Thatcham library to be refurbished with disabled-access toilet
THATCHAM Library is in line for a refurbishment to provide a disabled-access toilet to fix a short-term problem while future plans for the building are drawn up.
Thatcham Town Council has pressed West Berkshire Council to install the loo as well as improve the entrance area to try to reduce antisocial behaviour.
The town council, which has paid £24,000 each year since 2017 to help run the library following district budget cuts, said it was not getting value for its money.
Following ongoing talks the district council looked at options based on a budget of £25,000 to £30,000, £50,0000 or £100,000, but, with larger plans for the library looming, the council has chosen the cheaper option as best value for money.
The money will provide a public toilet in the current entrance lobby area, with the entrance being relocated within the garden of Walnut Close.
The area outside the current entrance will be redesigned to make it unsuitable for sitting or walking on in a bid to discourage its use as a meeting place and reduce antisocial behaviour.
West Berkshire Council will pay for the work, but has asked the town council to provide another financial contribution to keep the library running.
Speaking at a meeting last week, West Berkshire Council culture and libraries manager Paul James said the proposal "solved the immediate problem" of not having a toilet without "spending money that maybe better used for a greater plan in the long-term".
The NWN reported in April that the council was looking at redeveloping the library and former Walnut Close care home site, potentially including a combined doctors surgery, library and affordable housing.
Mr James said there was agreement in the council that Thatcham needed better facilities based on its population and library usage.
He said there was only enough space for one toilet, which would be for all library users.
"It won't be accessible from the outside," he said. "You should be able to come into the library and there's a very good toilet facility there.
"We are not in favour of having it available from the outside. It's too much to manage and might cause more anti-social behaviour."
Mark Lillycrop (Lib Dem, Thatcham West) asked what time scale the council was working to "given it's very much a priority for the town".
Mr James said: "Our intention is to get on with it immediately, subject to getting the technical drawings done and finding a suitable contractor."
Town council leader David Lister (Lib Dem, Thatcham West) welcomed the addition of the toilets saying "it's great news".
He said: "It's long overdue but we have a positive outcome."