Published: 16:15, 12 January 2021
| Updated: 20:10, 12 January 2021
Medway council has come under fire over plans to abandon Rainham Library in favour of a new community hub.
The plans set to be discussed by the council's Cabinet would see a 'modern new Community Hub in the heart of Rainham', which would combine library and other community services in one site at Rainham Shopping Precinct.
But opponents including Medway's Liberal Democrat group says the existing library is an iconic building and should be considered as the site of the new hub.
A statement from the Lib Dems said they were "shocked" over the plan, adding: "The Rainham Library has been an iconic landmark building for generations of Rainham residents.
"Many of their children have learnt to love books within its walls and has bought the community together in many ways."
They added: "What is also worrying is the secrecy with which the Conservative controlled Council is surrounding these plans.
"The first time any residents heard about them is when the story broke in the local press.
'Many of their children have learnt to love books within its walls...'
"Almost immediately, the meeting that is planned to discuss this proposal is being held away from the public and any scrutiny."
Resident Stuart Bourne, whose children use the library, said, "We can’t just abandon something like that just to save money.
"It is a wonderfully unique building, which has a charm all to itself.
"It is buildings like this that give Rainham its character and makes it such a special place to live. "Why can’t they refurbish it like they did to the library in Wigmore?
"This appears to be a plan to bring money into the council by selling the land for development."
The plans had been due to go before the council's cabinet at a meeting on Tuesday, but Rainham North councillors Martin Potter and Kirstine Carr asked for the item to be withdrawn, and requested more information before discussion proceeds.
Cllr Potter added: "Although we think it's laudable the council want to include Rainham in the highly successful community hub programme we were not happy with the detail in the report put forward by the council and asked for it to be withdrawn.
"As the local members, Cllr Carr and I, would like to see the most made of the existing facilities and we think the main focus for new provision in Rainham should be delivering the full refurbishment for the new Splashes."
A report prepared for the meeting stated the council’s Community Hub programme has "delivered a significant range of strategic benefits across Medway, securing footfall, engagement, customer service and economic benefits."
The recommendation to approve the plan also noted they that the scheme would help increase footfall into the shopping precinct.