Bradford Central Library has been closed after being identified as a serious fire risk.
The very future of the building which also contains the district’s archive is now in doubt after it was found that emergency work to make its central staircase safe could cost the taxpayer hundreds of thousand of pounds.
Emergency meetings are being held between Bradford Council officers and councillors to establish just how much the work will cost and whether the authority can afford it or whether the district’s archives and offices will be moved elsewhere. A decision will be made within the next few weeks.
Councillor David Green, the Council’s executive member responsible for culture, stressed that the public had not been put at risk, but said that once the fire risk had been identified it needed to be addressed.
He also said that there was absolutely no asbestos risk.
The fire issue was picked up by Building Control officers earlier this year, but became more of a problem when Health and Safety officers carried out a routine check last week.
“The Council has to act once a potential issue has been identified,” Coun Green said.
“The building was built to 1960s fire regulation standards and the staircase is open which means if there was a blaze it would act as a chimney.
“We are putting in new fire doors and the public areas will then meet the fire regulations once the staircase is walled in.
“But there will still be an issue in that building so we are only re-opening first two floors.
“The financial commitment to make the stairwells safe is a large one and we need to do that costing properly.
“We are committed to ensuring that these services will be open to the public as soon as possible. We have no intention of closing the library or archive services in Bradford.”
The ground floor and first floor will close for four days from Monday to allow £20,000 of emergency safety work to be carried out on the staircase.
But the remaining floors, housing meeting rooms, the non-fiction collection, local studies, archives and offices, will be closed until further notice.
If the cash is not found for the work, alternative library space will have to be found.
Groups which regularly meet at the library, were told yesterday that the rooms would not be not available.
Anyone with outstanding loans is asked to renew via the online service (02174) 430094 or return items to another library.