Rutland County Council is attempting to reassure people who are concerned about its plan to relocate the Visions Children’s Centre to Oakham Library that it will be a positive move.
As previously reported in the Mercury, the council wants to move the centre to provide an “enhanced, joined-up service for local residents” and to free up space at Catmose College where it is currently based.
The decision was taken at a cabinet meeting in September, and it is proposed the children’s centre will move to the library by summer 2017.
But residents living in Alwyne Close, Oakham, which is adjacent to the library site are opposed to the move.
Citing a number of concerns, including traffic congestion, a lack of parking, and a perceived lack of communication with those living nearby, the group has been handing out leaflets urging people to attend a development control committee meeting at 6pm next Tuesday at which the plans are due to be discussed.
Mike and Jan Reynolds have lived in Alwyne Close for 16 years. Jan said: “The first we knew about the plan was when a neighbour said they’d received a letter about it.
“It’s the wrong place for a children’s centre. Parking is very difficult – there’s a few one-hour bays on the main road but they are nearly always full. It would be better somewhere like Oakham Enterprise Park where there is free on-site parking.
“If people use the Burley Road, council, or museum car parks they’ll have to cross busy roads to get here. That could be dangerous for mothers with young children.
“A library is supposed to be a quiet place – how would it work having a children’s centre and play area nearby?
“People we speak to just aren’t aware of the proposal. We have been handing out leaflets to change that.”
Mike added: “Access to our homes, via Bull Lane, is already very difficult because of the road layout and amount of traffic. If the centre does move here that will get worse.”
Visions Children’s Centre provides a range of activities and services, including drop-in sessions for families seeking advice and specialist support for new parents.
Rutland County Council said letters had been sent to immediate neighbours and news releases had been sent to local media – including the Mercury which has reported on this subject.
Planning notices will also go up on lamp posts.
Councillor Richard Foster (Con), portfolio holder for children and young people, said basing the children’s centre on the same site as the library makes sense: “We have visited Northamptonshire where they have LibraryPlus, which sees children’s centres and libraries and libraries successfully operated under one roof.
“Libraries already offer a lot of services for young children and families. Moving the Visions centre here will help create a more joined-up service for local people.
“The current centre has no outdoor play area for children – but the new location on the library site will have one.
“It will be not be visited by huge numbers of people. Around 10 to 15 families per session is the usual.
“Catmose College needs the space. We have looked very carefully at a number of other options, but the library was the most suitable location.
“We want the best deal for children and families and co-locating in the library in the heart of Oakham is exactly what we should be doing.”
Coun Terry King (Con), council leader and portfolio holder for development, said parking spaces will be provided for centre users in the Rutland County Museum car park.
He said: “There will be three parking bays on site and 10 will be allocated in the museum car park. These will be free for centre visitors to make use of.
“There is a crossing point in the road, and a pedestrian island, for people to make use of. A lot of people will come on foot or on public transport.”
Under the plans approved by cabinet, the relocation of the visions centre will coincide with scheduled improvement work to Oakham Library, with refurbishment work due to begin in January.
A modular extension to the library building is proposed, to house the children’s centre – which would have its own entrance. During the work, the library service will temporarily move to the museum.
Coun King said “categorically” the library will return to its current home once the work is complete.