HUDDERSFIELD'S imposing library building is rusting away, it was revealed today.
That will mean the building, which also houses the art gallery, has to be at least partly demolished, although it could be rebuilt.
The steel framework inside the 1930s building - regarded by many as a superb landmark - is in a terrible condition.
Details of the problems were revealed today by Clr John Smithson, days after Kirklees Council's Cabinet agreed to commission consultants to come up with plans for the building and the surrounding area in the town centre.
Clr Smithson, the Kirklees deputy leader, spelled out the dire need to carry out massive and urgent repairs.
He spoke after the Examiner received dozens of calls when it was revealed that redevelopment plans could include pulling down the library along with the Queensgate Market Hall, The Piazza and the Queensgate multi-storey car park.
The state of the library building is such that unless the repairs are done, it will become too dangerous for the public.
Experts who have carried out checks believe the framework inside the walls has to be repaired.
Similar problems hit a building in Sheffield and officials were forced to close it as the steel framework buckled and shifted.
Clr Smithson said: "I am very pleased to see the great interest shown by many people in the council's announcement to look at the feasibility of re-developing part of Huddersfield town centre - the library, piazza area, market hall and multi-storey car park, to help renew a largely outdated area of the town.
"As most of the concerns expressed to date have focused on the library building I hope it will be useful to make a few observations.
"What has come across very clearly is that the main concern is about the merits (or otherwise), of the building in its architectural context and as a familiar landmark.
"There has been much less comment about its purpose, ie to provide an effective, modern service for library users and visitors to the art gallery.
"The library was one of the first steel-frame buildings and after 60-plus years the steel frame is reaching the end of its life.
"This is why the repair costs are so high, since replacing the steel frame would mean dismantling much of the stonework of the building itself.
"Doing that would simply repair the building; it would not improve the access or services inside."
He said there were key questions to answer:
* Will spending £5m on repairs to the library building and still not be able to provide modern services be a good investment?
* Would it be better to spend a bit more on building a new state-of-the-art library and art gallery fit for the 21st century?
Clr Smithson added: "I do accept the strong affinity that people have with the building, particularly its front façade. We will ensure that this is taken on board in any future proposal that might emerge."
Comments already made by the public include:
* Huddersfield Library is completely out of date as regards internal fittings - it has a 1945 look.
* Toilet facilities are very poor. They need improvement and enlarging.
* The inside needs refurbishment to make it more cheerful and lighter. It's a dump at present.
* Cramped conditions by the counters.
* It needs a cafe/coffee bar
* More study space and seating is needed.
* The lift is old and needs replacing with a larger one.
Clr Smithson said:
"By bringing in consultants all we are doing is seeing what may, or may not, be possible."
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