Plans to buy Midhurst’s Old Library are defended

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Midhurst town councillors have defended their plans to buy the Old Library in the face of a substantial council tax increase.

Town council tax payer Derek Smith said there had been a 43 per cent increase in Midhurst’s share of the tax this year, the main purpose of which was to create a £50,000 reserve towards buying the building which the town council currently leases from West Sussex County Council.

“The building isn’t going to cost £50,000,” he said, “and this rise will be maintained for several years so the true cost will be considerably higher.”

He pointed out the eventual cost of the South Downs National Park’s (SDNPA) headquarters in North Street had been substantially higher than original estimates and added: “The Old Library doesn’t look like a building the town council should be taking on.”

Town council chairman Mark Purves said there was no comparison between the two projects as the SDNPA had had to gut the building which was not the case with the Old Library.

Town councillor Gordon McAra said the purchase price was £350,000 and the council hoped to buy it with £100,000 funding from council tax (£50,000 earmarked over two years) section 106 developers contributions and grants from several sources. “We have looked at the figures and we think they are realistic - it’s not our intention to keep the precept high. We are trying to keep the building for public use and not see it turned into housing or commercial activity.”

There was, he said, a shortage of affordable community space available in the town.

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