Helston Library is set to be reduced in size as part of a £181,000 redevelopment to house the job centre under the same roof.

However, a new dedicated children’s library is being proposed in an area currently used as a garage and storage.

The Packet can reveal the first look at plans for the building, which will be closed for approximately 12 weeks during the summer so that major internal renovations can be carried out.

A planning application has now been submitted to Cornwall Council, whose cabinet members approved the £181,000 refit in March, paid for by £81,000 of capital contributions and borrowing the remaining £100,000.

There are two parts to the proposal, which includes the existing library area being divided, with one side containing books and the other being turned into desks and a meeting area for JobCentre Plus, which is to relocate from Coinagehall Street. The two areas would be differentiated by separate flooring, with the area taken by the Department for Work and Pensions being around 28 per cent of the floor area. 

There are also plans to include an accessible toilet for people with disabilities.

The second part of the application is to convert a garage at the back of the library into a new children’s area, which would include circular windows at varying heights, to allow children of different ages to see out, as well as colourful decoration. This,together with a new interview room, will increase the public area of the building by around ten per cent. 

Architects for the project state in the application: “The library is currently underused and the building could serve the community better by combining essential local services.

“It is proposed to downsize the library and provide space for Department for Work and Pension offices. This will comprise of internal refurbishment works only and no changes to the existing external facades.

“There is a surplus of room within the main library and an excess of space within the office / staff areas.”

They add that there have already been many alterations to the building, which was originally built as a fire station in the 1960s, to keep it up to standard.

The architects conclude: “The re-use of this building…creates new employment space and secures the long term, viable use of the building. The location is considered sustainable and appropriate for the use proposed.”

The council has also added: "The efficient use of the total building footprint  and new children’s library has enabled the development to include the Job Centre Plus operations with minimum impact  to the library services offered within Helston and has provided an improved level of customer access to essential public sector services, which can be offered and improved the customer experience from within a single location."

The renovations will allow Cornwall Council to relocate JobCentre Plus from its existing office in Coinagehall Street to the library, along with the One Stop Shop services currently based out of Isaac House in the Coinage Ope alleyway.

The council has said by combining all three services under one roof it will save £33,000 a year in rent – although the overall savings are likely to only be £24,000 as it would cost £9,000 to borrow money to help pay for the refurbishments.

The space made vacant by the relocation of the One Stop Shop will be rented out, with the Registrars services continuing to operate from Isaac house

Council officer Adam Birchall has previously stated: “Diminishing budgets mean that it is no longer viable to deliver library services in the same way.”

If the plans are approved by Cornwall Council then work is earmarked to begin in June and continue through the summer until November.

During that time the council has said there will be a “limited library service” run out of the One Stop Shop at Isaac House for three and a half days a week – the same hours the library currently opens - when customers can borrow books and have access to a public computer. 

It will also be possible to place reservations online free of charge and the items will be delivered to Isaac house for collection or to any other library in Cornwall. Customers will also be able to borrow more items and for a longer period of time.

The temporary service will be provided for a period of approximately 12 weeks during the refurbishment works.

There is no proposal to extend the staffed hours once Helston Library is reopened, with staff continuing to work for three and a half days, although there will be additional access to self-service machines on Tuesday and Thursdays.

The building is expected to be open for five and a half days a week, with all three services sharing IT equipment.

Helston’s registrars, who oversee marriage, birth and death certificates, will continue to work from Isaac House, with the council proposing to rent out the remaining space once the One Stop Shop has moved.