A TOWN's former library is to be turned into apartments for older people following what the local authority says has been a "lack of interest" from developers.

Under the plan, the old Prestatyn library on Nant Hall Road, currently home for the Artisans Collective CIC community organisation, will also provide a space for community use on the ground floor.

Last September, the site was put up for sale by Denbighshire County Council.

Hardware, gardening and DIY retailer Bevans showed interest in the site and a space – on the second floor – was promised for the Artisans Collective.

Despite this favoured option, last month the sale sign came down. The local authority has now confirmed it has decided to retain ownership and redevelop the site for a mix of residential apartments for older people.

It is understood Artisans Collective will be asked to give its input when it comes to developing ideas for the scheme "to ensure the community space meets their needs."

Pete Harrison, who runs Artisans Collective alongside fellow director Steve Fenner, said he had been left in the dark about the decision and was disappointed to learn the building's fate from the Journal.

They have been in the building for about four years.

"We thought the building had been sold to retail with us being included upstairs. We still have not heard from Denbighshire County Council," Mr Harrison said.

"I feel very upset and I'm shell-shocked to be honest. All of this is bewildering. We had heard rumours but took it all with a pinch of salt.

"We worked hard to broker a deal with a retail company. They came up with a great design for the building, including use as a community hub upstairs.

"They even said they would go down the new-build 'route' if required. They offered the use of upstairs with downstairs being used as retail space.

"We were keen on as it offered a solution to our business community and the wider community that we engage with daily."

The local authority described Artisans Collective as "valued" and said it had to look at the longer view and consider how the site could make a "positive contribution" towards meeting housing need.

Some Prestatyn town councillors, however, argue that the option chosen doesn't "knit in" with the town.

Cllr Martyn Poller, chair of that of the community and regeneration development committee, said: "I am abhorred by the myopic standard and inability of Denbighshire Council to do what is right for the town’s regeneration.

"Bevans's proposals made sense and we were all backing it. Bevans were willing to support the artisans.

"This decision is ill-conceived and not in the best interests of the town. I would have laughed it out of the room.

"Bevans was guaranteeing space to the artisans. They wanted to work with them.

"We don't get it (this decision). The artisans may end up homeless. There is no guarantee they will have use of the space full time. Denbighshire County Council have not given them any assurances."

Cllr Andrea Tomlin said: "I cannot hide my disgust and frustration at the way Denbighshire Council have dismissed out of hand the perfect solution to two problems they had.

"Bevans offered the perfect solution to solve both the problem of a building they needed to offload and suitably re-homing the artisans group and community hub.

"Also, their idea had very strong support from Prestatyn town councillors.

"Yet today, via the Journal only, the current tenants – the thriving community hub that is at the very heart of our town – hear that the county council plans for that building have now changed. How can they ride roughshod over such good people and the hundreds of residents they help week in, week out?"

Town and county councillor Gareth Lloyd Davies said: "It appears to be a serious offer from a serious local business which shouldn’t be overlooked.

"I was disappointed to hear the rumours of Denbighshire County Council retaining the old library as this seems to overlook a seemingly promising investment from a prominent local business who seems to be willing to spend money, bringing investment and jobs into our town.

"It would relieve responsibility from the council and the taxpayer giving the old building the opportunity to see fresh ideas, funding, and development into an attractive retail unit that would complement the recent progression of Parc Prestatyn [shopping centre] and provide a seamless link from the Parc into the High Street, which could have potential benefits for our businesses in the town."

James Davies, former MP for Vale of Clwyd, shared an artist impression with the Journal of Bevans's design proposal.

He said: "The artist impression showed they meant business. The retail proposal would have fitted in the town and would have united the town centre and knitted everything together.

"It would have been the viable option as opposed to housing.

"Whilst on the market, the council didn't get much interest. Starbucks showed some but it would have been quite a small Starbucks.

"Bevans ticked all the right boxes and offered the artisans a good solution."

Cllr Anton Sampson, mayor of Prestatyn, said: "I don't support any form of housing on this site, it's totally improper for this type of housing to be shoehorned into an inappropriate space.

"I think the artisans deserve a lot better and I would much prefer it to be used for some form of retail that still provides a base for the artisans to operate from."

A Denbighshire County Council spokesman said: “Having looked at a number of options for the former Prestatyn library building, the Council has decided to retain ownership and redevelop the site for a mix of residential apartments for older people with community uses on the ground floor. The next steps will be to develop some designs for the scheme, and we will be working with the Artisans Collective – who currently occupy the existing building – to ensure that the community space will meet their needs and enable them to continue to deliver their valued services in the town.

"The council had been marketing the site for sale, but interest had been very limited, and rather than just take the short-term option of selling the site, we have taken a longer view and considered how the site can make a positive contribution towards delivering our priorities around meeting housing need and enabling more resilient communities.

"A new building in this location will also improve the attractiveness of the area and help attract further investment in the town."

Prestatyn Town Council clerk Nigel Acott said: "It is hoped that there will be further consultation exercises with inclusion of other parties and public as this would be beneficial to the debate about the future of this town centre site given the prime location."