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Credit crunch hits scheme for £9m Discovery Centre
PLANS for a £9million Basingstoke Discovery Centre have fallen victim to the credit crunch.
Hampshire County Council leader Councillor Ken Thornber this week blamed the current financial climate for the decision to postpone proposals to replace the Festival Place library with a Discovery Centre, similar to those in Winchester and Gosport.
The county, which was working with Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council on the plans, was considering The Malls as the location for the Discovery Centre – and the postponement means the borough’s plans to give the shopping centre a facelift will also be temporarily scaled back.
Discovery Centres are designed to offer internet access, rooms for community groups, learning suites, children’s areas and a coffee bar, as well as books.
The county planned to sell buildings to generate the funds to pay for the centre, but Cllr Thornber thought it was the “wrong time to be taking such risks” in a depressed property market.
He said: “While buildings are selling for less, banks are encountering problems and developers are feeling the strain, embarking on a project at this time did not seem the wisest investment in this uncertain climate.”
He added the plans had not been scrapped and the hard work, consultation and time spent planning the centre would not be in vain.
“Nevertheless, I do recognise that Basingstoke library is in desperate need of updating,” he said.
“I will, therefore, make it a priority to do what we can to bring it up to a standard that Hampshire residents deserve to see from their library.”
Borough council leader Cllr Andrew Finney was disappointed that proposals for the Discovery Centre had been deferred.
He said: “Both councils still see the preferred site for a Discovery Centre as being at the entrance to The Malls and we will continue to work with Hampshire County Council to ensure the borough’s residents have the facilities they require and need.”
Cllr Finney said The Malls would still get its facelift, but without the Alencon Link gateway building “in the short term”.
Referring to the Discovery Centre decision, he added: “It doesn’t impact on the plans for The Malls because they are budgeted for and they’re still under investigation.”