Councillor defends library move – amid protests.

Bath Newseum has been talking to Cllr Martin Veal – the B&NES Cabinet member who holds the brief for Community Services – and that includes Bath’s Central Library.

As we now know the Council want to move it – in a more contemporary form – to two upper floors of its Manvers Street premises at Lewis House. The building’s better known as the One Stop Shop – already offering every service from planning enquiries to a police desk and access to the Curo Housing Group.


The idea’s to be ready to add the newly-shaped library to its facilities by the spring of 2018.

There will be less emphasis on books and more on on-screen information and – l think most important of all – it’s going to save B&NES  £800,000 a year and contribute to the 49 million pounds the council has to cut from its budget over the next four years.

There will not be as many books on display if the library moves to Manvers Street.

Cllr Veal says in his interview that they could have scrapped the service altogether but chose instead to find a ‘creative way forward’.

Until it gets the blessing of the full Council – this is only a proposal. They will vote on February 14th. They will not be alone at the Guildhall. Outside will be an organised demonstration by those who see the plans as a reduction in services with less books and staff.


There is currently a Save Bath Central Library petition on line at and Facebook and Twitter campaigns underway. It is pointed out that Moorland Road, Paulton, Radstock, Weston and Saltford all stand to lose their libraries entirely.

The new library facility will offer car parking across the road. University of Bath students will have access to their own new library and study area in the old police station.

Click below to listen to Cllr Veal’s take on the proposals and why he thinks the change has to happen.

Bath Central Library has been at the Podium for more than 25 years. Prior to that it had a fragmented history.

From 1924 until 1960 Bath Library had expanded to occupy the ground floor of the Victoria Art Gallery.

Then, several proposals for new Library accommodation were made – including converting the Technical College building at the north side of the Guildhall and even the Assembly Rooms.

In 1960 severe flooding in Bath caused an inundation of the storage spaces under Newmarket Row behind the Colonnades.

Three thousand volumes of reference stock and bound music volumes were lost.

Photographic memories from the Central Library collection.
Photographic memories from the Central Library collection.

In 1964, the City Council acquired the property of the BRSLI following its closure in 1959.

The Reference Library and Reading Room were moved to 18 Queen Square, separating the Library departments.

In 1990, the Podium was constructed in Northgate Street, and the new Bath Central Library was opened on the top floor – reuniting the Lending and Reference libraries on one site.

In 2004-5 Bath Central Library underwent a major refurbishment. Library services were provided by a temporary library in the Exhibition Rooms for the duration. Staff were housed in any space available.

Now another chapter in its history is about to be written.


  1. Is Councillor Veal being disingenuous when he says “they could have scrapped the service altogether” or is he unaware that local authorities have a statutory duty under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 ‘to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service for all persons’? And is saving £800,000 – should it actually materialise – really ‘most important of all’? It represents less than £10 per head per city resident. Lewis House was expensively fitted out as council offices just a few years ago – now all to be ripped out to provide a much smaller space for a library with far fewer books, spread over two floors with poor access from street level. (And how long will Manvers Street car park be available?) It’s ironic that B&NES, with one of the largest property portfolios of any local authority, is intent on squeezing its public services into one of its grottiest buildings. Where is the civic pride compared with, say, Birmingham with its grand new central library or Slough’s The Curve or Pembrokeshire’s £3.4m plan for a new library and gallery? Why doesn’t B&NES get on with redeveloping Manvers Street car park or the Cattle Market and incorporate a new library and archive centre? The current proposals – from what little we know since it’s mostly been planned in secret with no public input – are a disgrace and should be thrown out.

    1. Agree with everything you say Roger.Martin Veale is an unconvincing salesman .His veiled threat and dubious statistics are woeful.Library comes from Libris meaning book,not that’s what it means to Martin Veale,only information.A city steeped in literature means nothing apparentlyA library without books to the fore is demonstrably NOT A LIBRARY!

  2. Incidentally, if the library really can manage with less space why not move the city archives to the Podium and create a unified resource? The reason, of course, is that money is the driving force.

  3. Roger Houghton is back with another point of view!

    “Comment: “Data collected by Bath Central Library over an average week shows how people use the library”

    My information is that this counted only those using the issue desk to have their loans processed manually. It doesn’t include those using the self-service machines – ie the majority!

    Re. Study space. Presumably only University of Bath students will be welcome in the old police station. Does Cllr. Veal know what proportion they are of current users?

    Re. parking, Manvers Street car park is earmarked for redevelopment in the new Core Strategy.

    And finally… these are to the same scale:

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