By Charlotte Green, Local Democracy Reporter
TAMESIDE’S historic Central Library and Art Gallery is to close to the public and be converted into council offices under new plans.
Town hall chiefs want to move the library service into the new Tameside One building on Wellington Road, part of the multi-million pound Vision Tameside project.
But art lovers will be left without an alternative to the Central gallery in Ashton once its doors close in January.
Relocating the library facility out of the Grade II listed building on Old Street means it will be made ‘redundant’, according to plans submitted by the council.
Officers say the move comes as part of the borough’s ‘wider rationalisation’ of its library service, and Tameside One offers easier access to more residents.
The proposal by the authority is to convert the 125-year-old building into offices to house 150 council staff, as a way of ‘conserving’ its heritage.
The library was originally built from money bequeathed by George Heginbottom JP and designed by architects John Eaton and Sons in Victorian Gothic style.
Proposals to offset the loss of gallery and art space in Tameside are due to be discussed by executive cabinet at Dukinfield Town Hall.
As part of the plans, the opening hours of the Astley Cheetham Art Gallery in Stalybridge will be increased to ensure residents have access to exhibitions after the closure of the Central building.
The gallery is currently open just two Saturdays a month, which would rise to 17 hours a week once a redevelopment of the gallery is complete.
In the cabinet report, Tameside’s head of environmental development Alison Lloyd-Walsh states that once reopened it would see an ‘enhanced visitor experience and more artworks on show’.
The redevelopment would consist of new flooring, seating and lighting, investment in moveable display walls and repainting the gallery.
But bosses say it is their ‘hope and ambition’ in the long term, if funding can be secured, to have a space for arts and exhibitions in Ashton town centre.
The plans drawn up for the redevelopment of the Museum of the Manchester Regiment on the ground floor of Ashton Town Hall includes two spaces for art to be displayed.
One space would display the Harry Rutherford collection currently held at the Central building, and the other would be a changing exhibition space for local and regional artists.
However, when the redevelopment can take place will be subject to what capital funding can be allocated to the scheme.