A replacement Central Library could be paid for by borrowing against the millions of pounds in revenue a controversial new five-star hotel would bring in, council bosses have said.
Councillor Jack Scott, cabinet member for libraries, said the option is a possibility during a special council hearing on plans to allow a Chinese construction firm that has signed a 60-year partnership deal with Sheffield Council to turn the current Central Library on Surrey Street into a luxury hotel.
More than 10,000 people have signed a petition against the plans and have called for funding to be found to refurbish the current building, which is in need of millions of pounds worth of repairs and accessibility improvements.
Rebecca Gransbury, who started the petition, said she had spoken to officials in Manchester, where the council was involved in a £55m redevelopment of their existing library rather than moving to a new site, who described their building as the ‘jewel in the crown’ of their library service.
She asked why Sheffield could not follow their lead given the city’s Central Library has a higher percentage of the population using it each year compared to Manchester.
She said she was concerned the costs of creating a new building would ‘spiral’.
Councillor Scott said refurbishment would be a ‘fall-back plan’ should the hotel idea fall through.
“It is important to be honest about that,” he said.
“If this doesn’t happen, that does create a problem and that is the point where we consider renovation much more than we are currently doing.”
He added: “There are funding solutions that could help and assist with new buildings that are unlikely to be available for renovation. If the hotel development does come off, there will be £1m of additional business rates every year. The authority could borrow against that for the money to create a replacement.”