Getting the green light: Sustainable British Library redevelopment granted planning permission by Leeds City Council

Planned improvements will transform the Library’s site at Boston Spa into a modern and sustainable home for the UK’s growing national collection.

By Alex Grant
Saturday, 8th January 2022, 4:45 am

On December 23, Leeds City Council granted planning permission for the large-scale redevelopment of the British Library’s site at Boston Spa in West Yorkshire.

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A major construction project will transform the 44 acre site - originally a World War II armaments factory, and for the past six decades the northern home of the UK national library - into a modern archive capable of storing its growing collection for decades to come.

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A major construction project will transform the 44 acre site - originally a World War II armaments factory. Picture: Carmody Groarke

The £95 million Government funded redevelopment will create much-needed storage capacity, with further work dedicated to improving facilities for staff and visitors and making significant improvements to the environmental sustainability of the site.

Phil Spence, Chief Operating Officer of the British Library, said: “We are delighted that Leeds City Council have approved our plans to re-develop our site at Boston Spa to accommodate the UK’s growing national collection and build on our commitment to shaping a brighter climate future.

"A national library is, by its very nature, a long-term investment and an expression of hope in the future, so it’s essential that sustainability should be at the heart of this development. It marks a major step forward towards transforming our presence in the north of England and creating a sustainable British Library for everyone”.

The Library has also secured a Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme (PSDS) grant. The additional £8.5 million in funding means a range of energy-saving initiatives are already being introduced at the Boston Spa site, including installing:

Around 730 solar panels providing a minimum of 225 MWh per annum

A new ground source heat pump system, which will help reduce the Library’s reliance on fossil fuels and will generate an anticipated 1MW of energy – the equivalent of powering 650 average homes

Additional smart meters, better insulation and the replacement of low-energy efficiency fluorescent lamps within existing buildings

As part of the new development, 220km of extra shelf space will be created in a new high-density, automated storage building which will have the highest possible level of air tightness creating a low energy passive archive.

Once complete visitors to the Library’s Boston Spa site will be able to see the inner workings of the spectacular storage facility through a new public viewing gallery.

Councillor James Lewis, leader of Leeds City Council, said: “It’s exciting to see plans to redevelop this important site take a huge step forward and for a prestigious organisation like the British Library to be demonstrating a strong commitment to Leeds and a belief that the city is a fitting home for their unrivalled collection.

“With the British Library’s plans for Temple Works also progressing, it is clear that a long term, sustainable vision for their presence in Leeds is taking shape, which will play a huge part in cementing the city’s ever-growing reputation as a centre for cultural excellence and innovation and supporting high quality jobs in the city.”

The redevelopment will support and enable the Library’s equally ambitious plans for a major new public centre at Temple Works in Leeds City Centre.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, said: "I am delighted that the British Library's planned development of sustainable storage facilities in Boston Spa has been given the green light. With Government investment, this state-of-the-art facility will help the British Library house its growing collection, expand its presence in the north and bring its ambition for a public site in the centre of Leeds a step closer."

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