AMBITIOUS proposals to incorporate a cafe at Penketh Library have been scrapped due to it costing up to £128,500.

Thirteen months ago, the council’s executive board committed to keeping all of the town’s libraries open subject to robust business cases following widespread anger over plans to close sites across the borough.

In total, £1 million is planned to go towards repairs, maintenance and investment at existing buildings, on top of £150,000 that has been designated to enhance the book fund budget.

The libraries partnership board – which is partly tasked with ensuring the town’s library services are sustainable – held its latest meeting at Central Library today, Monday.

Discussions have been taking place over Snoutwood Trotters forming part of the library site.

But the ambitious proposal has been ruled out for now.

Eleanor Blackburn, the council’s head of strategic partnerships and commissioning, confirmed the estimated cost of transforming the library to ensure it is suitable for a cafe would be up to £128,500.

However, the figure provided by the authority’s building services team is at the ‘higher end’.

She said: “We have been looking at the potential option for a cafe at Penketh, given that there was a partner that came forward and was very keen to take forward the proposal.

“They have estimated the investment that would be required to transform Penketh Library, so it is suitable for a cafe offer of the style being proposed.

“It is a very significant sum of money, so I think the decision of the local authority is that we don’t want to progress with that at this stage, particularly given the condition of the building.”

The mooted Penketh masterplan – which could see a significant cash injection to regenerate the area around Honiton Way, including the library, pool and community centre – was also discussed.

However, council officers are currently waiting to hear back from the parish council over its preferred option for the area.

Residents have become frustrated due to a lack of progress on the masterplan.

And the council’s deputy chief executive and director of corporate services Lynton Green, who chairs the libraries partnership board, was pressed over whether the potential scheme ‘will move quicker’, or if residents can expect to be in the same ‘vague’ position in two years.

He says he is confident it will ‘progress quicker’.

“If the parish council don’t want to do anything then I guess the council needs to decide what we do with the library,” he said.

He also told board members and residents in attendance that parish councils can obtain loans for key schemes from the Public Works Loan Board, just as the borough council can.

He added: “They have access to the same sort of money as the council has.

“But we are also aware that within what they have are very expensive running costs for the current swimming pool facility, so there is opportunity, if they can reduce the running cost of it, that they would have other funds to use for part of a project.

“For me, it is about understanding what we can do for the whole of that site and how we can get quite creative.”

Cllr Derek Baker chairman of Penketh Parish Council added: "Penketh Parish Council are aware that the provision of library services is a statutory responsibility of Warrington Borough Council and that WBC have been looking at options to make Penketh library more sustainable following budget cuts.

"We understand that WBC have announced that a well supported local plan to host a cafe in the library has been deemed not to be viable. 

"The concept of a masterplan for the Honiton Way area was discussed in the recent past with Warrington Borough Council in an attempt to re-develop the privately owned Honiton Way shops with the local council facilities, WBC confirmed this was not attainable due to a lack of interest from private land owners.

"Penketh Parish Council is keen to improve the Parish pool and community centre and surrounding area and have made it clear that the parish council will happily consider any partnership proposals from Warrington Borough Council in delivering their statutory responsibilities."