Devon County Council has announced that St Thomas library will be forced to relocate from its Church Road home when its lease expires in November after its landlord sought a substantial rent increase at the same time as a longer term.
The library had been hoping to renew its lease on the building, which it has occupied for ten years, after Exeter Estates Holdings withdraw its application to demolish and replace it with a block of thirteen flats earlier this year.
The company, which is also developing a 60-acre predominantly greenfield site on the edge of Exeter in partnership with Global City Futures, is controlled by Tony Rowe, CEO and chairman of Exeter Chiefs, who has a range of property development interests in and around the city.
Rob Hannaford, who is county councillor for Exwick & St Thomas and also a city councillor for St Thomas, said the library is “a hugely successful popular community hub for the whole West Exe area” which “does a huge amount of work to support local families” in addition to providing core library services.
He said this extends to include child literacy, public health, employment training and cultural and community events.
He added that while the prospect of relocation “could be a good opportunity to move into a more inclusive, bigger space that will allow the library to continue to expand and develop” people would nevertheless fear permanent closure, saying: “We must all work hard together to try and ensure that this does not happen.”
The county council says it cannot afford to agree the landlord’s new terms and so is inviting residents, community groups and other property owners to help identify possible new premises for the library in St Thomas.
It is willing to consider a temporary pop-up or a longer-term solution. As the current lease only has two months to run, people are invited to respond by no later than 17 October.