THE project to re-open Charmouth Library as a community hub has taken a major step forward with the building now in the hands of volunteers.

The Friends of Charmouth Library set up Charmouth Central Ltd, which last week took over the freehold of the building from Dorset County Council.

A ‘pound and a peppercorn’ were paid to the council so the price would not put too much strain on hard-earned funds.

The Friends set up Charmouth Central Ltd specifically to take on the freehold, which can only be used for community benefit.

It is set to become a community complex offering activities for all ages, a meeting room, retail area, internet café, and public toilet.

Friends chairman Hazel Robinson said the building requires work before it can be opened as a community space.

She said: “DCC is making an ex-gratia payment to help fund renewal of the flat roof, removal of asbestos-containing vinyl tiles and the installation of central heating. “The library will be closed for four weeks in the New Year to allow this work to be done. “The library service will be officially handed over in February.

“The library itself will be transformed into Charmouth Central, community library and, eventually, internet cafe. “We say ‘eventually’ because we don't yet know when DCC will install up-to-date computers and wi-fi although we know it will be in early 2013.

“DCC are also providing books, the library management system and three hours' professional staff time a week to Charmouth and to the other seven Dorset libraries which are to become community-managed in 2013.

“All the rest is our responsibility. We have to fund everything and provide volunteers to man what will now become a real community hub, not just a library, open much longer hours and available for small groups to use out-of-hours. “We have already established Rhymetime and a tea and chat club for the over 50s and the library hosts two book groups, a creative writing group and a seniors’ discussion group.

“But that’s just the beginning.

“From 2013 on, watch this space, there will be something for you and, if there isn’t, tell us and we'll make sure there is.”

The Friends of Charmouth Library are now awaiting news on their bid for a £50,000 grant from Village SOS, part of the Big Lottery Fund.

This will pay for an extension to the building and the grant was dependent on the group having the freehold.

Hilary Cox, county council cabinet member for community services, said: “I am very pleased that by working together in partnership and through careful listening and constructive negotiation we are now looking to finalise dates for local communities to take over the responsibility for running seven libraries, including Charmouth Library, with support from Dorset County Council.

“The county council appreciates the local leadership and hard work that has been done.”