A Freedom of Information request has revealed a 94% drop in library visits in Heathfield following the closure of the old library in 2011, confirming campaigners’ fears that closing Heathfield Library would put the service out of reach for local people.
Craig Owen, Rhonda Evans and Rob Newbery (L-R) speaking to a resident about their petition for the return of a library service for Heathfield.
The figures reveal a staggering fall from 34,000 visits in 2011 - the year the former library closed - to 2,000 visits to the temporary facility in 2013. Library users in Heathfield currently have to travel to a temporary facility in Whitton Community Centre, open 12 hours a week but only in term-time, or Whitton Library.
Figures also reveal a fall in visits to Whitton Library of more than 5% between 2011 and 2012, indicating that users of the old library are not using the Whitton Community Centre facility or visiting Whitton Library as hoped.
The figures come at a time when a majority responding to Labour’s survey of Heathfield residents said that they would be more likely to access library services if the area had a restored library service.
Labour Party candidate for Heathfield, Craig Owen said:
“These figures show that when you close a library dedicated to a community, local residents don’t travel to alternative libraries – they are forced out of the system completely. Whether the fall in visitor numbers is down to the temporary facility proving inadequate or because public transport links to Whitton via Heathfield are poor is frankly anybody’s guess.
“Labour fought the closure of the library by the Tories and Lib Dems and we are fighting for its return. This situation is symptomatic of the chronic underinvestment in Heathfield and we deserve better than to be forgotten except for when Tory or Lib Dem administrations need to find money by cutting local services.”
You can sign our petition for the return of Heathfield Library here.