Budget 2020 – transforming the British Library’s presence in the north

The storage void of the new British Library National Newspaper Building at Boston Spa in West Yorkshire (c) Kippa Matthews

The British Library welcomes the Chancellor’s commitment to invest up to £95 million in our plans to transform our site and services in the north of England, as well as the £25 million commitment made as part of the West Yorkshire Devolution deal to establish a British Library North in Leeds City Centre.

The Library is proud to have been part of the Leeds story for nearly 60 years, and we are delighted that our Boston Spa site, which has played such a fundamental role underpinning the nation’s knowledge infrastructure, can now be renewed and developed for the 21st century, securing its ability to store and make available our ever-growing national collection for generations to come. This investment will underpin our ambitions to build on our long-standing presence in the north, increase our reach and impact across the country, and enable a growing programme of engagement, making the Library as vital and visible in the north of England as it is in the south.

The British Library at Boston Spa is an extraordinary and comparatively little-known national cultural asset. The 44-acre campus, formerly a Second World War munitions factory, is home to over two thirds of the Library’s collection of 170 million items, housed in a mixture of buildings from state-of-the-art fully automated storage facilities such as the home of the national newspaper collection – some 750 million print pages – to our iconic 1970s Urquhart Building.

The Library’s plans for Boston Spa will involve a significant expansion and upgrade of our storage facilities – currently anticipated to be full by the end of this decade – to ensure there is sufficient archival-standard storage for the national collection up to and beyond the middle of the century.  End-of-life buildings will be exited, and others refurbished to ensure improved working environments for our 500 Yorkshire-based staff and a far more efficient use of the campus.  Boston Spa is also a digital powerhouse, and our plans for the site will provide the key infrastructure to ensure we can collect, preserve and provide access to the UK’s digital intellectual heritage, including e-journals, e-books and the entire UK web domain, which we archive on an annual basis.

The British Library also welcomes the Government’s £25 million contribution towards the work already under way by Leeds City Council and ourselves to identify and establish a major new public space in the city centre. Powered by the re-investment in Boston Spa, this new ‘British Library for the North’ would make our global collections and exciting cultural programmes more accessible than ever before to users, communities and audiences across the whole region.  Leeds City Council and the British Library are currently engaged in exploratory discussions with property developer CEG about their historic Temple Works site and the potential for its occupancy by the British Library.

Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, said: “Thanks to our £95 million investment, the British Library will bolster its presence in the North opening up access to a new generation of researchers at Boston Spa and exploring the exciting possibility of a new public space in Leeds. Boston Spa has long been an important part of the nation's information infrastructure. This funding will safeguard its significant collections, improve knowledge and promote digital innovation.”


Roly Keating, Chief Executive of the British Library said: “The British Library has been a major employer in the north of England since the early 1960s and we warmly welcome the much-needed investment in our Boston Spa site announced by the Government. Not only does this allow us to future-proof the vital storage and access infrastructure for one of the world’s greatest cultural and intellectual archives, it also enables us to transform our public offer in the north. Our ambitions to support innovation and inclusivity in the region are huge, and our growing cultural and learning programme is already reaching new audiences, with exciting activities at the forthcoming Sounds Like This Festival, Leeds Digital Festival and Light Night Leeds.”

Councillor Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council, said: “This is wonderful news for what is an extremely valuable national asset for Leeds and the North. We’re proud to host the British Library at Boston Spa and this will really consolidate its future and underpin its creative and learning ambitions and our expanding cultural and digital collaborations. We hope this will be further unleashed by the exciting potential of the possible development at Temple Works, which is very much in its initial stages but could be an incredibly exciting focus for this wonderful, historically-significant national cultural asset’s future.”

David Hodgson, Head of Strategic Development at CEG said: “This is great news for Leeds and we look forward to further collaborative working with the Council and the British Library as we continue exploring the future potential of Temple Works.  CEG have gained a detailed understanding of this iconic building over the past two years, and we plan to build on the engagement and consultation activities we have already started with the local community and other stakeholders to ensure the proposals are truly inclusive for all.”

Along with the Budget announcements relating to Boston Spa and Leeds, the Chancellor also announced plans to invest £13 million towards a substantial expansion of the British Library’s National Network of Business & IP Centres, providing a further boost to the Library’s aim to truly become a national library for the whole of the UK. 


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Notes to Editors

Leeds City Council, as the economic development regeneration agency for Leeds, is working with CEG to facilitate the restoration in line with the city’s ambitions. The council is a principal grant funder, local planning authority and local highways authority for the scheme, and is also an adjoining landowner of 8 acres of land at Temple Works.

CEG began in 1989 as Commercial Estates Group. Now known as CEG, their experience covers office and residential, to retail, industrial and mixed-use sectors, working closely with local authorities, landowners, tenants, stakeholders and communities. CEG manages an extensive UK-wide portfolio of more than 5 million sq ft of commercial space which is home to more than 520 thriving businesses. CEG are also bringing forward exciting new residential, commercial and mixed-use development on an 8,500-acre land portfolio.

For more information:

Ben Sanderson
The British Library
t: +44 (0)1937 546 126
e: ben.sanderson@bl.uk

Evenings and weekends:
+44 (0) 20 7412 7150

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The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world's greatest research libraries. It provides world class information services to the academic, business, research and scientific communities and offers unparalleled access to the world's largest and most comprehensive research collection. The Library's collection has developed over 250 years and exceeds 150 million separate items representing every age of written civilisation and includes books, journals, manuscripts, maps, stamps, music, patents, photographs, newspapers and sound recordings in all written and spoken languages. Up to 10 million people visit the British Library website - www.bl.uk - every year where they can view up to 4 million digitised collection items and over 40 million pages.