Campaigners protest against £2.9m sale of reopened Milton Road Library in Cambridge
Campaigners are trying to stop the sale of Milton Road Library, which has been put on sale for £2.9million just two years after it reopened.
The Hurst Park Estate Residents’ Association and the Friends of Milton Road Library organised a demonstration outside the library on Monday (June 21) and have raised a petition to pause the proposed sale of the library so that options to safeguard its future can be explored.
It reopened in 2019 following work on it by This Land Ltd, a property development company owned wholly by Cambridgeshire County Council, after previously being owned by the local authority.
That year, the library was granted a 25-year lease at an annual rent of £51,000 a year. Now there are 23 years left on its lease of the building, after which the new owners could decide not to let the library stay open.
Andrew Milbourn, chair of Hurst Park Estate Residents’ Association, said: “There is now a real risk that this vital public asset could be lost in 23 years’ time when the lease runs out, especially if the building is sold to private investors who have no interest in retaining it for the people of Cambridge in the long term.
“This is not what people expected when the building was redeveloped with the input of the local community.
“We therefore want the council to immediately pause the proposed sale while alternatives are investigated. These alternatives need to safeguard the future of the library for considerably longer than the term of the lease.”
The old library was demolished and replaced with a new library and seven flats, which have remained unoccupied for well over a year despite the enormous pressure on housing in the city. The county council confirmed in May last year that the flats were available for occupation from December 2019.
This Land said the site was being held as an investment property in its last annual report, but added: “We will be looking to sell the property in the future at an appropriate time”.
Richard Robertson, chair of the Friends of Milton Road Library, said: “The new library was built to serve the community, using public funds, and we want to ensure that it remains a resource for them in future.
“The county council have only a 25-year lease to occupy the library and community rooms and two years of that have already elapsed.
“We call upon the new coalition running the county council to safeguard our library permanently. We want them to pause the sale of the building so that all options can be carefully considered.
“This might be by extending the lease to 125 years rather than 25, or to buy back the property itself so that it once again becomes a public asset.”
Hurst Park Estate Residents’ Association has set up a petition – at https://bit.ly/3gK9BbI – which has gathered more than 770 signatures so far, and asks anyone who is concerned about the sale to sign it and to write to their councillors.
A spokesperson for This Land said: “The lease can be extended for a further 15 years, by the tenant at the end of the 25-year term providing security of tenure until 2059.
“Therefore the operational needs of the library are protected. This also includes the community area within that space. This Land’s focus is on the design and construction of new homes to meet the needs of the growing communities across Cambridgeshire and the surrounding counties.”