Central library Lack of light is insurmountable
CONFUSION surrounds the proposal to use part of the central library for the benefit of an academy school. Anyone who visited during Doors Open Day will have noticed that the majority of the historic building below ground level is dark, oppressive and airless, in fact the ideal conditions for the nationally important collections of books, journals, newspapers, photographs, and innumerable other historic documents. These are certainly not the ideal conditions in which children are likely to thrive.
Now a Grade I Listed building Central Library was designed and built with very specific functions in mind. The changes that would be required to convert the building to a completely different use cannot be underestimated. New ventilation, lighting, power, IT, insulation, fire protection, acoustic attenuation, and emergency escape for both library and school uses, are all critical, expensive and energy-hungry additions. All the more so when dealing with one of only 2.5 per cent of all listed buildings that are identified as amongst the most important to the nation. But surely it is natural daylight that will be the insurmountable problem here? The original windows are very small and quite inappropriate to properly illuminate modern classrooms.
Perhaps the building can be altered to some degree for this new use with the application of disproportionate sums of taxpayers' money, but it will never meet modern environmental requirements that the mayor would demand in other instances.
And what are the likely implications for travel to and from the new school? The Mayor has already highlighted the dangerously high traffic pollution in this part of the city. From a health perspective having a school so close to a busy road is already objectionable, but with a school whose catchment area covers the entire city there are likely to be unacceptable increases in traffic from the notorious "school run".
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A far better solution might be to review the school's present over-developed and unsustainable site entirely and divert its present energies into finding them a more sustainable new location.