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Hopes raised that Milton Road Library in Cambridge will be secure until 2064

The future of Milton Road Library could be made more secure if councillors extend a lease on the building to 2064.

The library building has been put up for sale by This Land, the county council’s arms-length property developer, but residents fear the service could close without a long lease stating the building must continue in its current use. A proposal to extend the library’s 25-year lease on the building by a further 20 years is being put before members of the county council’s strategy and resources committee on September 21.

Supporters gathered in June to protest over the sale of the Milton Road library site. Picture: Keith Heppell
Supporters gathered in June to protest over the sale of the Milton Road library site. Picture: Keith Heppell

Campaigners who have been trying to save the library say they are cautiously welcoming the news but want to see more detail.

Nicky Webb, secretary of Hurst Park Estate Residents’ Association, which started a petition to save the library, said: “We have been told there will be a meeting next week and that a longer lease will be discussed but we haven’t been told that the sale isn’t still going through.

“A 20-year extension would be hugely welcomed but we are still waiting to see the details and we need to know what it means. It may be a bit premature to say the library has been saved. It would be nice if the building was saved permanently and I don’t think everyone will be happy that assets belonging to the county council are being sold into private hands.”

This Land is progressing a sale of the property it has redeveloped at Milton Road which houses the public library (of which the council is the tenant) and seven residential apartments.

As the company is arms-length, the council has limited scope to influence the sale as the shareholder or lender, but since July the council has negotiated with This Land and the prospective purchaser a 20-year extension to the existing public library lease, and after that it will have further Landlord and Tenant Act protection. This Land is also under review by the council.

This lease extension includes five-year break clauses for the council but not the landlord.

The committee chair and vice chair – Cllrs Lucy Nethsingha and Elisa Meschini – have proposed agreement to the extension to maximise the council’s control of the tenancy, which will not limit the council’s opportunities to negotiate agreed extensions and rent in the future. The completion of the longer lease is expected to be finalised as soon as legal work is completed.

“As we said back in June, the library is secure under the council’s control in its current location – and we have worked hard to make sure it remains that way,” said Cllr Meschini.

Cllr Nethsingha added: “While we had an existing 25-year lease on the building with an option to extend for a further 15, we have gone even further than this to make the library secure in its current location until at least 2064. This does not limit the council’s ability to negotiate on further extensions or rent.”

The 10am meeting will be held at New Shire Hall in Alconbury Weald. Watch it live on youtube.com/user/CambsCountyCouncil.

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