Work on developing a new library and housing complex in Shenfield is likely to be completed by 2024 – Essex County Council’s planning committee has been told ahead of a meeting set to approve planning permission.
The county council development will see the construction of a new three-storey building providing a new library and a commercial unit on the ground floor and nine flats above on the first and second floor.
Essex County Council (ECC) has said that it is clear from the Essex Future Library Services Strategy 2019-2024 that in the long term – “it is unlikely that ECC will be able to maintain a library on the site without some form of change”.
There has been opposition to the library, with one contributor arguing that “this whole project smarts of money first over community happiness. The development is too big and doesn’t achieve what the community wants, which is a commitment from ECC and Brentwood Borough Council that the library will remain forever”.
However ECC development and regulation officers said the design has been well thought through and once built the building would “positively contribute to the street scene and community”.
A statement to the planning committee for Friday’s quasi-judicial meeting said: “Whilst this proposal seeks to re-develop this site to a greater scale than existing and introduce new land uses (residential and commercial), it is clear from the Essex Future Library Services Strategy 2019-2024 that in the long term it is unlikely that Essex County Council will be able to maintain a library (community use) on the site without some form of change.
“The building on-site, as existing, is a typical 1960’s building, which it has been suggested is not efficient to run and incorporates a lot of spaces/areas which are not easily usable in terms of offering library services. No objection in principle is therefore raised to the concept of re-developing this site to provide a more modern, energy efficient building for community use.
“With regard to the introduction of residential flats above the replaced library provision, the Government has a strategic objective to significantly boost the supply of homes and it is noted that Brentwood Borough Council does not currently have a five year housing land supply. As a concept, the addition of residential accommodation is in principle also therefore supported.
“In terms of design and layout, it is accepted that the proposals would by virtue of the scale of the development give rise to a change in the character of the site. However, it is considered that the design rationale has been well thought through and once built it is considered that the building and re-landscaped green/open areas in front of the building would positively contribute to the street scene and community.
“It is furthermore not considered that the development would give rise to any amenity impacts at a level to warrant refusal and/or impacts to highway safety and efficiency subject to the imposition of appropriate conditions.
“The proposals are considered policy compliant and accordingly representative of sustainable development as per the National Planning Policy Framework definition.”