Eye Library and youth centre at risk of sale

As reported in this week’s Peterborough Telegraph and by the BBC, Peterborough City Council is planning to sell the building that houses the village’s youth club and library. The review into the sale of the building was approved by Peterborough City Council’s Conservative cabinet in July 23 (Appendix B – Disposal Plan) and council officers have already completed a valuation of the building. In 2019 the government investigated the council to see if they broke the law by selling public assets to help meet its running costs. The issue is many of these assets to bring in much needed revenue in the form of rent over a longer term, selling these assets may bring a chunk of money in one big hit but once they are gone they are gone for good.

The governments asset disposal guidance calls for local authorities to dispose of assets they deem as surplus in fact: “At the Spending Review 2015, the government announced a package of measures to enable the release of public sector assets for more productive use, supporting growth and efficiency.” As it says “assets that could be made surplus” not assets just assets that are currently surplus.

The building which is in the village’s conservation area dates back to 1855 was originally built to be the village’s school. It was a working school for almost 100 years but when the current school on Eyebury Road opened in 1951 it closed. Today it continues to be the villages library and is used by both the youth club and the Girl Guides group with nearly 70 children between the age of nine and 12 using the Eye junior youth club. The City Council has said Manor Farm community Centre could be used to provide the facilities in the current building but it isn’t a suitable alternative for a number of reasons, including a lack of storage, no secure outside play area and unsuitable flooring. I’m sure if the council found a million pounds to build a suitable extension to Manor Farm Community Centre before they close and sell the current building, residents maybe more amenable.

MP Paul Bristow said “It’s a fantastic, thriving community hub for young people in Eye. The resources there are already stretched, this Youth Club is and will be a vital hub for the community as the village continues to grow.”

The city council has found itself with a multi-million budget deficit and needs to sell assets to stave off bankruptcy as happened to Birmingham City Council. The council’s overall debt has also increased from around £250 million in 2014 to over £450 million today which has also added to the pressures. This won’t have been helped by the recent purchase of the council’s HQ, Sandmartin House for over £47 million, the loan of £23 million to Empower for a solar panel scheme which went bust a few years ago, a £15 million loan to the developers of the Hilton Hotel on Fletton Keys which also went bust and £3 million spent on developing a solar farm project close to Newborough which then didn’t happen.

Deputy Council Leader and Cabinet Member for Corporate Governance and Finance John Howard said in the Peterborough Telegraph: “That this is a review, no decisions have been made” and “Every decision that is made will go through the council scrutiny process and cabinet.”

We will be following the outcome of these meetings closely.

An appeal has been launched by resident Dale McKean to try to keep the building in public hands. Dale said to the BBC: “We already have hundreds of signatures. Eye residents are very angry and children are very upset at the council’s decision. No one was consulted or informed about this.” “The village has grown considerably in the last 10 years and these facilities are absolutely needed for young families and children”.

According to the census the village has grown by over by over a thousand residents in the past 10 years, the highest growth in a village in the Peterborough area and more community facilities are needed, not less.

Our MP Paul Bristow has written to the council and will be at the library on Friday 17 November at 11am to talk to residents.

Lets hope common sense prevails and the building is retained in public hands…

In the media

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