Interview with Glenn Lester, Mayor of Southborough, recorded on Friday 8th April 2016
Q: For many years, there was a concern that the price of this big development would be that Southborough would be losing a big chunk of its playing fields. Is a big proportion of what people use at the moment for football or just general recreation – will a big chunk of that be lost?
A: Most of the land that will be lost is currently quite scrubland at the back of the Water Margin restaurant. There is going to be the loss of two small football pitches there, but with consultation with the football clubs and the benefit of bringing forward a new pavilion for them and a new way of them being able to operate their club. We have always worked closely with the football club, as closely as we can to make sure the impact of this development has the minimum impact on what they provide for young people. I think there is 500 plus young people play football for the Ridgeway and they have sole use of the football pitches in that area so we were keen to engage with them right from the very start.
Q: So what sort of proportion of the playing fields are going to be lost?
I can’t remember the exact numbers, but if you look overall – the Ridgewaye playing fields and the Yew Tree playing fields, I think it equates to something about 15 per cent.
Q: Looking at the library facilities – that’s a facility that lots of people in Southborough use – it is meant to be one of the best used libraries – on the plans that were put forward at the consultation, it didn’t seem as if there would be many books in the new library. It was called a hall/library. At the moment, there is a separate area for childrens’ books, which people seem to value. What will happen in the new facility? Has that now been nailed down any more definitely?
A: Libraries have been struggling for a long time over their usage. Now Soutborough library is bucking the trend slightly. It is a well used libary. We’ve had consultation with Kent libraries providers and what seems to make libraries work well is combining them in with other facilities so libraries with cafes in them, libraries where you can visit the town council, libraries where you can book tickets for a theatre show. It’s about bringing forward new modern library design that allows all of these activities to go along hand in glove, so hopefully one aids the other. So footfall to the new medical centre….a patient may perhaps say I’m going to pop into the library, it is right next door. I’m going to pick up a book on x, y, z. Oh, I’ll grab a cup of coffee while I’m there. Oh, I shall also pop into Southborough Town Council and have a chat with the clerk about a fishing permit for next year’s fishing season and I can also buy my tickets for the next theatre show that’s going on there. So, it is about a joined up approach to our service in Southborough that allows a new central position where all of these activities come together.
Q: And what about the size of the facility – the number of books, the ability to have the slightly noisy children sometimes in a different area from other people?
We are going through some really detailed design at the moment with the internal spaces of the library and these have all been brought forward that you do need quiet spaces. You do need an opportunity for an area where parents can sit with children and read books quietly and undisturbed by somebody in the café having a louder conversation. All of this is going to be brought forward in the final internal designs. There will be areas of flexibility within the library. There may be shelving that can be stowed away, so if there was going to be a theatre performance, we might have – if you can visualise – library shelving on wheels that could be stowed into the corner so that space can double up as the foyer into the theatre all at the same time. It’s about making best use of our money and making best use of the money that’s available to provide the most services possible. But also making every square foot of that new facility work hard for Southborough and work for the people of Southborough.