Cost of moving library more than £15m after asbestos discovery

By Joe Coughlan, Local Democracy Reporter

The cost of moving a library has exceeded £15million after asbestos was found at the new site.

Bromley council has moved forward with plans to move its central library to the former Topshop store in Bromley High Street, despite the increased cost.

The move comes as part of plans to renovate the library’s building in Bromley High Street, which also includes the Churchill Theatre.

The plans were discussed at an executive meeting for Bromley council yesterday, with council officers saying in their report that the building was built in 1970 and is now in a poor condition.

The report said: “The building is at the end of its life and the site now requires redevelopment. Consequently, officers have been considering options for the relocation of Central Library.”

The cost of the move was cited as being £15.5million, in order to transfer the existing library to the former Topshop site and source an additional storage facility for the back-of-house items that are in storage.

Conservative councillor Colin Smith, leader of the council, asked a council officer at the meeting what the reasoning was behind the large bill.

The officer said in response: “We undertook some very high level feasibility work to inform the recommendations in the report, and as part of that we have identified there is asbestos in the building and a full strip out is going to be required.”

Council officers added in their report that the floors of the former store will need strengthening to support the weight of the books to be added.

Daylight and ventilation in the site also reportedly need improvement as well as the space needing library services such as computer space and staff offices to be installed.

Conservative councillor Yvonne Bear added that 15 per cent of the overall figure was a buffer to allow for any more unexpected costs.

The council officer said: “We always seek to get the best value for the works, and even if we have a budget agreed by the executive at the end point, we still will try not to spend the whole thing.”

The executive committee voted to approve the provisional plans to move the Central Library. The move to the former Topshop site is scheduled to be completed in April 2026.

Pictured top: Bromley Central Library as seen off the high street (Picture: Google Earth)

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