College purchase could be used to improve town's library service

PUBLISHED: 18:26 26 November 2008 | UPDATED: 13:46 06 May 2010

The Oaklands site in Harpenden

The Oaklands site in Harpenden

A BID to save Oaklands College in Harpenden for community use is finally coming to fruition after a two-year battle. The building in Victoria Road was partly owned by Oaklands College which decided two years ago that it was surplus to its requirements. Bu

A BID to save Oaklands College in Harpenden for community use is finally coming to fruition after a two-year battle.

The building in Victoria Road was partly owned by Oaklands College which decided two years ago that it was surplus to its requirements.

But Herts County Council (HCC) retained a legal right to buy the college section of the premises - it already owns the part containing the town's library.

The county's primary reason for acquiring the property was to establish whether it was possible to have an economically viable scheme to provide better public library facilities for the town.

It will now be carrying out the technical planning and architectural feasibility work that is required in order to establish that - but the process will take months.

A county spokesperson said: "While that is the primary reason for acquiring the property, it is possible that the eventual scheme will include a youth facility - in which event there might be some form of partnership arrangement with the Town Council."

At a meeting of Harpenden Town Council (HTC) on Monday night, members unanimously agreed that they still wished to support the purchase of the building in order to use part of it for community use.

Town clerk John Bagshaw said: "It now seems negotiations have reached a crucial stage and HCC wished to know whether our members were still committed to developing it for community use. In the past , mention was made of using it for a youth drop-in centre but it's perhaps best to be fluid over its future use as needs do change."

Previous bids from developers were successfully fought off by vigorous lobbying on behalf of councillors to keep the facility for community use.

HCC was always in a strong position to exercise its right of refusal over the site as it still owns all the land in the centre of the buildings' complex which is used as car parking and has rights of way across the entire site.

Any firms which might have purchased the site would have had to negotiate with the county over parking and rights of way.

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