Peppercorn deal on table to move Knebworth library and doctors surgery project forward

Knebworth High Street

Knebworth High Street - Credit: Archant

A 250 year lease will be granted to a developer for the nominal price of one peppercorn if plans to merge Knebworth’s library and a GP surgery get the green light.

General Practice Investments Ltd has approached Herts County Council with the plan to redevelop the village library site in St Martin’s Road.

And the idea has been welcomed at County Hall and by the parish council as a way of getting new facilities for the new village without major public investment.

Acting on behalf of the Knebworth and Marymead Practice, GPI wants to incorporate the surgery and library and build three flats above it.

A pharmacy will also be included as part of the development.

If the county council agrees to the idea, they will charge GPI the ‘rent of one peppercorn’ for a 250 year lease for the site together with four parking spaces – but the firm will have to fund the building of the new complex.

The sum of one peppercorn is business jargon for charging a very small amount of rent.

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If councillors agree to the plans the library will be housed in a temporary building in a nearby car park while the building work goes on.

A report to councillors says that the current surgery, which is the only one in Knebworth, has outgrown its current base.

Other alternative options put forward included redeveloping the site as it stands which “would enable the library to continue to function in much the same way as it does currently” or do nothing – but opting for the status quo wouldn’t tackle what were described as ‘future deficiencies in service delivery’.

Councillor Frances Button, County Hall’s cabinet member for libraries, said: “Should this proposal go ahead, we would receive a bright, new, tech-enabled library at no capital outlay.

“Because the premises would be shared with the pharmacy and surgery, it is estimated that the library would benefit from increased usage and therefore be a greater benefit to local residents.

“An added bonus would be a lower running cost in a building which will not need any significant investment for many years.”

Knebworth parish councillor Steve Hemingway told the Comet: “We are in favour of having a nice new surgery in the village.”

But he added that there was concern, as the library has been listed by the parish council as a community asset.

The plans were discussed at a meeting at County Hall yesterday.