|County Councillor Terry Douris (Executive Member for Education, Localism and Libraries) met the petitioner (Diana Jones on behalf of the Friends of Sawbridgeworth Library) at County Hall Hertford on 3 November 2017 to discuss the concerns expressed in the petition. Present at the meeting were Diana Jones (Petitioner on behalf of the Friends of Sawbridgeworth Library) Valerie Bright (former Mayor and Town Councillor in Sawbridgeworth)Terry Douris (Executive member for Education, Libraries and Localism) Tim Hutchings (Deputy Executive Member for Education, Libraries and Localism) Andrew Bignell (Head of Libraries and Heritage Services) It should be noted that the petition is headed ‘Save Our Library’, but the County Council has no plans to close Sawbridgeworth Library. The proposal is to provide a brand new library for Sawbridgeworth, co-located with the retained Fire Station in the town. The proposal Sawbridgeworth was one of 11 libraries highlighted in the ‘Inspiring Libraries’ Strategy as priorities for relocation or re-provision, because the current building is unsuitable for the delivery of a 21st Century library service. The proposal is to build a purpose-built extension on to the current fire station to create a light, bright flexible, welcoming, tech enabled, modern library space. The public area of the new library will be equivalent to that in the current building, and it will hold the same amount of stock, but the new building will have the following advantages:•Accessibility – the whole library will be on ground floor level – fully accessible for people with disabilities and mobility problems. Flexibility – modern shelving on wheels, which can be moved to create space for activities organised by the library and other community partners •A public toilet with disabled access •New modern, attractive library furniture •The opportunity to install swipe card technology to extend self-service access to the library beyond core hours, which would not be possible in the current building. Sharing staff facilities and office space between the Library and the Fire Station will also reduce running costs for both services. The project would be financed partly from the sale of the current library site, partly from Section 106 money, and partly from grant funding provided by the Home Office as part of the Fire and Rescue Transformation Programme. This grant funding is specifically for the development of the fire station, and could not be used to improve the current library building. The principal points raised by the petitioner were as follows: The fire station site is inconvenient, as it is not in the centre of the town. •The Fire Station is situated very close to the current library •It is on a busy walking route through the town, used to access the two schools north and south of Station Road •The geographic centre of the town is likely to move to the north as planned future development will be closer to the Fire Station site than to the current library. The fire station site is less accessible than the current library. •The current library is the least accessible library building in Hertfordshire – located on two floors, linked by a narrow staircase. There is no disabled access to half the public space, and fitting a lift into the current building would be prohibitively expensive. The County Council has a responsibility to comply with the law regarding disabled access. •Five parking spaces are designated for the Library in the new proposal, including disabled parking The fire station site is dangerous because access to the site would be shared between retained fire fighters and library users. Sawbridgeworth Fire Station is one of the quietest stations in the County (fewer than 3 call outs a week in 2016). Fire and Rescue have every confidence in the operational safety of the proposal. Nevertheless, health and safety is an important concern, and the following adjustments to the original plans are proposed to ensure the safety of the site: •Audible warning to sound in the library when there is a call out to alert library customers. •Hard or soft barriers to separate pedestrian access to the library entrance from vehicle access to the fire station. •Push button operation of the library doors, rather than automatic opening, to prevent small children from running out on to the road. Pedestrian access to the new library would be across a busy road on a dangerously sited pedestrian crossing adjacent to the junction with Knight Street.The petitioner expressed particular concern that traffic surveys conducted as part of the feasibility work had been done at peak times. She pointed out that the road was always busy. As the level crossing gates close every four minutes, a backlog of traffic builds up, and frustrated drivers are tempted to speed up the hill, breaking the 30mph speed limit. She drew attention to fatal accidents on Station Road in the past, but she was not aware of any serious accidents on the crossing itself. •The traffic survey work will be reviewed to ensure that it includes a speed and volume check over seven days to identify the average speed of traffic along Station Road throughout the day. •An onsite meeting will be arranged with HCC Highways and Stomor (highways consultants) to consider whether improvements could be made to the existing crossing. Sawbridgeworth Town Council will be invited to attend this meeting. There is a great deal of affection for the current library building in Sawbridgeworth, where residents regard it as a part of their history.It is understood that there is emotional attachment to the library building, but it was unsuitable for the provision of a modern library service, and could not easily be improved on its current site. The County Council needed to consider current service needs. The current library does not have disabled toilet facilities. Councillor Douris summed up thanking the petitioners for taking the time to express their concerns. He assured them that no final decision had yet been taken on whether to go ahead with the proposed relocation of the library, and the County Council was committed to meeting again with Sawbridgeworth Town Council before a planning application was submitted.