What is happening?

We have given the go ahead for our Chinese investment partner's UK company - Guodong UK Limited (Guodong) - to undertake feasibility studies to look into developing a 5-star hotel and improving the art gallery at the Central Library building on Surrey Street.

Look at the presentation from our public meetings about this and get involved.

How you can get involved

We ran 3 public meetings about the proposals in December 2016 and January 2017.

See the presentation slides from the public meetings.

Read the Q & As from the public meeting discussions.

How else can I get involved?

We will provide updates on progress as often as we can.

Follow the work of the library service on Facebook and Twitter.

Join our Central Library user group.

What if I still have questions?

You can also contact Councillor Jack Scott, Cabinet Member for Community Services and Libraries by emailing jack.scott@sheffield.gov.uk or calling 07875 014281.

Questions & Answers: Key

  • CL – Central Library 
  • IV – Investment 
  • GA – Graves Art Gallery  
  • LT – Library Theatre 
  • SS – Surrey Street Building 
  • O – Other

Central Library Q & A

1) Where will the new central library be located? (CL)
We don’t know exactly where this will be but we have given commitments that the new Library will be within the heart of the City Centre.

2) What do you mean by the ‘heart of the city’? (CL)
There isn’t an agreed definition for ‘Heart of the City’, so we are saying around half a mile of the existing building in a location that is obviously in the city centre, with all the necessary transport and access links.

3) Why are you only looking at one offer? (CL)
This is the only approach ever made to the Council. The current agreement provides for a 12 month period for the investor to investigate the opportunity. If no deal progresses after this period then other offers can be considered if they are made.

4) Will you sell the building or lease it to a developer? (CL)
Our strong preference is for the building to be leased.

5) I understand a 5-star hotel must have adequate car parking. How could this be accommodated at the Central Library? (CL)

The process for securing different star ratings is very intricate. The issue of parking will be determined as part of the planning application process and is a matter for the developer to resolve.

6) Would SCC be required to fund any additional car parking facilities? (CL)
No – not under any circumstances.

7) The current offer may take 5 years to realise. In 7 years’ time the Council will have finished paying off the Sheffield’s world class sporting facilities at £25M a year. Will this money be made available for a new library? (CL/IV)
The payments for Sheffield’s sporting facilities have specific provision from the Council’s reserves. They relate to the building of the facilities and not the cost of the event itself. That provision does not exist beyond those payments and so will not become available for any other use.  

8) We want a renewed commitment to fund the library service. Why can’t the money from the hotel go into the library service? (CL)

We can’t commit to levels of funding for any services at this stage. The government continues to make its unfair and severe reductions to Sheffield, so there are continued pressures on all our services. We are unable to make promises about future funding and will have to cope with these unprecedented cuts as best we can.

9) If there is a new purpose built central library how will this be funded? (CL)
We are looking at a range of options to fund a new library – whether it’s a new building or a refurbishment.  

10) How will the running costs in a new central library be funded? (CL)
Until we know what a new library would be like we cannot know what costs it will need, but we would expect a new, more energy efficient facility that is better laid out to offer opportunities to reduce running costs, compared to the current building.  Clearly the current running costs for the existing library will at least, in part, fund the costs of a new library.  

11) Will the new central library be open before the existing one closes? (CL)
If a move does take place, then everything will be done to synchronise the transfer from the existing building to a new location and make this as smooth as possible. If this cannot be done, an interim solution will be found to ensure continuity of service within the city centre. This has been done successfully in other cities in the same situation.

12) Will you publish details of how you have arrived at the figure of £30M to upgrade the existing building? (CL)
Yes - we have committed to this. Details of the suggested upgrades costing £30M can be found in the DCA report, ‘Surrey Street Central’ compiled for the council in 2014. 

13) Considering £30M is required to save the existing building how much will it cost to build a 5-star hotel and how much will it cost to build a new Central Library from scratch? (CL)
We can’t speak for the developer on this but we believe it would be vastly more than £30m. It is too early to say how much a new library would cost.

14) I don’t understand how the building can be converted to a hotel and the Graves Art Gallery can be moved to the ground floor without drastic changes to this listed building. (CL/GA)
The building will be protected by a triple-lock: Planning Law, its Listed Status and covenants set by SCC. The next 12 months will determine the design options to accommodate the hotel and the gallery. The developer will have to work within these constraints.

15) Why has the current library not got longer opening hours and will they improve in the new building? (CL)

We would hope to see an improved library offer as part of a new library development. The current Central Library hours were implemented following consultation on the budget reductions of £1.68m made across the service in 2014 in response to the Government’s huge cuts to Sheffield.

16) Will the new Central Library be paid for at the expense of local libraries? (CL)

No. Even though we have suffered from huge government cuts over the last 6 years that look set to continue, we recognise that both local libraries and a city centre library are an important component of our Library offer.

17) The current Central Library is the only space open to everyone irrespective of income or situation. Will you consult with the 3rd sector and with groups working with deprived and vulnerable groups and how will you do this? (CL)
Definitely – yes. A new building will offer new opportunities to deliver a wider range of services. We will be consulting as widely as possible with a large number of groups and organisations.

18) How will you make sure spaces for performance and meetings and activities in the new library/theatre will be future proofed? (CL/LT)

The Library service has changed dramatically over the last 50 years and will continue to change in the coming decades. All of the new developments in an enhanced Central Library will be future proofed as far as is possible. We will take into account what we think will be needed in the future and the way people will want to access services.

19) How will the Council find money for repairs if this deal does not come off? (CL)
The council budget is extremely tight. If this opportunity does not come off, we will do our best to invest in urgent repairs to keep the existing Central Library open. We know this is going to get even harder as austerity gets even more severe and the building continues to deteriorate.

20) What happened to the plans drawn up by the University of Sheffield architecture students from c. 2011? (CL/O)
They will be considered again in the current options review. We will place this in the public domain.

21) What happened to the proposed re-roofing of the library that the Council planned in 2011? (CL)
Funding was not available to complete all the works required. We will place this in the public domain.

22) What is the evidence that the building could be converted to a hotel? (CL)
This is a matter for the investor and the 12 month period is to allow them to gather that evidence. Getting that will cost them money in the necessary reports and professional fees. This is why we have granted them a period of exclusivity to undertake this feasibility work.

23) Why not borrow to renovate the building? (CL/O)
Borrowing does not come without a cost and the Council has to consider its overall level of borrowing and the priorities for that borrowing. There also has to be an ability to pay back the borrowing and refurbishing the library would not produce an income that would divert funds from other Council services at a time of government cuts.

24) Is the Central Library still open? (CL)
Yes. The Central Library building is open as usual and there are no plans to alter the opening times.

25) What happens if the investment doesn’t go ahead, will you still move out of the current building and build a new library elsewhere in the city centre? (CL/SS)
The current building is increasingly unaffordable, but if the investment doesn’t go ahead, it will remain property of the Council. At that point we will have to review all our options.

26) Will staff at the Central Library lose their jobs? (CL)
No. We don’t have any proposals to reduce the number of staff working in our Central Library services.

27) What will happen to all the books? (CL)
We don’t have any plans to move any books at the moment. We will look after all our collections very carefully, wherever the library services are based. We don’t have any firm plans about where the Central Library services will be moving to but when we do, all our collections will be factored into our plans.

28) When will all this happen and how long will I be without a library? (CL/GA)
We will always provide a Library, Archives and Information service in the city centre. Our investment partner's site surveys will take some time to complete. We don’t know the exact dates but we will make sure this is a transparent process and local people are fully informed.

29) What’s going to happen in the meantime? I need access to a computer and library service resources every day. (CL)

The Central Library is open; there are no changes to the services we offer there. When we know if we will need to temporarily move the services, we will provide lots of information on location and what will be offered.

Graves Art Gallery Q & A

30) If the Graves moves to the ground floor won’t it end up being lobby art for a private hotel? (GA)
The indication at the present time is that a developer wants an enhanced space for the Arts collections but there have been no firm proposals at this stage. The purpose of the exclusivity period is to allow those proposals to be worked up in more detail. We will only progress with the gallery in the hotel if it meets our expectations for the Arts collection, primarily around full and free public access.

31) How will a 5-star hotel facilitate visits by children and young people to the gallery? (GA/O)
See Q22. Access by children and young people will be part of the expectation we will ensure is met.

32) What will the Council do if the investor wants to charge entry to the gallery, or they want to emphasise extras such as cocktail bar and restaurant? (GA)

We will not allow the art the Council holds to be charged to see. See Q22 re: cocktail bar and restaurant.

Investment Q & A

33) If there is a 12 month exclusivity deal with the developer doesn’t this mean you can’t look at other options/speak to other investors? (IV)
The 12 month period of the agreement gives both sides the opportunity to explore this type of development in more detail but the Council will continue to consider its options on funding for this building. If it doesn’t proceed after that time (and there is no obligation to proceed) then other options can be more fully considered at that stage.

34) Are there any other potential investors? (IV)
No other potential investors have approached the Council at this stage, nor do we have any record of any similar approaches in the past.

35) Can we see the evidence of where SCC has looked for investment over the last 10 years or so? (IV)
Yes. 2 major feasibility studies were commissioned by the Council in 2003 and 2014 looking at a range of options for the redevelopment of the library and gallery on the current site. Whilst minor funding contributions may have been available from sources such as the Heritage Lottery Fund (with likely match funding requirements), when these have been explored we have found no investment sources available which could have matched the very large funding package needed to deliver on any of the costed options.

36) What is the name of the developer? (IV)
Sichuan Guodong Group.

37) Does the developer already have links with Sheffield? (IV)
Yes. SCC has entered into a long term partnership with Sichuan Guodong Group and we are exploring a number of potential projects in Sheffield.

38) Has the developer undertaken any other work in the city? (IV)
No, but we are exploring a number of potential projects in Sheffield with them.

39) Has Julie Dore met with the developer? (IV)
Yes.

40) What happens if the developer goes bust? (IV)
If the developer goes bust before we enter into any unconditional agreements the building will then remain with the Council. Any legal agreements and lease will deal with the situation if the developer ceases trading during development or after.

41) What happens if USA/Europe/China relations go sour? (IV)

This is not a deal with the Chinese government, it is a deal with a private company and its English subsidiary so will be unaffected by international relations.

42) You mention the benefits of a 5-star hotel to the city - what proportion of those benefits will go to the developer if he were to build the hotel himself? (IV)
The developer clearly aims to establish a profitable hotel business. Those are the specific benefits to them. The benefits to the city are much wider in terms of increased visitor numbers, increased business rates, adding a higher quality of hotel product than the city has currently and new jobs and opportunities for local people.

43) Citing an example from Queensland in Australia – how do we know the Chinese investment won’t be pulled at the last minute? Can we have an investigation to ensure that the investors involved in the Queensland example are not involved in this potential deal? (IV)
We cannot know that the investment will not be pulled. As with all private sector schemes, there is a risk that it may not proceed. We have explained that we are at a very early stage and that one possible outcome is that the investor does not find the hotel proposal to be commercially viable. The building will remain with the Council until a viable and funded scheme is proposed. The Council has undertaken due diligence on the investor.

44) Would SCC look at forming a charitable trust and be prepared to look at more creative funding approaches, eg philanthropic giving etc? (IV)
Yes, we are prepared to look at all options although we are sceptical that this model would work for Sheffield’s circumstances.

45) What are the funding streams identified for the library development? (IV)
See Q16-19.

46) Is this part of a more extended development plan/investment in Sheffield? (IV)

Yes, we have plans for our own development and that of the private sector within the city. As detailed in the Cabinet report, there is a long term investment deal announced with Guodong Group which could see an initial £220m invested in Sheffield.

47) I have heard that the building will be leased; therefore, couldn’t rent be used to pay for development? (IV)
Potentially. The terms of any lease have not yet been determined. This will be discussed during the 12 months. 

48) We can’t see how business rate of £1m can get to the level of investment that is needed, therefore can we have more information on costs and reassurance that figures add up? (IV)
See Q16-19. We will share more information as it becomes available.

49) Will all the funding for a new library come from the Arts Council? Will the Chinese provide any funding? If not, how can we afford to build it? (IV)
See Q16-19. The details of a new library/refurbishment are still to be worked out.

50) Can you give a guarantee that the library will be leased to the Chinese and not sold? (IV)
Our preferred option is for a lease and that is the basis of the discussions.

51) What rights and terms were given to this investor stemming from the 60 year trade deal signed by Julie Dore? (IV)

None. The investment deal gave no rights or guarantees in relation to this building. We have treated it the same as for any investor who comes forward. All terms will be negotiated should the developer come forward with a viable option. It is not unusual to offer an exclusivity period for investigations to take place. This protects both sides.

52) You said we might get £1M in business rates, but you need £2.2M to keep the library going and £30M to bring it up to standard. Is the investor going to contribute any more than the business rate? (IV)

Business rates uplift will only be available if the site becomes a hotel. If that is the case the spending to upgrade the library will not be needed and could instead be used to assist in the development of a new Library.

53) How will the new building be financed? Could it be built by the Chinese and leased back to the council? Or would it be cheaper to build it ourselves? (IV)

A new Library is not one of the projects being discussed with the Investor. See Q16-19.

54) What is happening? (IV/SS/LT) 
We have given approval for our Chinese investment partner's UK company - Guodong UK Limited (Guodong) - to undertake feasibility studies to look into developing a 5-star hotel and improving the art gallery at the Central Library building on Surrey Street.

55) How much will this cost local people? (IV)
There will be no cost to local people. The feasibility studies will be funded by Guodong UK Limited.

'Other' Q & A

56) What is the vision for the centre of our city and for the cultural life of the city? How does this proposal fit in with this vision? (O)
The city centre will be economically and culturally vibrant. The development of a new hotel and revitalised central library and gallery will both be major drivers of this vision.

57) Are Sheffield’s hotels so overcrowded that we need another hotel? What are the current occupancy rates? (O)

Occupancy rates in Sheffield are generally high. This is why there is demand from a number of potential operators for new hotels in Sheffield. This proposal however is the only proposal that is considering a 5-star ie very high quality hotel. It will be for the developer to assess demand and take that risk themselves.

58) What will the new hotel provide that existing hotels don’t? (O)
This is an issue for the developer to assess and determine as part of their business.

59) How can a private hotel meet the needs of private visitors as well as the general public coming to view the art collection? (O)
See Q22 above.

60) How much money was made by the sale and disposal of local libraries in recent years and could this money be used to fund the library service? (O)
Only 2 libraries have been permanently closed in recent years, Tinsley 2015 and Limpsfield 2012. The former was housed in rented property and the latter in Limpsfield Primary School. The Council has recently opened a volunteer run service in Tinsley.  

61) Are you going to look at other examples of new library builds such as Norwich which is wonderfully successful? (O)
Yes we have already been to visit a number of new libraries in other cities and we will add Norwich to our list.  

62) Given the airport was sold for £1 how will business users actually get into the city? (O)
The city centre is already accessible to business users and will remain so.

63) Is there a precedent of other hotels and public gallery facilities? (O)
We are seeking examples of other similar facilities. See Q22.

64) What is the start date of the 12 month feasibility period? (O)
12 months from when the exclusivity agreement is signed, this is expected to be done imminently.

65) Can we have a guarantee that the location and the cost for a new library will be made publicly available well before the end of the 12 month feasibility period? (O)
Yes. See Q21. We will have either the permanent or temporary location identified before we enter into any commitment to move. Those details will be made public.

66) It’s important we get the opinions of the librarians currently working in the library. (O)
We agree and have started a process of engagement with existing staff - this began with a staff session on the day of the cabinet paper. Further meetings with them are planned. We have already released the comments of a number of Central Library staff.

67) It was said that SCC can’t afford the £2.2M essential repairs. What is the reality of the present situation in relation to emergency repairs? (O)
We will publish information on the £2.2M repairs. We will have to find some money as we need to do repairs for statutory compliance and to keep the building safe.

68) How can we engage in the discussion on a location for the new building [question asked in relation to Castlegate area] (O)
We will be consulting on the options including the possibility of using identified existing buildings.

69) Is the relocation of the library tied to this particular deal? Could we move the library out and leave the building vacant? (O)
We haven’t found a way to secure funds for a library on a new site. We have looked at numerous plans over the years - all have come with a hefty price tag. We cannot see a situation where the building is left vacant.

70) What other options have been explored? There are empty city centre sites (ie by the railway station) that could generate £1m in business rates. (O)
It is for the developer to select the sites they are interested in, we can only respond to the offer we have been made - the developer could have chosen any site.  

71) I am concerned over the weakening of planning law due to proposed legislation. (O)

SCC is also concerned that the Housing and Planning Act will weaken the Council’s ability to influence and improve planning applications. The planning application for the hotel will be fully considered in accordance with the relevant planning law in force.  We are not aware of any weakening of planning law that would specifically affect this proposal.

72) What about the business rates from other new developments - such as at West Bar? (O)

Welcome as all business rates are, under new funding arrangements they are to replace the general grant we get from central government and the Council is increasingly reliant on growing our economy and increasing business rates as its core source of income. Business rate growth is increasingly required to pay for many other essential services in the city.

73) Would you extend the availability of tickets to beyond the internet - for example making them available via the Town Hall? (O)
Yes, we did this. Tickets can be booked via any library, First Point, Town Hall etc for this and future events. 

74) Will it create more jobs? (O)
Yes. If this investment proceeds (the 5-star hotel) it will definitely create more jobs in the city centre. This is great for our economy and local people.

Surrey Street Q & A

75) We want a commitment that the existing building will be improved (particularly in relation to DDA) during the 12 month period - ie spending on it won’t be halted. (SS)
It is not possible, in the face of ongoing budget cuts, to give a guarantee on future funding.

76) What’s wrong with the Surrey Street building? (SS)
It provides inadequate access for disabled people and parents and children. It is an old building that requires £2.3m over the next 3 years on essential repairs. It would cost £30 million to bring up to the standards we would want to see from a cultural hub for our city. The current building, in its current state, limits our ambition for flexible space to accommodate new library, cultural and business related services.

77) Will the building be preserved? (SS)
This proposal at Surrey Street provides an opportunity for the city to retain, protect and enhance this important building. The building is listed. Any building work will need to retain the unique features of the building. Proposed developments will be subject to all the usual planning processes.

Library Theatre Q & A

78) The press release made no mention of the Library Theatre and its future does not appear to be guaranteed - can this be clarified please? (LT)
We cannot make any guarantees about the theatre remaining in the existing building. However, this will be a key consideration in our review of options for the current and future service provision.

79) How soon after the 12 months' feasibility study will changes that impact on users of the theatre (and the library) - take effect? (LT)
The detail of any transition phase has yet to be determined.

80) Why is it not possible to relocate the theatre? (LT)
The theatre may not feature in the development - it will be a 5-star hotel after all, though we have not discussed this with the developer yet. It is possible there could be a more flexible performing arts space in a new building, which could actually be bigger/better than the existing Theatre. Options for the theatre will be part of the work ahead.

81) Where can local theatre groups perform if we lose the Library Theatre? (LT)
There are no plans to move any of the groups who use the Library Theatre at the moment. We will be looking at performance and rehearsal spaces for theatre groups when plans for the building are certain.

82) Where will the library and theatre be in the hiatus? (LT)
During the period of transfer from the existing site to a new one, there may be an interim location required somewhere in the heart of the City. We will consult on an interim solution.

Library Consultation Team

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