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Coatbridge Carnegie Library: Collaboration delivers community success

This project saw the conversion of the disused, Category B Listed, former Carnegie Library in Coatbridge into 12 flats of affordable housing.  Built in 1905, the building occupied a significant place in the townscape and was of important architectural, social and cultural existence.

Clyde Valley Housing Association commissioned MAST Architects to work alongside them on the project. Changes included demolition of the rear book stacks, and the addition of new access decks, stair towers and floors to suit domestic use.  The north gable wall of the original book stacks was retained to form the courtyard garden and amenity space with 12 flats being inserted into the remaining building.

The building had to undergo significant external fabric repairs with the exterior stonework and roof being repaired and the communal areas retaining their existing detailing after being repaired and redecorated.

Clyde Valley Housing Association asked MAST in 2015 to undertake a feasibility study for the conversion of the Category B-Listed former Coatbridge Carnegie Library.  The building had been vacant for more than five years and was in a deteriorating state of repair, with North Lanarkshire Council unable to find a suitable alternative use.  Our client asked us to assess the building’s suitability for conversion to residential use.

There was dialogue from the earliest stages with the local authority and Historic Environment Scotland to establish the parameters and constraints for the conversion of the building, including the extent to which the building could be selectively demolished to allow for the creation of suitable floor plans depths for residential use.  

The local authority’s CARS townscape heritage scheme offered some grant funding to the repair of external areas – the specification here had to be acceptable to both the CARS funders and the Housing Association client, requiring open dialogue and discussion. 

Key takeaways

Early engagement with stakeholders, including Historic Environment Scotland, allowed the project team to explain the constraints imposed by the existing building configuration (the depth of the plan etc), and to establish the parameters for alterations to suit a new residential use.

The key lesson was the need to clearly communicate to all parties the risk to the building if left unoccupied, that the conversion was achievable and the proposals could be supported once the design team had developed strategies to address heritage, planning and transport constraints.

These strategies required the delivery of Conservation and Heritage Assessments, Design and Access Statements and Transport Statements, worked through in consultation with all relevant stakeholders.

What the project team says

“We believe that this project represents an exemplar of how building owners, local authority and heritage stakeholders, clients, design professionals and contractors can work imaginatively and creatively to recognise the significance of historic buildings, and imagine solutions to ensure that the heritage and value of these sites can be maintained and enhanced for the benefit of the local and wider communities.  

“In this case, all parties were fully committed to the vision of saving this important building for the community.

“There was flexibility on the part of the Local Authority Roads and Planning team in allowing some of the planned expansion of a nearby car park to count towards the parking provision for the site (this pre-dated car-free developments being relatively commonplace).”