By Colin Gibson

After efforts by the local community to keep it open after its initial closure order in May 2018, Ore public library will now close and will be “disposed of” by East Sussex County Council (ESCC), according to this statement issued on June 26th 2019:  

“A year ago we agreed in principle to lease the former Ore library building on a peppercorn rent to the Ore Community Association for a community library to be provided at the site. We have been working hard together for the past year to make this work, but reluctantly we have come to the view that we are not able to progress with the proposal any further. As no other proposals to run a community library at the site have been received, we will now seek approval to dispose of the site.”

“We would like to remind local residents that there are 2 libraries in Hastings, Hollington Library and the Hastings Library, which offers all the facilities of a modern library building after a £9.5 million refurbishment, completed last year. The County Council also provides a comprehensive e-Library which can be accessed at home or on the go.”

We spoke to former town councillor Richard Street, whose Facebook group has been at the forefront of the campaign to save this important public asset. He stressed that a branch library like the one at Ore is a long way from Hastings town centre or Hollington, and that its situation, between the Downs Farm and Broomsgrove housing estates, is in one of the most socially deprived areas in the country. “For people living there, the suggestion that the nearest library is going to require an £8.50 bus ride is clearly a financial bar,” he told us, adding that if you are elderly and isolated, a visit to the library adds up to a lot more, socially speaking, than merely borrowing a book. “The other thing is, of course, the access to a computer, which not everyone has. You may have a mobile phone, but if you want to do something like claim Universal Credit, you need an actual computer.”

Mr. Street replied to the July 26th ESCC statement as follows: 

“The statement says that no other proposals have been received but when we spoke, you said you would be happy to talk with anybody who might have a proposal. There has been no opportunity for anybody to put forward an alternative proposal as this is the first official statement of your decision. Since I posted the news on Facebook at the weekend, more than a dozen people have put themselves forward to form a group to look into preparing a proposal led by Ore Ward HBC councillor Heather Bishop. I hope you will give them the serious support and consideration you suggested last week.”

A meeting attended by Hastings Voluntary Action director Steve Manwaring and co-ordinated by HBC councillor Heather Bishop will take place later today (Monday July 8th, after we go to press), in an attempt to rescue the situation. It is thought that one of the suggestions may be to register the branch library as an asset of community value, which allows six months “breathing space” to allow the community to come up with a more viable proposition. Mr. Street retained some degree of optimism: “I don’t really see why there should be any problem, assuming they can get a reasonable group of serious people…who are prepared to do the leg-work and get some kind of business plan together,” noting that branch libraries at Pevensey and Ringmer are now being run successfully by volunteers after being shut down by ESCC.

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