Recently, Andy Foster, Alan Clawley and Hazel Clawley met Councillor James McKay, Cabinet Member for a Green Clean & SMART City, to hear him explain why he believed it was better to demolish the Central Library building than retain and find another use for it.

Councillor McKay cited Bruntland’s definition of sustainability as the basis for his opinion that it was more sustainable to demolish the Central Library and build a new energy-efficient one to benefit future generations.

But note the wise words of former Communities Minister Andrew Stunell:

“Over three-quarters of the buildings that will be standing in 2050 have already been built – so it is vital that we find ways to reduce carbon emissions from all types of existing buildings, and for every type of budget, or the country risks losing its battle against climate change.

Extracts from notes of the meeting:

Alan Clawley said that because of the embodied CO2 in existing buildings, there is a presumption to retain and upgrade them. Ten years ago, when the decision was made to demolish the Central Library, embodied CO2 was not even considered. A wide variety of arguments had been put forward over the years in favour of demolition, but never before this particular one – that it was more sustainable to demolish and rebuild in terms of CO2 emissions!

Andy Foster asked if Friends of the Central Library were to produce figures for CO2 emissions, would they be useful?

Hazel Clawley wondered if Cllr McKay had really considered the arguments re CO2. How could he have done so with no figures?

Why hadn’t he himself, as Green champion within the Cabinet, commissioned such figures?


After the meeting Alan Clawley, told Library supporters that Cllr McKay had expected us to present the figures in support of our case and asked: “Can the experts amongst us advise how to answer the following questions?”

1. How many tonnes of CO2 were emitted by the construction of the Central Library?
2. How many tonnes of CO2 will be emitted by its demolition?
3. How many tonnes of CO2 will be emitted by the construction of a new building of equivalent size which replaces it on its site?
4. How many tonnes of CO2 would be emitted by the refurbishment of the Central Library?
He adds: “I think it is self-evident that these figures will show a NETT increase in the quantity of CO2 emitted in the period between starting the construction of the Central Library and the completing a new replacement”.

It is our case simply that retaining and refurbishing the Central Library will produce less new CO2 than building a new one.