Brownfield funding source sees return of plans to move Droylsden library to Guardsmen Tony Downes House
Back in 2015, Tameside MBC began a consultation to move Droylsden Library from its existing premises to the ground floor of Guardsmen Tony Downes House. As I attended a creative writing group there (and fell in love with the library), I chose to fill in the consultation.
What I loved about Droylsden’s library was its inter-war modernist exterior. I loved the airiness at street level and the non-fiction section and study area lower down. What I was less impressed with (by 2015 standards) was its approach to all parts of the library for wheelchair users. The lift to its three floors is only suitable for carrying books instead of readers.
According to the Tameside MBC website, it stated that:
- Over 90% of respondents thought the plans would be an exciting opportunity for the local area.
- The same number of respondents were happy with plans to develop the new library whilst keeping the existing library open the new library opens.
- The provision of public toilets in the library was deemed a good idea.
- Over 95% of respondents wanted a fully accessible layout, especially for wheelchair users and prams.
- Over 80% of respondents thought having access to a community room is a good idea; the same number of respondents welcomed the flexible use of space for activities and events.
I too expressed the case for a fully accessible layout. Preferable to demolishing the Concord Suite and Civic Hall, the ground floor of Guardsmen Tony Downes House is in a neat central position. One better placed for buses and trams than the present building.
As funding wasn’t available in 2016, the plans were put on hold. Early this year, an £800,000 Brownfield Homes Grant Funding opportunity has helped to resurrect these plans. With this funding, Droylsden library could move to its all-singing, all-dancing and all-on-one-floor accessible home. On the flip side, successful funding means the demolition of the town’s purpose-built public library from 1937.
In its place is space for up to 80 homes – either as part of a separate scheme, or as part of the continued development of Tameside MBC’s Lock Keepers Court.
The state of the building has been hailed as a reason for demolition. Since Droylsden Swimming Baths moved to Medlock Leisure Centre, the public library looked increasingly isolated and had problems with antisocial behaviour. It could be argued that the maintenance of the building was prohibitive, as seen in the building’s grandeur. Another issue could be the building’s energy efficiency as well as accessibility.
Demolition is expected to begin on the 09 August 2021, lasting for eight weeks. By then, Droylsden Library will have settled into its new quarters, within a fortnight of its opening on the 30 July 2021.
Droylsden Library is a particularly rare architectural beast in the Tameside area. It is one of the borough’s few inter-war era public buildings, presumably designed by G. Noel Hill. As the County Architect for the County Palatine of Lancashire and Manchester Corporation, many of his other buildings in Tameside have been demolished. These include Egerton Park Comprehensive School, Audenshaw Library (off Guide Lane) and Droylsden Girls School (now Droylsden Academy, based in a newer fan-shaped building).
Opening a year later than Droylsden Library, the delivery office (and former Post Office) on Craven Street, is of similar design leanings.
Rumours of a Spoons conversion
Back in 2015, it was rumoured that the present Droylsden Library building would become one of J.D. Wetherspoon’s houses. With a lower than average step count than your typical ‘Spoons house, there could have been potential for outdoor seating with views of Droylsden Marina. There might have been one or two objections from the town’s publicans due to the chain’s business model. Then again, back in 2015, Tim Martin’s chain seemed to have been linked with goodness knows how many former public buildings and cinemas across the UK. With present-day plans, we could say this ship (or narrowboat?) has already sailed.
Should the building be preserved instead of demolished?
The building has potential for conversion into commercial office space or as a possible arts centre. It could be a good place for creative studio space or as a hackspace. One downside is that expensive work, like replacing the lift, and stripping or containing asbestos would be needed.
A further consultation, which builds upon the 2015 consultation exercise is available online. Just go to https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/droylsdenlibrary and fill in the online form there. The deadline is 17 March 2021 (St. Patrick’s Day). For further information, go to the Tameside MBC website’s page on Droylsden library https://www.tameside.gov.uk/tbc/droylsdenlibrary.
As well as doing the survey, feel free to share your views on East of the M60. Go on, you know you want to…
S.V., 09 March 2021.
Image of Droylsden Library by Alan Murray-Rust, 2013 (Creative Commons 2.0: Attribution Share-Alike License)