MIRFIELD could be set for a brand-new library – if a local housing developer’s vision is realised.
Darren Smith Developments has outlined plans to build a new two-storey library on the site of the Lidl store on Station Road, as part of an ambitious housing scheme.
The firm would then take on and refurbish the current library building, creating a high-end restaurant.
Lidl are in the process of building a new 30,000sq ft store on the other side of Station Road, creating up to 20 new jobs.
The site of their current store – which will eventually be demolished – has been acquired by Darren Smith and will be redeveloped for housing.
This week he spoke to the Friends of Mirfield Library group, where he put forward his plans.
The proposed scheme comprises 93 one- and two-bedroomed apartments contained in four blocks, with undercroft car parking on the ground floor, and three levels of accommodation above. Adjoining the town centre car park – just yards from the current library – there would also be a purpose-built new community facility of around 2,000 sq ft over two levels, which could house the existing library and provide accommodation for various community uses and activities.
If given the go-ahead, Mr Smith has asked for Eastthorpe Lodge – the town’s current library – in return, which he plans to redevelop as an up-market restaurant.
The existing gardens would remain and be sympathetically renovated.
The current library has no toilet facilities, no lift to the second floor and limited space for community events.
Informal talks have taken place between the housing developer and Kirklees Council’s planning department and it is expected a formal planning application will be submitted soon.
Mr Smith described the reaction to his plans as positive and hoped they would be given the green light once submitted.
He said: “We spoke with the ‘friends’ group earlier this week and it was received very well and we hopefully have their support.
“It is crucial for a town like Mirfield that it has a new, modern library and it also gives an opportunity for a new, much-needed restaurant, providing an increase in footfall.
“Everybody is going to benefit from this. We have held informal chats with the council, who were supportive of the plans – there have been no negatives.”
The Friends of Mirfield Library said they were keen to discuss Mr Smith’s plans further but they were pleased with what they had seen so far. The group’s chair, Jenny Tomlinson Walsh, said: “Darren Smith made an excellent presentation of the draft plan showing the proposed new development.
“The Friends of Mirfield Library were impressed with the proposals for the future of the library and surrounding area.
“The plan is still only a feasibility and very much in its infancy so it may be some time before the ideas for the future become reality.
“Following reassurances that the existing Mirfield Library and gardens would remain and be sympathetically renovated, the Friends of Mirfield Library voted at the meeting in favour of exploring the possibility of a new library building.
“It will be a building designed to cater for 21st century library needs, complete with internet cafe and community rooms.”
A Kirklees Council spokesman said: “At a recent meeting with Mr Smith, he outlined his proposal to officers.
“To date, no in-depth discussions have taken place with the relevant Cabinet member on this proposal, and the council has not received a request for a formal asset transfer of the existing Mirfield Library building.”