An regeneration scheme for a new library and cinema in Sidcup High Street has taken big steps forward, but campaigners still describe the scheme as “underhand”.

Controversial plans to downsize Sidcup Library to a modern facility that would also be home to a cinema were met with a petition backed by more than 700 signatures at a meeting on Tuesday night (June 26).

The scheme would allow the council to upgrade the library facilities, and also provide enough cash to bring an Arthouse Cinema to the old blockbuster site.

Sidcup Library Action Group has protested the move, and said the council acted in an ‘underhand’ manner by not providing a public consultation – something it was not required to do at this stage.

Cllr June Slaughter, speaking on behalf of the group at a cabinet meeting, said the they felt residents should have been consulted before decisions were made, and that the council had “missed an opportunity” to work with the community by following through with the plans.

The council said the community will be fully engaged about the internal design of the new library, as well as a consultation during the formal planning process once the proposals are finalised.

Councillor Peter Craske said the move was a fantastic thing for Sidcup: “This is great news for Sidcup’s library users. We have a high level demand for services for our libraries, and we will continue to refurbish them.

“As they say size doesn’t matter and it is about quality not quantity. It’s not the size of the library it is how you use it. This is a great opportunity to design a library from scratch. This is not about the last 40 years, it’s about the next 40 years.

“Let’s be clear, without the library moving the cinema project would not be financially viable. It would not be successful.”

By moving the library it will free up the old site for redevelopment, which the council has said would probably be residential.

The council has not consulted on previous relocations of libraries, which have resulted in more people using the facilities.

The move is part of a wider regeneration project for Sidcup High Street, and would play an important part in securing the proposed cinema.

Deputy council leader Louie French said: “Regeneration is vitally important for our town centres and local economies.

“Fragility on the high street is clear to anyone who picks up a newspaper. The scheme will create a cultural hub and a great space for people to visit in the daytime and night time.”

The smaller library will not mean cuts, with the new facility expected to provide the same timetable of programmes and services.

Bexley Cabinet voted unanimously to bring the scheme forward, following ongoing regeneration projects such as the Sidcup Manor House into a hotel.