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Community fears over library closure plans

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Concerned for Belvoir Library's future: Cllr Hughes (second right) with (l-r) Brian Dunwoody, Belvoir Park Primary School classroom assistant Olive Moore and BCA chair Kirk Graham

Concerned for Belvoir Library's future: Cllr Hughes (second right) with (l-r) Brian Dunwoody, Belvoir Park Primary School classroom assistant Olive Moore and BCA chair Kirk Graham

Concerned for Belvoir Library's future: Cllr Hughes (second right) with (l-r) Brian Dunwoody, Belvoir Park Primary School classroom assistant Olive Moore and BCA chair Kirk Graham

South Belfast residents are up in arms over new proposals to close two local libraries.

Residents fear the plans by Libraries NI to close its Belvoir Park and Sandy Row sites will leave a “hole in the community” if given the go-ahead.

The libraries will be considered for closure along with a number of other sites across Belfast as part of a three-year proposal due to start in 2010.

Under plans described by the library board as the “vision for the public library service”, the libraries have been earmarked as “unlikely to be sustainable”.

Castlereagh councillor Rosaleen Hughes said she would back any protests in support of keeping the libraries open.

“They are for the benefit of the area. It would be devastating for a lot of people, especially the elderly,” she said.

Brian Dunwoody from the Belvoir Community Association (BCA) said no protest is planned in Belvoir yet but he thinks there may be when news filters through to more residents.

He added: “It will leave a big hole in the community. It was just a couple of years ago that we lost the post office.”

BCA chairman Kirk Graham said the library was a focal point for Belvoir and it would leave a “vacuum” if closed.

If Belvoir Library shuts the closest library for Belvoir residents would be at Newtownbreda, but residents insist it’s “very awkward to get to if you don’t have a car”.

And Olive Moore, a classroom assistant at the nearby Belvoir Park Primary School, said: “Every Friday a class from our school would walk up to the library. If it closes we wouldn’t be able to do that. And the children use it for homework and the computers. The children will definitely miss it.”

Ernie Corbett, chair of Sandy Row Community Forum, said it would be “an absolute shame” if the Sandy Row Library is closed.

“We need a library here — we would 100 percent oppose closing it,” he said.

While the proposals include a new build at Lisburn Road Library, Mr Corbett said it “wouldn't be very accessible for people living here — especially the elderly”.

South Belfast residents can voice their concerns about the closure plans during the public consultation period which ends on March 5. For more information on the proposed plans log on to www.librariesni.org.uk.

Belfast Telegraph