Page last updated at 15:25 GMT, Saturday, 1 May 2010 16:25 UK

Maidstone 12m library building divides parties

Two libraries in Maidstone will close and move to the new 12m centre

A new £12m library being built in Maidstone has divided the opinions of candidates standing in the town.

The Conservatives said the Kent History Centre and Library was a "positive development" while the Liberal Democrats welcomed the investment.

However, the Labour and Green Party candidates said there could be problems with public access to the site.

Work on the building in James Whatman Way, which will house a library and archives, began in February.

The town's Springfield County Central library will close and move to the new building, which takes it closer to the town centre.

The smaller St Faith's library will also close and move to the new base, which moves it further away from the middle of Maidstone.

People are still worried about ... everything to do with the recession
Helen Grant

Labour candidate Rav Seeruthun said: "Kent County Council has a habit of making the wrong decisions."

He added: "A purpose-built library is a good idea but there needs to be an easy way to get there.

"I do though know some very mobile elderly people, but what about those with disabilities. As a doctor I think this is an important issue."

But Conservative candidate Helen Grant said: "It's nearer the town than the old Springfield library. There is also parking on the site. There is a crossing for pedestrians. We're not talking about north, north, north of the main town area.

"People are still worried about rent arrears, mortgage repossessions, redundancy, family breakdown - everything to do with the recession.

"Most people are quite pleased they are getting a brand new fantastic facility."

'Too digital'

Lib Dem Peter Carroll said: "Older people have free bus passes. As long as they have got good quality public transport then it's not a big issue."

However he said if he became MP he would want to investigate concerns that the library will be too digitally-based, with not enough focus on books.

"Things we'll be seeing are a play area for younger people, IT and web access - all that. But people love books," he said.

The Green Party's Stuart Jeffery said: "The Greens do not want the library to be moved out of town, disadvantaging many older people."

He added: "Spending £17m on paving for the High Street and moving the library out of town is the wrong thing to do when the country is facing economic, energy and climate crises."

And Gareth Kendall, who is standing for the UK Independence Party, said it would be a popular development for the town on a site that was served by a bus route.

He said: "It will be the main library in the county. If you look at at [the current] Maidstone library it's quite cramped and they have limited resources.

"There are good reasons why it should go ahead. Maidstone has grown over the years and it's a positive development."

  • The candidates announced for Maidstone and The Weald are: National Front: Gary Butler; Liberal Democrat: Peter Carroll; Conservative: Helen Grant; Green: Stuart Jeffery; UK Independence Party: Gareth Kendall; Labour: Rav Seeruthun; Christian Party: Heidi Simmonds.

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