MILLIONS of books from Oxford’s historic Bodleian Library are to be housed on an industrial estate on the outskirts of Swindon, it emerged last night.
The university was thwarted in its plans to build a £28m book depository on Oxford’s Osney Mead industrial estate after a long planning row.
Now the Bodleian has decided to buy a 15-acre site at South Marston, 28 miles from Oxford, where it will build a giant warehouse to initially hold eight million books.
The university said it could find no appropriate site in or around Oxford to store its books, after its original plan was dismissed by a planning inspector.
Instead, its books will have to be carried to and from Oxford by road on the A420.
The move means Oxford will miss out on jobs created by the £25m storage centre, both while it is being built and once it opens. And the 400-year-old Bodleian will face criticism on environmental grounds for choosing to transport books on an already busy road.
But the university said the purchase of the site in Wiltshire would clear the way for a £75.6m plan to refurbish the New Bodleian Building.
A Bodleian spokesman said: “Not only will the purchase enable the Bodleian refurbishment to move ahead, but it will bring industry to Swindon, a town that has suffered greatly during the recession, with key businesses closing down or suffering.”
The university’s plans to build a depository on Oxford’s Osney Mead industrial estate were opposed by Oxford Preservation Trust and other campaigners, who said the building would damage views of Oxford’s skyline. The site was also said to be in a flood area.
Librarian Dr Sarah Thomas said: “We needed a site that was capable of being expanded and we were looking for somewhere that already had planning permission. We couldn’t spend more time looking and being uncertain about the eventual outcome.”
She said the price of land had also been a factor.
Books will be moved to Swindon from the New Bodleian Library, freeing up space to create a visitor attraction. The ground floor will be opened to the public with exhibition galleries created to display library treasures.
The renovation will start in 2011 and take three years.
Dr Thomas said books stored in Wiltshire would be predominantly low demand items, many of which were available electronically. She said there would be two deliveries a day to Oxford.