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Campaigners given second chance at cinema bid for Mill Road library in Cambridge





The former library on Mill Road has once again been listed as an asset of community value, which will prevent the building being sold on the open market for six months.

Cambridgeshire County Council put the site back up for sale in January this year after a children’s counselling charity dropped out of buying it due to the spiralling costs of the project.

There were fears that it could be sold to developers for housing, but the Petersfield Area Community Trust has applied to Cambridge City Council to have the historic building re-listed as an Asset of Community Value and has just been granted the designation.

Mill Road Old library. Picture: Keith Heppell
Mill Road Old library. Picture: Keith Heppell

Now a group of campaigners who previously made a bid for the historic building to become a community cinema and arts centre, but lost out to counselling charity Centre 33, are working together on a second bid.

Matthew Webb, who is heading the arts centre bid, said: “We have already had a lot of interest in re-starting our bid and people are passionate about the idea of a community arts centre and cinema on the site.

The interior of the old library on Mill Road in October 2021. Picture: John Preston
The interior of the old library on Mill Road in October 2021. Picture: John Preston

“This would be something wonderful for the Mill Road area and could be a place for community groups to meet up and a place to enjoy films, art and literature. We are actively seeking donors or sponsors who share our vision for the building and we believe that, once purchased, it would be eligible for heritage grants to help restore it and make it available to the community.”

The building is believed to need a significant amount of work as it currently has no heating or electricity supply. Previously, the county council had chosen Centre 33, which provides help for those up to 25 with mental health, caring responsibilities, housing and sexual health, as the preferred bidder for the site. But the costs of bringing the building back into use proved too much for the charity.

In a statement, the charity said: “The level of work needed to ensure the building is fit for purpose has increased the budget beyond our original bid and it is no longer a feasible option for Centre 33.”

The 19th century building had previously been a library and then the Bharat Bhavan Hindu temple before being taken back under council control and undergoing a £500,000 refurbishment.

Mill Road Old library. Picture: Keith Heppell
Mill Road Old library. Picture: Keith Heppell

A spokesperson for Cambridgeshire County Council said: “We recognise the importance of the Mill Road Library building to the local community and welcome its re-registration as an Asset of Community Value. The designation allows local community organisations six months to demonstrate their proposals.

“We are keen to find a future guardian for the site and will be remarketing the building in the coming weeks. The former library is a special building and we anticipate a significant amount of interest. As before, Councillors will consider not just the economic factors but also the social and environmental aspects of all applications we receive.”



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