An eight-week consultation period starts on Monday, July 19, when Burton people and businesses can give their views about the proposal to end Burton Market Hall’s time as a retail centre and move the town’s library into the building instead.
There are a number of ways that you can give your feedback and also suggest your own ideas:
- A short online survey is available at https://consultation.staffordshire.gov.uk/insight-planning-and-performance/your-library-burton-library-consultation. It opened on Monday July 19. It will be open until midnight on Friday September 10.
- There will be six drop-in events between July 19 and 31: two in Burton town centre and others in Rolleston, Stretton, Branston and Tutbury. More details of dates, times and locations can be found here.
- Eight focus group meetings will be held at Burton Library at various times on July 20 and August 3. Only 12 people can attend each session and places MUST be pre-booked. Click here for more details and to book.
- There is a public consultation event at Burton Albion football club stadium on Wednesday, August 4 from 7pm to 8.30pm. Places must be pre-booked via the Staffordshire County Council website here. Only 50 places are available for the general public. An additional 50 places will be made available for key stakeholders who will receive personal invitations.
- If you can’t attend any of the meetings, you can email questions to email@example.com
Preserving the historic market hall
The county council has issued a statement saying that it believes proposals to update and relocate the library to the Market Hall would lead to considerable added value, including:
- supporting the improvement and preservation of the historic Market Hall for future generations through investment in the repair of the Market Hall, and by making alterations that are sensitive to the historic nature of the building
- increasing footfall into the town centre to grow and attract more businesses
- allow regeneration of the existing library site to support more visitor, retail and hospitality growth on the waterfront (to be taken forward through Project D following a future public consultation implemented by East Staffordshire Borough Council)
- incorporate a space to support and grow local business
- save tax payers’ money by co-locating County Council staff into one building.
Moving from a purpose-built library
In a promotional video supporting the library proposals – which have been developed by the county council, the borough council and the Town Deal Board – Councillor Victoria Wilson, says “We know it works because we’ve done the same in Lichfield already.”
But not everyone agrees.
Burton business owner Elaine Pritchard said: “The Lichfield Library situation was completely different. Its out-of-town library was housed in an old school. It was moved into a beautiful but disused church building, which needed to be brought back to life, in the heart of the city. Also, the old Lichfield library did not have a cafe while the new library in the church building has a popular cafe, which is now a big draw and responsible for a lot of the extra footfall.
“In Burton, we would be moving from a purpose-built library (which also contains the town’s registry office) in a beautiful riverside location, surrounded by pay and display parking, to a building that is currently a working market hall and from which traders would have to be moved. There are only a handful of pay and display spaces around the market hall making it less easy for parents of young children and older people wanting to use the library and more difficult for those registering births and deaths. Wedding parties would also have to walk further to get to the riverside for photographs.
“Finally, many would regard the current library as already being in Burton town centre. It is just off the High Street. It is a short walk in a straight line from the current library to Burton market hall – making it hard to see how this move will generate more footfall for town centre shops. It could be argued that the move will take business away from the shops closer to the current library. To walk from the old Lichfield library into the heart of the city meant crossing several roads, whereas the church into which it moved is truly in the heart of the busy main shopping area.”
Perfect start-up business location
Elaine and a group of other local independent businesses have been in touch with some of those behind the plans and pointed out that since the pandemic there has been a rise in the number of people starting up their own business ventures – and they believe that a reinvigorated, well-promoted market hall would be the perfect start-up location for them.
Elaine added; “As a judge for the recent Young Traders Market on the outdoor marketplace in Burton, I met many people under 30 who has set up businesses in the past year. Trading outdoors in all weathers isn’t suitable for every type of business, so I think we shouldn’t be giving up on our historic market hall. I am looking forward to giving my views again through the official consultation. I believe there are extra services that could be introduced to the market hall alongside the market stalls to make it an active and well-used community hub. I also recognise that the library needs to be modernised but that could happen in its current location with again extra services such as a business enterprise centre introduced there.”
Vital cash injection for future wellbeing
The library and market hall plan is one of seven projects that have been put together by the Burton Town Deal Board, chaired by Ben Robinson MBE, Chairman of Burton Albion Football Club. These projects have been awarded a total of £22.8m from the Government’s Town Fund programme. You can read more on the East Staffordshire Borough Council website here.
Business cases now have to be developed for each of the seven projects before they can go ahead. Public consultation will be part of that process.
Ben Robinson has said: “We are delighted to have secured £22.8 million of funding for the town – which will be a vital cash injection into our community at such a difficult time.
“When we started this project, we knew how important this funding was for the future prosperity of the town but the impact of Covid-19 on our community has made this money even more important.
“The pandemic has not only been devastating in health terms but also for our businesses and jobs, so to have secured this investment at this time is crucial to our future wellbeing.”
A county council spokesman added: “Through investment in the repair of the Market Hall, and by making alterations that are sensitive to the historic nature of the building, we could have a modern library that breathes new life into the surrounding area – an area that is full of potential.
“We think that this is a once in a generation opportunity to do all this at limited additional cost to the local taxpayer – as central government would fund the majority of the project’s costs.”