A Burnham-On-Sea town councillor has this week disputed figures from Somerset County Council used to show Highbridge Library should close as part of a cost-cutting initiative.

As first reported by Burnham-On-Sea.com, Somerset County Council says Highbridge Library could close under its cost-cutting proposals unless local volunteers are found to keep it open. Consultation on Somerset library closures is currently underway.

But the county council’s figures have been disputed. It says that Highbridge Library has a catchment population of 6,786 people, with just 288 active borrowers, and an annual footfall of 3,786 people.

Cllr Phil Harvey told Burnham-On-Sea.com: “I have been looking at the data for Highbridge Library. The catchment area map shows it as: the Sedgemoor ward of Highbridge and Burnham Marine, The Burnham Without Parish Ward of Highbridge, The parishes of West Huntspill, East Huntspill and Pawlett.”

“The figure given for the total population of the area is 6786. This is manifestly wrong as the electorate of Highbridge and Burnham Marine alone is 6267 – and some of these residents have children!”

“In the 2015 consultation when the Highbridge Library Hours were reduced from 13 to 9.5, the population of the catchment area was given then as 22796.”

“On another point, the estimated housing growth for the catchment area up to 2028 is given as 163. Sedgemoor officers have confirmed to me that their estimate of the ‘Greater Highbridge’ area is 1291.”

“By ‘Greater Highbridge’ I mean the first two areas in my earlier population list, plus the part of the Brue Farm development in West Huntspill Parish. Given that there is likely to be some housing in the remainder of West Huntspill – as well as East Huntspill and Pawlett – the total new build will be higher. 163 is an underestimate of over 1000.”

“With such discrepancies in the basic figures, it is hard to make meaningful responses to the consultation. The figures need to be revisited and any necessary amendments made to related data.”

However, a Somerset County Council spokesperson responded to Burnham-On-Sea.com last night: “All our consultation proposals are based on detailed statistical evidence. How we’ve calculated the Somerset libraries catchment population is explained within our ‘further detailed information’ section on the Somerset Libraries consultation website here.”

“We studied the detailed demographics and needs of individual libraries, and this is all available to view within the ‘Data analysis methodology’ document online. Further statistical evidence, which helped shape the proposals, is also available in the ‘evidence and data’ section. We’d like to encourage everyone to respond to the consultation either online, in a library or at a drop-in event and give us their views.”

Somerset County Council’s consultation on the future of how its library services can be delivered runs from 29th January for 12 weeks and can be accessed at: www.somerset.gov.uk/librariesconsultation.

A consultation drop-in session will also be held at Highbridge Library on Thursday 15th February from 10am – 1pm when users can find out more about the plans.

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