Michael Palin 'embarrassed' by hotel plans for Sheffield Central Library

Michael Palin.

Michael Palin.

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One of Sheffield's most famous sons says he is 'embarrassed' by plans to convert the Central Library into a five star hotel.

Author and comic Michael Palin added his weight to the campaign against proposals from Sheffield's Chinese investment partner Sichuan Guodong Construction Group to redevelop the Grade II listed building in Surrey Street.

A quote from Michael Palin in Sheffield's Central Library.

A quote from Michael Palin in Sheffield's Central Library.

Sheffield Council has given the firm a 12-month exclusivity period to investigate the possibility of converting the building. The authority has promised to keep a full library service in the city centre if the deal goes ahead, and the firm wants to keep the Graves Gallery in the building and open to the public.

But Mr Palin, who rose to fame as part of Monty Python's Flying Circus, wrote to The Star and the Sheffield Telegraph expressing his dismay at the plans.

He said: "I note, with real regret, and some embarrassment for the city of my birth, that the council is proposing to sell of one of Sheffield’s finest public buildings to a hotel developer.

"The Sheffield Central Library embodies the very best aspects of civic pride. It’s a fine building, built to give education and literacy a prominent place at the very heart of the city.

"That a building, seeking to improve the lot of all Sheffielders, should end up as a hotel for the rich and privileged, seems a sad reflection on how little the city cares for its public service legacy."

Mr Palin is a vocal supporter of libraries, and a quote from him which reads ‘There is no institution I value more in this country than libraries’ sits at the top of the stairs on the first floor of the Central Library.

The council says the library building needs £30 million to bring it to modern standards and repair structural damage - money which it doesn't have. Cabinet member for community services and libraries Jack Scott said no decisions on the library service had yet been made.

More than 8,000 people have signed a petition calling on the council to keep the Central Library for public use. On Wednesday Rebecca Gransbury, who set up the petition, will present it to councillors.

A public meeting on the library service will take place at the Town Hall from 5.30pm on Tuesday.

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