Many people who have been following the issue in the city will know that the proposal to build a new primary school in the lower two floors of the Central Library has now been given the go ahead.
I am a great admirer of the Central Library, which I have nominated in the past as one of my very favourite Bristol buildings. I was therefore initially concerned to hear of the proposal to convert part of it into a new primary school. As mayor I welcomed the extensive public debate that was generated by this issue, with much media interest and coverage, even if sometimes it seemed to generate more heat than light!
It demonstrates how much we value our libraries, understand the value of books and appreciate this particularly wonderful building. I share that feeling with the campaigners, which is why, after taking the trouble of informing myself of all the issues, I am now convinced of the great benefits of this proposal to this and future generations of our city.
Firstly our world-class library collection will still offer quick access to its prized reference collection, which will be partly amalgamated with the city archives at A-Bond, and can now, utilising the capital sum for the lease, be updated and catalogued so the whole stock is available online.
At the same time the new primary school, which will occupy space that was never designed or used for public access, will provide places for over 400 more Bristol children in a city that is in desperate need of more primary school places. The school’s proximity to the library will no doubt act as a catalyst for developing the next generation’s love of books.
I am also pleased to say that all this comes fully funded by the Department for Education whilst offering the city a guaranteed annual rental income, making it a win win for Bristol.
This opportunity could not be more favourable to the city, the Cathedral Choir School and to our much valued library service. I am relieved that the issue is, subject to listed building and planning consent, now resolved. I do hope that when all this is done and dusted and the lower part of the building is brought to life as a school, that the campaigners will be able to acknowledge that this was not such a bad proposal after all.