrong about everything either.

I've been informed this building costs £800,000 a year to maintain. Do you have information that demonstrates what I have been informed is incorrect? As to previous councils not having acted, I wouldn't as you do assume that this is because the building wasn't costing much. Most politicians would happily waste far more public money if they thought it would avoid upsetting the voters with an unpleasant truth.

The problems with the building are not as far as I'm aware with the stonework. I said it is of shoddy construction because so many corners were cut to save money, so it has no air conditioning and little insulation. That means an army of air fans running all summer as the large amount of glass heats up the inside and lots of heaters in the winter Dr Taylor was on the council at the time and informs me this was the case. If you can demonstrate it actually has low maintenance costs and is a great building to work and have a library in then I will stand corrected and change my mind.

The reason to knock it down is not just because it's a carbuncle, but because it will be cheaper to knock it down sell the site and move council workers into other existing buildings. Selling the site means money to build a state of the art facility and a new retail development. You may not find new shops exciting, but Halifax centre needs something to draw people into it, and I find that prospect of redevelopment and new jobs very exciting.

Local councillors are elected, and they are entitled to their views. They are people just like anyone else. Screaming blue murder the minute a councillor actually expresses an opinion you disagree with will result in councillors keeping their head downs low and never bothering to debate difficult issues things with people. The cabinet and council has nothing to gain from making bad decisions.

From Dai Hallgarth

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Hooray hooray hooray! Thank you S Berry; your calm, sensible comments are very, very welcome. Coupled with the same from Dr Hargreaves, I think we should all be very grateful and happily look forward to Calderdale dropping this ridiculous scheme and acknowledging the treasure for which they have stewardship for ourselves and generations to follow.

From Roy Tomlinson

Saturday, 26 November 2011

How can the existing Central Library require a £6m revamp? In the absence of any detailed explanation the voter is right to wonder if the figure is cited to justify demolition and sale of the site for retail development. This is a valuable site because it is central with easy access to the bus station, one of the main reasons why a wise Council moved the Library from Bell Vue in 1983.

The international Wilkipedia web site states that the public library provides books and other materials including internet access to meet the general public's information needs to the extent that any individual (or organisation) wishes. Libraries have a recognised role in economic regeneration as well as providing opportunities for personal enrichment and fulfilment. That is why public libraries have been called "universities of the people", and the librarian's professional body advises that libraries should be conveniently located and near to local communities and transport links.

Yet our Council's cabinet is recommending a new non-central Central Library with access provided by bus. How ridiculous and retrograde can you get? Next to Square Chapel Arts Centre may be suitable for an industrial museum but it is not the location for a Central Library used by a thousand people a day including mothers with babies and small children, the young, elderly and the disabled. Teenagers use the Library en route home from school via the bus station. So the choice is either ease of access to one or two new shops or priority access to Calderdale's principal general public centre of learning.

It is a matter of values against which Calderdale's Cabinet does not score well. It is observed that the space envisaged for a new Library is significantly smaller. So what services are going to be axed?

A Central Library is the essential administrative and storage centre for itself and all branches. In our case it has a still state of the art Local Archives centre. More books are being published than ever before, complemented not superseded by computer based services.

Public Libraries have an essential role in developing and maintaining literacy and life long learning. We are informed that the present Central Library building cost £2.4m, and that professionally valued in 2009 an exact replacement would cost £9.4m plus furnishing. So the £6m estimated revamp, if needed at all, would be very good value. Site and access to the proposed new library would ensure a definite downgrading despite assurances to the contrary.

The Secretary of State has a statutory role to "promote the improvement of libraries", not the downgrading of an authority's main Central Library. No wonder 16,000 plus people have opposed a relocation.

From Glyn Sutcliffe

Sunday, 27 November 2011

In my opinion S. Berry writes with a good grasp of the issues and displays authority based on experience and knowledge of construction. James Baker on the other hand has swallowed whole what he has been told about the state of Northgate house by those with an agenda to clear the Northgate site for commercial interests. Such people have tried falsely, to strengthen their case by suggesting that the Northgate buildings are beyond redemption. This is bogus propaganda and does not stand up to scrutiny or questioning. When asked to produce reports and figures none are forthcoming and only sketchy information is available on the CMBC website. Only a published civil engineering report would be acceptable given the sums involved.

The onus to produce this rests with the proposers of change and no one else.

James Baker also asserts what has never been denied. No one has suggested that he is not entitled to his opinion whether as a Councillor or a member of the public. No one is 'screaming blue murder' as he so colourfully overstates it. What is at issue, and what I dispute, is the basis for his opinions. Just like the Cabinet he is unable to justify or substantiate his opinions or the Cabinet's proposals. I note that he is not a CMBC councillor, but a Hebden Royd Councillor, so has no vote at the 7 December meeting of CMBC.

James Baker refers to Northgate House and the Library as one building. It is connected and the two buildings share services. However, the Library and even more the Archive construction has to meet specifications far higher than ordinary office space. It is ironic that James Baker chooses to criticise the window space of Northgate House when he is such an enthusiast for new glass buildings both in Brighton and now in Halifax without regard to cost.

I agree with S. Berry, for the reasons we have now both provided that James Baker is wrong about the history, wrong about the state of Northgate, wrong about Library provision and wrong about demolition and relocation. Simply because he has a right to express these views, a right we are not disputing, it does not follow anyone will accept them.

The disputed and now discredited figures for Nothgate House published in the Courier are as appended. James Baker accepts that the exterior stonework is in good condition and suggests that it is the interior which is at fault. Since £6.5M is listed for the outer shell (external + facades + roof) perhaps these should be deducted. After competitive tendering and when more realistic and affordable figures emerge for refurbishment, perhaps we can get the Council to get on with it and stop wasting everyone's time on its, now lost, case for demolition and relocation.

redecoration 119000
structural work 134000
doors 225000
roof 263000
ceilings 287000
floors 300000
stripping out 305000
design consultancy500000
partitions 543000
fittings 626000
site management 875000
facades 1000000
service installations 2300000
alternative accommodation 2500000
external work 5000000
Total 14977000

From Paul Clarke

Sunday, 27 November 2011

My only thought on this daft idea is where on earth do Calderdale think they are going to get these 'exciting' new retailers from?

Only this week the very savvy Phil Green announced he was going to shut 250 stores . . . not open more. McDonalds shut their high street store in Rochdale which is a similar size to Halifax. There is a double dip recession on the way which will hit the high street first.

BTW . . . there is still a big hole in the centre of Bradford (with a much bigger population) where an 'exciting' retail development was planned.

Calderdale can't even the retail offer right in a historic landmark like the Piece Hall so do we really think they can handle this complex process?

If there are expressions of interest from big retailers then we should be told.

This seems like another nail in the politcal coffin of council leader Janet Battye (Calder, majority 53) as this is shaping up to a classic Calderdale fiasco.

From Graham Barker

Sunday, 27 November 2011

James, your posts are getting wearisome. Making the same argument repeatedly doesn't make it more valid.

1 That £800k a year maintenance bill; does it include normal running costs? All buildings cost something to keep going, so CMBC might not have much change from £800k a year even in a brand new building.

2 If Northgate House hasn't been improved over the years, does that not suggest an indifference to maintenance rather than anything intrinsically wrong with the building? Might not such a lax attitude simply migrate into a new building and rapidly ruin it?

3 Let's say Northgate House is sold off. What would CMBC get for it in a fragile market? Its footprint isn't that big and a prime site in Halifax isn't in the same league as a prime site in Leeds or Manchester, so net of demolition costs it might have to go comparatively cheaply.

3a It's folly even to think about new buildings until you know how much you've got to spend on them. Or will there be a reliance on borrowing or PFI?

4 I pity anyone who finds the prospect of a few new shops 'very exciting'. If the future of Halifax hinges on whether Primark signs up, the regeneration game is lost before it begins. I respectfully submit that Halifax wouldn't be many people's idea of a destination even if Harrods moved in.

5 Libraries: a shiny new building doth not a great library make. James' Brighton library may look good now, but give it 20 years. I feel sensitive on this point because I worked for Birmingham Public Libraries when, in a gross act of civic vandalism, it demolished its wonderful 1870 Addams Family Gothic central library and moved into a new glass and concrete job that we were assured would last 200 years. It won architecture prizes and was shown off to visiting dignitaries from all over the world. Now, after less than 40 years, it is to be demolished as - would you believe it - unfit for purpose. The Victorian one lasted 100 years and could have gone on much longer.

From Mick Coughlan

Sunday, 27 November 2011

James, I think what we are seeing here is a reflection of what is occurring in our borough. Politicians arguing for against a mainly unconvinced public that is losing confidence in our council, our public servants. Before a decision can be made this situation needs to be addressed. Perhaps you could communicate that to Coun Battye.

There is another aspect regarding Northgate House that has yet to be mentioned (no doubt not the only one), how many people work in the building? What effect on the local economy will be made by taking the majority of those folk away from the town centre?

From parking charges and lunches to Christmas present buying I would expect the staff contribute a large percentage of the mid week income for our traders.

From S Berry

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Indeed Councillor, you are entitled to your views, and I did not suggest otherwise, just as anyone with an opposing is entitled to theirs.

I did not suggest that the figure of £800,00 is incorrect, but merely how is that figure arrived at? Do you know, councillor, or are you simply takeing that figure as a given truth?

It also seem that you are now suggesting that despite cotiing previous councils money they have chosen to remail silent for fear up upsetting the voters. An interesting viewpoint - do you have any proof of this?

I cannot speak of the situation within Northgate House, but as the documet from the cabinet to the council baldly states that he library is 'not fit for purpose' without any evidence to support this, and based on my several hours per day over three/four days over th apast three/four yeard carrying out reasearch in the library (maybe a total of hours which that spent by any councillot or cabinet member) I do question that statement, and ask Councillor Baker to do the same.

It was you, councillor, who I believe introduced the concept of its a carbuncle, are you now diatanceing yourself from this description?

as I said at the outset, councillors and others are entitled to a contrary view to mine and many others, but to suggest my expressing those opinioins is 'screaming blue murdrer' might suggest that you have lost the argument and are merely trying to close it down by the use of emotive and innacurate words.

If you really believe that 'a councillor actually expresses an opinion you disagree with will result in councillors keeping their heads down low and never bothering to debate difficult issues things with people' then either what is the point of a council or perhaps you should suggest to any councillors who think that way that it would be better if they resigned.

This is the 21st century, the days of the Victorian patrician council are long gone. A robust and public debate is, surely, what councillors should look forward, even if, dare I say it, individual councillor's opinions are challenged.

Finally, can Councillor Baker answer the question I posed before, namely, were Northgate House to be demolished to where will the functions currently carried out there be moved

From Mick Coughlan

Sunday, 27 November 2011

James, I think what we are seeing here is a reflection of what is occurring in our borough. Politicians arguing for against a mainly unconvinced public that is losing confidence in our council, our public servants. Before a decision can be made this situation needs to be addressed. Perhaps you could communicate that to Coun Battye.

There is another aspect regarding Northgate House that has yet to be mentioned (no doubt not the only one), how many people work in the building? What effect on the local economy will be made by taking the majority of those folk away from the town centre?

From parking charges and lunches to Christmas present buying I would expect the staff contribute a large percentage of the mid week income for our traders.

From S Berry

Sunday, 27 November 2011

To councillor Baker

I will be happy to meet you in person to discuss our differences in more detail anytime which is mutually convenient.

From Cllr James Baker

Sunday, 27 November 2011

I now have a list of questions to answer as long as my arm. I'm going to learn even more about the scheme tomorrow night so I will write down some of the questions and put them to other people and report back the answers.

If it turns out i've been given incorrect information then I'll happily accept I'm wrong.

Just a few things I have the time to answer now

Glyn - Brighton Library has shutters that are angled such that they let light in the winter and keep it out in the summer. That means it helps regulate the temperature, which the glass in Northgate house doesn't do.

Yes saying people are screaming blue murder is emotive, you should go and read some of the comments on the Courier website though! You are quite right I don't have a vote on Calderdale, I'm just a town councillor, which like all town councillors I do for no remuneration.

Graham - I am led to believe the maintained costs of Northgate are so high because of the buildings poor ability to control it's own environment. So you need lots of fans in the summer and lots of heaters in the winter. Modern sustainable design is a lot better at creating environmentally friendly buildings with lower maintenance costs.

I do find new shops exciting. I had family up today going around Halifax and it hardly has any shops open.

I take your point that today's good design may not look good tomorrow. It's hard to guess what styles will become classics or not though. I think Northgate house fits into this categories of buildings that need to be replaced.

Paul - A reasonable point about the state of retail, we hope and plan for the economy picking up. Obviously the whole scheme is dependent on having someone lined up to buy the site before anything goes ahead. I do wonder perhaps if there is some time pressure here on the whole scheme we don't know about it.

Mick - One thing I do think is there should be more public consultation on this issue. If there is overwhelming majority opposition (and at the moment i'm not sure it isn't just coming from a vocal group) then I think the council should consider it carefully.

The point about council workers helping the local economy, that is a fair one but they will help the economy wherever they are based. There is also the issue of whether you want a prime city centre site taken up with office space when it could be put to retail/commercial use.

Berry - No I don't have proof that previous administrations have avoided tackling this difficult issue. It's a hypothesis based on my experience of how many politicians act and behave.

I personally think the building is a carbuncle, that's my subjective description for it. Although as it is said all discord is harmony misunderstood so maybe some people would like to more buildings in the style of Northgate.

I agree with you that councillors shouldn't keep their heads down and engage with difficult decisions and debates.

I have been informed council staff will be moved into other existing sites where there is capacity. I can hopefully give you more details of this when I have them.

I have a question that was asked but is still unanswered. Where would the money to refurbish Northgate house and the Library come from? With the council needing to save ?55 Million next year where would the extra money come from?

Also what is the evidence that council documents circulated contain half-truths and incorrect documents? Why do you think cabinet members are not elected? What is presumptuous about the cabinet, a style of local government - which is widespread and common. Why also do you feel the need to caste assumption that councillors just/will 'rumber stamp' things without thinking about them.

From S Berry

Sunday, 27 November 2011


I do not understand you at all. You make comments and when they are tested you back down.

You were happy to suggest that previous administrations hadn't spent money on the buildings, but now say that you have no evidence of that.

You suggest that 'screaming blue murder' will lead to councillors hiding behind the parapet, but now say that such an attutude is wrong - so why bring it up in the first place?

If you don'tt know where the money is coming from how can you vote on 7th December to sell off the Northgate House site?

Just because a practise is common does not make it right. Many people drive over the speed limit, does that make it right?

The document to which I refered cleary states that the library is 'not fit for purpose' without any evidence to support this. I would suggest this is is at best a half truth. Not sure where the phrase 'incorrect documents' comes from. Not from me, maybe this another half-truth??

It is obvious from your comment about people with an opposite view to you 'screaming blue murder' that you do not wish to entertain that opposing view and that, therefore, you want to push the scheme through.

If you are not going to rubber-stamp this scheme, then on 7th December vote down the proposal to sell the site pending real and robust public scrutiny.

Actions speak louder than words

Finally as for the cabinet, please tell me where I might find out who is in the cabinet, and its functions. The CMBC webite is a useful as a chocolate teapot in this regard

From Mick Coughlan

Sunday, 27 November 2011

James Baker said "If it turns out i've been given incorrect information then I'll happily accept I'm wrong".

In the current climate I predict your career in politics will be short lived - I hope there is a change in the climate soon because we need more honest politicians.

From Glyn Sutcliffe

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Calderdale cannot proceed to a vote on the basis of disputed and unsubstantiated figures for refurbishment or building. We require authoritative figures from civil engineering reports. Can we agree on this bed rock point?

From Cllr James Baker

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Mr Berry, I made the comments I did because I have a vision of a brand new library as part of a cultural centre in Halifax. I go into Halifax and I despair at the wasted opportunity of a fantastic city in decline. I wish to see new development in the centre, and better shops.

I am not a leading expert on the construction industry or the finer points of building maintenance. You claim to have 25 years of experience in the stone industry and the building is fine I am happy to take your word on this matter until I am able to investigate the facts further.

Just to clarify are you saying though the external stonework needs no money spending on it? What of the rest of the exterior? If the figures the cabinet are wrong then how can we prove this is the case? What questions should I ask, or would you like me to ask? I have made a list I'm going to put to people. So far I have these five questions on it.

1. How can we trust the figures for the cost of refurbishment, where are they who came up with them?
2. Where will the functions carried out by Northgate House be moved to? Where will council staff go?
3. How much will Calderdale get for the sale of the Northgate site, how can we guarantee this will go though in the current financial climate>
4. Isn't the new site smaller, how can we guarantee that services won't be lost from the new library. ?
5. Where does the ?800K maintenance figure come from, won't the new library cost just as much

I don't get to rubber stamp it or otherwise as I'm not a Calderdale councillor. What I would say is if lots of people are asking questions these should be answered. It is clear from this thread that many people have lots of concerns.

The Calderdale website isn't great, you can find out about the cabinet by clicking 'council and democracy' and then under the Calderdale councillors section clicking 'Council, committee and cabinet meetings'.

Mick - Mick if I had wanted a career in politics I wouldn't have joined the Lib Dems :) I'll leave the careerism to those who are better at being populist and not starting contentious threads on HebWeb.

From Graham Barker

Monday, 28 November 2011

James - I really don't know why I'm bothering to reply because your technique seems to be to ignore some comments and misinterpret others. But for what it's worth:

OK, so Northgate House is too hot in summer and too cold in winter. Leaving aside the unlikelihood of that applying to the whole building, such problems are not insuperable. If the building is energy inefficient, it's probably got that way as a result of CMBC's failure to improve it using modern technologies and materials.

My comparison between the old and new Birmingham/Brighton libraries wasn't primarily about the way they looked, but about the way they functioned. The moral is that if you want a good, enduring functional library, get it designed by a Victorian.

From Glyn Sutcliffe

Monday, 28 November 2011

I have already enquired more than once about the refurbishment and building costs and other important planning aspect I have mentioned previously. Neither Barry Collins nor Janet Battye were forthcoming. Their agenda is to obtain a yes vote to the principle of their plan at the meeting on 7 December and then proceed with the costings and surveys. This is nothing short of a scandal. Fully attested costings, planning and liaison with relevant bodies should precede any vote. The Conservative group is now opposed to demolition and Linda Riordan has called for more information before any decision is taken. I am not surprised at all that James Baker is receiving many questions asking for more detailed information. This is eminent common sense. James Baker is echoing the Cabinet's untenable position. Vision is good but it has to be backed by groundwork.

From Stephen Curry

Monday, 28 November 2011

James I'm not sure your stance is the right one to take in view of the fact we have little discernible information, just guestimate figures derived from 'off the cuff' statements made out of council, no real scale drawings for the proposed new library or the Northgate site. However, I will give you credit for being the only Cllr prepared to start and engage in the discussion on Hebweb (on any subject for sometime). It is all right having photo ops with Mayoral chains or a high profile presence here and in the papers at election time, but now is a time when we should hear what all parties have to say on this major issue. You seem to have charged forward, jousting pole in hand and forgotten to look over your shoulder. Your Council colleagues on either side or council are found wanting.

In Hebden we all found out what it was like to have our library in a different location, albeit temporary, it was quite inconvenient not to have it centrally located. And, without public consultation, our Visitor Information Centre (used as much by locals) was moved from a prime location to a less visible venue, with the added loss of meeting rooms and art/craft photography display areas. No wonder there is scepticism, cynicism, anger and disbelief here at the 'plans' and dubious explanations surrounding our central Library's future.

From S Berry

Monday, 28 November 2011

Councillor Baker

Further to your latest comments to me I reply as follows:-

1) I do not say the external stonework needs no money spending on it. indeed it does. The two buildings were built completely differently and if there are any probelms with the external stonework on Northgate House then we should all worry. I have already extened an open invitation to meet you on site at any conevenient time to discuss the the stonework in more detail. The Central Library does need some remedial work to the external stonework, particularly on the Goal Lane elevation. This is, currently, and looking from the ground only, not a serious problem. I sugggest that the cause is water ingress from behind the flashing on the flat roof. The questions you could usefully ask of CMBC are- a) why did the regular maintenance inspections (which I assume as a responsible council and public building owner they undertake) not bring this to light and b) why they have chosen not to rectify the problem once it became obvious which from memory must be about 12 months ago, maybe more.

2) As to figures from the cabinet - who knows if they are wrong - I do not, but it seem obvious and prudent to request to see the reasoning behind the figures, just as it is reasonable to want to see the argument for their saying these buildings are not fit for purpose. Surely as a councillor it is part of your public duty to question these things in order to ensure that they are accurate. Should any councilllors watchword(s) be 'Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?' To me that is an integral part of any councillors duties.

Thank you for the information about the website - I will look into that - but to be fair to CMBC they, as all councils, do cover a lot of ground and any council website will neccesarily be a huge and unwieldly affair.

The offer to meet you on site is open ended and the more people can understand the buildings as they are the less they will be seduced by bald statements abouttheir being unfit for use.

From Cllr James Baker

Monday, 28 November 2011

Graham sorry if you feel I'm not answering all the points. I did say I would come back once I have got answers myself for some of the more complex and technical questions I have been asked. If there is anything specific you think I have missed then let me know. I'm attending a briefing session on the Library tonight so I will put some of the questions asked to Calderdale Councillors.

I would love more Victorian style buildings, I think thought the cost of a build like that would be prohibitive.

Stephen you are right I have charged in on this instance, and people were right to point out some of the facts and details that need verifying before this scheme goes ahead.

From Stephen Curry

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

So now . . . Cllr Janet Battye says in her open letter on the Lib Dems website

"It became clear that the Council does not need a large office block and can find office space for those staff who need to be in or need the town centre in other places"

On the same Website Michael Taylor states that when Northgate house was built

"there was no need for grandiose central offices and that officers should be stationed in other council property all over the borough"

So perhaps the arguments about Northgate House and its structure, refurb and maintenance costs are just a side issue or even a red herring. They're saying they just don't need the building and never did.

It is that which is the driving force behind the plans for the library. Prospective developers of the Nortgate House site want more than that space. And that is where the conflict lies. To satisfy the developers (with questionable retail aspirations in a nightmare economic environment) the Library has to be thrown in too. So to justify that sale a large unsubstantiated figure for refurb of the current building and 18 month closure period are thrown into the pot.

I hope James hurries back with some real facts that we can make better judgements about, and comment on, if we are ever given the opportunity to consult before the main decisions are made.

From S Berry

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

James Curry has it absolutely right. We are being fed some interesting 'reasons' for the sale of this important site and demolition of the library. The crux of this whole affair is that a developer has expressed an interest and CMBC have fallen for this hook line and sinker. Thus the various 'justifications' from unsubstantiated figures to equally unsubstantiated accusation of 'unfit for purpose'.

Lets all see the reasoning behind these rather than being spoon fed what CMBC want to give us.

If we are to rely on the 'cabinet' or elected councillors to make what will be a far reaching vote next week, then they must understand economic reality, something which they have shown little regard for up to now.

Other people have alread pointed out here that many large retail organisations are cutting back their high street exposure, and that the big hole in Bradford is a good example of this. In Sheffiield I believe the local authority has gone to the lengths of borrowing money to ensure the progress of and 'exciting' retail development there.

Once the land is sold and these buildings demolished what guarantees have CMBC been given that work will commence immediately on the development, what guarantees have CMBC been given that tenants will be signed up in time for completeion of building work, and can the CMBC guarantee that the people of Halifax that it will not need to 'seduce' businesses to take up these 'exciting' opprtunities by way of reduced business rates or whatever.

Do we want to risk a Bradford-like (smaller) hole in our town?

To all councillors who will be voting on 7th Decemeber I say that, from the information the public have been allowed to see you cannot give the go ahead to this scheme. It must be sent back to the 'cabinet' or in some other way scrutinsed in more detail than we are seeing at present. There are too many unknowns and uncertainties for this current idea top be approved.

For the sake of the people of this town and the future of this town, vote it down, stand back and let's have some robust, public and full scrutiny and debate.

From Cllr James Baker

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Hi there, I got some of the questions answered.

  1. How can we trust the figures for the cost of refurbishment, where are they who came up with them?
  2. Where will the functions carried out by Northgate House be moved to? Where will council staff go?
  3. How much will Calderdale get for the sale of the Northgate site, how can we guarantee this will go though in the current financial climate
  4. Isn't the new site smaller, how can we guarantee that services won't be lost from the new library. ?


  1. The refurbishment figures for Northgate House have been well worked through over the last few years. They are contained within the Condition survey which is on the Calderdale Council website. We asked for this info to be put there last year and have recently asked Officers to make sure that it's easily viewable;
  2. Plans are being devised for where staff will be moved to but some of this has to be commercially confidential because contract negotiations have to be completed to secure the premises where they are ones that we don't already own/lease.
  3. Similarly we can't declare the detail of figures because that may prejudice/ hinder our negotiations ? for sale prices, we obviously want to get the best price !
  4. The new library may well be smaller but more efficient and with less wasted space than the current one ? it will be attached to Piece Hall so will get some of its services (eg caf?) through Piece Hall and Square Chapel;
  5. Building a new, modern library demonstrates that we value key services and it will be good value-for-money because it will add to the "cultural quarter" around Piece Hall/ Square Chapel/ Eureka/ The Minster.

I'm trying to find the information on the Calderdale website and it's really difficult to find. Although officers have been asked to make this viewable I think they need a page up there asap that details the decision making process, the documentation and some FAQs.

I was informed last night that the full council vote on 7th December was not the final decision. If the vote passes on the 7th then the council will be conducting a feasibility study and going to a public consultation.

Steve - You are right about wanting to close down Northgate House. It simply isn't needed and costs a lot of money every year for the council to run. Money that could be better spent on services.

From S Berry

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Well, at least we've got some half answers!

Commercial confidentiality is a wonderful cloak to hide behind, but when councillors are being asked to vote on something that will change Halifax town centre for ever, is this the time to be hiding?

The plans for the proposed new library may as well be thrown in the bin. James, you refer to the fact that the proposed new library will be attached to the Piece Hall and get some of its services from there - i.e. a cafe. Its a pity no-one bothered to tell the architects that as they have the words 'Cafe' written on the floor plan!

CMBC can demonstrate that it values key services without having to knock donw and build a new library. The two are not inexorably linked.

The vote on 7th December will be the final decision in some way, in that one of the proposals to be voted on is to sell the Northgate House/Library site. If that proposal is not voted down then there will be an inexorable move to what CMBC wants, and to hell with what the people want. It will be too late.

This proposal must be voted down until more discussions and debate take place and more information isavailable. I cannot see how any councillor can vote for this proposal whilst sitting in a fog of som much uncertainty.

But, credit to James for trying to answer the question we need answers to. And I would hope councillors need answers to these questions before they commit the town to an irrevocable course of action.

From Glyn Sutcliffe

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

At the moment no one will find details of a full structural survey for Nothgate on the CMBC website, because none has been posted. Barry Collins relased figures to the Courier, but no authoratitive or attested figures have been placed in the public domain. When the information appears I would be only too pleased to read it. Without such information the Cabinet's intention to move to a vote on this issue is wrong. James Baker's fact finding mission appears to have proved largely fruitless, but I thank him for trying. It serves only to show further how the Cabinet operates - 'don't let authenticated facts get in the way of our plans.'

From S Berry

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

The alleged report into Northgate House is, as Glyn Sutcliffe say, is not there.

The obvious question is, why?

I would also be interested to know how, from a position of 'the demolition of the Library was not on anyone's agenda' and 'Any developer who had shown an interest had been informed that the Library/ Archives would remain together in Northgate.' which is what Cllr Collins said on 31st January this year, have we managed to get to architects drawings and internal mock ups all on public display and a potentail vote to sell the Northgate House/ Central Library site in its entirey within less than 10 months?

This is a very serious question, and also the exact whereaboutsof the report which the people of Halifax need to have answered, and before this potentially disastrous vote.

From Alan Shaw

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Cllr James Baker - It is dangerous to say that a decision in principle can be taken on December 7th to approve the plans to demolish Northgate House and the library, and then say that discussions on the replacement library can take place after that. This is putting the cart before the horse - if we wait until this decision has been taken, any objections afterwards would be met with "We would like to provide that but there isn't room on the site" or "We can't afford that within our budget."

Any suggestion that keeping the Library and Archive where they are would be a cheaper and better solution would be met with "That has already been voted on, it can't be discussed again."

Why not sell the site of Northgate House to a developer who would renovate and lease back the upper floors, whilst converting the ground floor and lower ground floor to retail premises ? It has worked in other towns, why not here ? And if it will cost £300,000 a year to accomodate the small staff of a drop-in center, how much will be required to accomodate the 640-odd staff from Northgate House ?

From S Berry

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Alan Shaw is absolutely right. The proposal to be voted on next Wednesday is to sell off the whole of the Northgate House/Central Library site. If the council vote yes, then, as he says, that's it. Any consultation will be meaningless as the decision will have been made.

It is not a halfway house, a holding vote or a vote in principle. It is a vote which will irrevocably change the centre of Halifax. In this economic climate, as has been outlined here already, what meaningful assurances will the cabint offer to the council, and the people of Halifax and Calderdale that we will not end up with a hole in the ground or empty units. The units built opposite the Broad St Plaza have been empty since they were built about 5 years or so ago

In what appears to be a way of softening this bitter pill to councillors a vote on putting aside a figure of £200,000 (I think) for 'further consultation' in respect of the library (that would be the new one if the vote goes ahead) has been removed and the cabinet has agreed to make this money available.

But what will anybody be consulting on? The shade of paint inside the new library? The pattern of the carpet? The timing and frequency of the shuttle bus to take peopole to and from the new library?

For reasons best known to the council/cabinet we are not being told why the whole of the site must be up for grabs. As Allan Shaw suggests, there are other options available to CMBC.

From David Cant

Friday, 2 December 2011

Action needed now! On Wednesday 7th December the Council will vote on the Cabinet proposal to:
- sell off the site of Northgate House and Central Library for retail use
- build a new library next to Square Chapel
- sell Heath Training Centre on Free School Lane

The justification is based on the cost of running and refurbishing the buildings. Northgate is based on a 2005 report updated and only revealed thanks to pressure put on the Council. The only copy (!) is available now at the Central Reference Library, plus an interpretive summary of the conclusions. There doesn't appear to be a publicly available costed report for the library at all.

It's is also claimed by the developer (Gregory) , who is responsible for the Broad Street building, that it's essential to have the whole site for retail development. But they would, wouldn't they? They're in business to promote development - not necessarily taking wider interests into account.

Get on to your ward councillors, party group leaders, MP and come to the Town Hall on Halifax around 5.15pm next Wednesday 7th before the Council Meeting to make your voice heard.

Stop Halifax becoming the town that bulldozed its library for a shopping centre!

From S Berry

Friday, 2 December 2011

The following is addressed to the Mayor of Calderdale Nader Fekri:-


Should it be neccesary in the vote of Wednesday next for you to excercise a casting vote, may I urge you to resist voting on party political lines and use your vote as Mayor to excercise caution whilst there is so much controversy surrounding, indeed raging around, the cabinet proposals and so little known with regard to the feasibility of the proposals, or the validity of their assessment of the condition of the buildings on the Northgate site.

From Mick Coughlan

Friday, 2 December 2011

With reference to Coun. Collins stating as recent as Jan 2011 there were no plans to move the library - it's worse than that. Coun. Collins told Skircoat Ward Forum in July 2011 that there were no plans to move the library that it is staying where it is. There seem to be too much haste to rush this proposal through - Why?

The tie up with the Gregory Group is also worrying - should CMBC decide to go ahead with this shouldn't the project go out to tender or is there some cosy relationship with Gregory Group that needs investigating?

Another feature of this scheme that may not affect many contributors to this forum except that it has been allowed to go "under the radar" is the Heath site. I have today received a couple of replies from my Ward Councillors, one of whom suggests that some supermarket chains are interested in that site. This would obviously mean demolition of a listed building - I bet the good people of Skircoat know nothing of this (yet).

It is also worrying that James, with his contacts has not been able to get the full story - this sadly is par for the course with CMBC officers and I urge him to go back and try again (sorry James). The CMBC machine is very adept at obsfucation and sleight of hand. I add my thanks to him too for trying to get some answers.

From Cllr James Baker

Saturday, 3 December 2011

We seem to be getting somewhere with the facts. We are told the survey reports on Northgate will be available on the CMBC website on Monday. I personally find it astonishing quite how difficult it has been to locate these documents.

I can understand now how in some authorities councillors have taken to using the Freedom of Information Act to get information quicker!

I know Janet is personally committed to transparency, but when getting information is like trying to get blood out of stone it becomes clear how much more work needs to be done...

From S Berry

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Following on from what Mick Coughlan has just written, do we know what the Gregory Group are offering for the site (or is this commercially sensitive? - a good way to keep things out of the public domain even though it will affect everybody in Halifax)

Or, has CMBC had a independant valuation carried out?

Indeed, is it incumbent on them that they do, or can they simply sell the family silver for a pittance?

With regards to Cllr Collins' uterances, it is inconceivable to me that he can state that as late as July, yet we have architects drawings available for public view by mid November.



The two reports on the condition of Northgate House/ Central Library and the associated estaimate of reurbishment costs are now available here on the CMBC website - only 2 days before the crucial vote!


See also

HebWeb News - Council Releases Information on New Central Library (5 Dec 2011)

Calderdale website: Detailed information on the condition of both Northgate House and the Central Library and Archive buildings can be downloaded

HebWeb News - Central Library threat (22 Nov 2011)

HebWeb News - Don't Bulldoze Central Library Jan 2011

Hebweb Forum - Halifax Town Centre Regeneration (Feb 2011)

John Hargreaves' presentation on behalf of of the Halifax Civic Trust and Halifax Antiquarian Society (Jan 2011)

HebWeb News 2009 - Calderdale Central Library and Archive

Hebweb Forum - Demolition of Central Library and Archives building in Halifax (March-April 2009)

Don't Bulldoze our Library