Plans for the future of Kirkwall’s old Carnegie library have taken another turn as the owner says he is looking for an alternative use that would still allow public access.
Earlier this month, owner Neil Stevenson was granted permission to build 14 housing units and flats in the old library and neighbouring spaces, while still maintaining the character of the beloved building, on Laing Street.
However, he has since said, for the moment, he will go ahead with eight of the planned units.
He is once again trying to find a commercial use for the library building and the two side wings.
However, Mr Stevenson hasn’t completely written off plans for the final six flats he had approved by the planning committee.
He said: “It has always been my hope to maintain a use for the original Library building which would allow some level of public access.
“The building was carefully restored in 2017. It’s a lovely old building and has a lot of history attached to it.
New commercial use being sought for Kirkwall’s old library but plans for flats may still go ahead
“I think most people would prefer it to remain a building people could access, especially after it lay empty for so many years and was in a very poor state of repair.
“At the end of the day. I have to redevelop the building. So, if at the end of this process a suitable use can still not be found, I would have the option to then go ahead with the final six flats as per my approval.”
Kirkwall’s old library is thought to be Europe’s most northerly Carnegie Library. It most recently housed Grooves Records and a gallery – Mr Stevenson’s own businesses.
However, the business moved out last year and the old library has been empty since.
It hasn’t been used as a library since 2003. Back then, the library and archive service made the move to a new building on Kirkwall’s Junction Road.
On July 7, Mr Stevenson’s plans were approved by the Orkney Council’s planning committee.
Councillors went against the recommendation from officers to refuse the plans. This recommendation was made on the grounds of there being no parking spots included.
Just one week before the meeting, Mr Stevenson announced that he had submitted his plans for the Kirkwall’s Gardens Buildings to the council’s planning department.
These plans include creating a nightclub, bowling alley, gym, and music venues. This would be alongside a restaurant and cafe courtyard in the old buildings.