Fears have been voiced that plans to move Jedburgh Library away from the town’s centre could hit trade there.
Scottish Borders Council’s plans to relocate the current Castlegate library to the new intergenerational Jedburgh Grammar Campus are causing concern among some residents, resulting in 157 of them signing a petition objecting to the move.
Concerns raised include alleged difficulties in reaching the new site half a mile away, uncertainty over how much floorspace will be set aside for library use at the campus and fears for the fate of the current building if it is left vacant.
The campaigners’ petition was presented to councillors at Monday’s meeting of the council’s audit and scrutiny committee, and two of its organisers, Marianne Bamkin and Georgiana Craster, were there to state their case.
Ms Bamkin told councillors: “As a resident of Jedburgh, I think it’s fair to say we’ve come along to represent the views of people in Jedburgh and the surrounding villages and the surprise we noted when we were told the library would be moving from the town centre to the campus.
“This is something which was not actually expected throughout the region.
“There was a huge amount of concern about moving something from the town centre which is, at the moment, easily accessed. It’s also a contact point for the council.
“There is also a worry that people aren’t going to pop into nearby shops and use them. It’s taking something away from the town centre.
“There is also a big worry in Jedburgh about buildings going out of use.
“It is situated in a historic building that was purposefully built for the people of Jedburgh as a centre for information.”
Currently, the council is planning to close the old library, opened in May 1900, once the new £32m intergenerational campus at Hartrigge Park opens in April.
The library was built for Fife-born steel magnate Andrew Carnegie to replace one he’d had constructed in the town six years earlier.
The council’s service director for customers and communities, Jenni Craig, told the meeting that the library will have much longer opening hours at its new home, explaining: “In relation to accessibility, and the times that the library is open, one of the benefits of moving to the new campus will be that the library will be open longer.
“We accept that this is a huge change, but we also see this as an opportunity.
“Members will be aware that as part of the council’s Fit for 2024 transformation programme, we are considering how we can deliver services differently to make the best use of our facilities.
“We have a very challenging financial outlook and we have a five-year plan for transforming our services.
“In Jedburgh, the significant investment in the campus gives us the opportunity to make the most of the facility.”
After hearing from both sides, Tweeddale West councillor Heather Anderson proposed that the matter is formally referred to Ms Craig so she can hold a consultation, from January to March, to address the concerns expressed.
Her motion was seconded by Galashiels councillor Harry Scott and passed, with only Jedburgh councillor Sandy Scott voting against it.
Speaking after the meeting, petitioner Ms Craster said: “I’m happy. I was expecting a year-long consultation, but you know you ask for bigger and you get lesser, so this is something that we can actually put to the residents.
“There is a lot of sentimentality around the building, and we have to be practical.
“The school is a wonderful thing – no one is going to say anything against that – but we have to think about everybody. It’s not only about educating children – it’s also about the future of elderly people.”