|Positivity, but just a little more patience. These are the key words as the refurbishing of Liskeard’s well-loved Passmore Edwards Library is becoming a long-awaited reality.
The anticipation of a reopening in 2021/22 is driven by having reached formal agreement on the project. Somewhat like an exchange of contracts on a house, both sides have now expressed their commitment, with only the legal engrossments to be completed.
The Library will shortly transfer to the community interest company RIO (Real Ideas Organisation) with access to the premises from next month, and a year of works expected to begin in January 2021.
It will then be reborn not only as a contemporary library, but a co-working and meeting space, creative hub and innovation space. A boost to Liskeard’s town centre facilities, it is aimed at attracting diverse audiences and enabling people to enjoy experiences that are usually found only in cities.
Last year RIO successfully secured £150,000 from the Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF) towards the refurbishment of the Victorian building, allowing them to progress design work for the renovation and reconfiguration of the Grade II listed premises in Barras Street. This has been happening in the background and as Covid restrictions lift, remedial work will start.
Cornwall Council’s Cabinet Member for Libraries, Edwina Hannaford, said: “The transfer of a Cornwall Council building to a community interest company like RIO has been complicated and necessarily cautious. But we have persevered by never losing sight of the exciting opportunity this partnership offers to Liskeard, its residents, and its local economy. Cornwall Council and RIO are solidly dedicated to the same aim – providing Liskeard with a re-invigorated library that will be the pride of the town and do justice to John Passmore Edwards’s legacy.”
“It is far from ideal that it has had to weather such a long period unused, but we couldn’t embark on expensive works until the contract was agreed by both parties. Now we have agreed the last hurdles, the rest should be straightforward.”
Liskeard Town Council has been involved throughout, and helped secure funding to retain an architect to design the new scheme. Local Cornwall Councillors Sally Hawken (Liskeard East), Nick Craker (Liskeard North) and Jane Pascoe (Liskeard West and Dobwalls) have been kept informed of progress. There was an obvious hiatus during lockdown, but now barring any unforeseen issues, Liskeard will soon have its new Library.
Lindsey Hall, Chief Executive of RIO, said: “It has been a long and at times, frustrating journey, unfortunately now further complicated by the pandemic, but we are delighted to have reached this important milestone. The design team has been working hard during lockdown and we’re looking forward to restrictions lifting soon, so we can begin the practical work of giving some much needed love to a beautiful building. Achieving this agreement is a very significant step, which will help to unlock further resources and ensure we can move ahead towards our goal of restoring the library to its rightful place in the town centre and adding much needed town centre co-working and creative facilities.”
The temporary Library will continue to operate from Luxstowe House until the refurbished building is ready to deliver the library offer. A ‘click and collect’ library service is currently in place due to Covid 19 restrictions.