A bold claim from last April that Ore Library had been saved for the community – seen by many at the time as an electioneering stunt – has come to nothing.
Worse still it looks like East Sussex County Council now plans to sell off the old library building which could dash all hopes of ever seeing it re-open as a community facility.
This week East Sussex County Council announced it was puling the plug on attempts to reach an agreement with Ore Community Association about re-opening the library, a spokesman said: “A year ago we agreed in principle to lease the former Ore library building on a peppercorn rent to the Ore Community Association for a community library to be provided at the site.
“We have been working hard together for the past year to make this work but reluctantly we have come to the view that we are not able to progress with the proposal any further. As no other proposals to run a community library at the site have been received, we will now seek approval to dispose of the site.”
In April 2018 as campaigning was getting underway for elections to Hastings Borough Council (HBC) it was announced by the Conservative candidates standing for the two wards in Ore that the Library had been saved from closure.
One of the candidates, James Dee, published a lengthy post on Facebook telling his followers: “…delighted to announce that your Conservative County Councillor, Laurie Loe, has been working tirelessly behind the scenes to secure the future of Ore Library.
“Laurie has been facilitating and organising meetings between Ore Community Centre and officers at East Sussex County Council to find a way forward to ensure the library can still function in Ore for residents.
“The latest news is that the Library has now been saved!”
Almost immediately there were questions from community activists about what ‘saved’ actually meant and it soon became clear that the full services provided by the library were not going to continue.
It had been announced in 2017 that Ore Library would close in May 2018 as part of cost cutting by East Sussex County Council and there had been a vigorous local campaign to keep the facility open.
Former HBC councillor Richard Street says: “There was a great community-led campaign which they (the Conservatives) kept well out of.”
At the time he was skeptical about just what would be on offer: “They won’t have access to the ESCC database of library members or the vast expertise of the library service. The building may stay open and it may be possible to borrow books but a library is a lot more than bricks and mortar and a few books. Will they have access to the full ESCC library catalogue? Running a library is very different from running a community centre,” he said at the time.
In May Hastings In Focus asked why it was taking so long to re-open the library’s doors, ESCC Councillor Laurie Loe told us he was disappointed that the library had been closed for so long but said a longer closure was preferable if that ensured the survival of the library when it eventually reopened, “I’d rather it be closed a year to be able to continue for another ten years than it be shut for a week but only survive six months when it reopens,” he said at the time.
“This is a big commitment for the community association to take on,” he added.
Chairman of the Ore Community Association in May was Terry Fawthrop and he blamed ‘unfounded’ and ‘malicious’ accusations that had been made against the association for the delay but he was confident the association had the necessary resources to make a success of the library he told Hastings In Focus the association already had volunteers ready to man the facility and one of the association’s trustees would oversee the running of the project.
At the time he said the association was finalising paperwork with the Charities Commission and he had hoped to reopen the library during the summer.
With the news that hopes of re-opening the library through the Ore Community Association were now dead Hastings Borough Councillor for Ore Heather Bishop has already started the ball rolling to see if another rescue plan can be put in place.
Writing on Facebook this week she said: “The opportunity to open the Ore village library as a community library is now open! We need a merry band of volunteers, advisors and supporters so we may collate our skills and approach ESCC.”
At the moment Ms Bishop hopes to convene a meeting within a fortnight to attempt to work out a way forward.
In the meantime the spokesman for ESCC said: “We’d like to remind local residents that there are two libraries in Hastings – Hollington Library and Hastings Library, which offers all the facilities of a modern library building after a £9.5 million refurbishment which was completed last year. The county council also provides a comprehensive eLibrary which can be accessed at home or on the go.”