CHANGES to the ground floor of historic Hove Library are planned to go ahead after being approved by officers, not councillors.

Despite a dozen objections to the plans, which critics say will damage the historic internal symmetry of the Grade II listed building, the decision was delegated to civil servants after the briefest possible public consultation.

At yesterday’s meeting of Brighton and Hove City Council planning committee, chairwoman Councillor Julie Cattell said: “The application was given careful consideration and was supported by heritage experts.

“The application has been determined.”

She said only four objections were received in the proper timeframe and therefore the decision had been delegated.

The Brighton Society had lodged an objection to the plan, writing: “Historic England, in its list entry summary, describes Hove’s Carnegie Library as “full of spatial interest” and, furthermore, refers specifically to its “radiating bays” to the south.

“It is disingenuous to argue that a significant reduction of library space on the ground floor would in any way serve to recreate the symmetry already compromised by the necessary introduction of a disabled toilet and store.

“Rather, further reducing the shelving space here would thoroughly destroy the integrity of the original radiating design.”

Jeremy Mustoe, chairman of the Brighton Society, said yesterday: “It’s very disappointing.

“I think there are an awful lot of questions to be answered.

“This decision should have been taken by councillors.

“It seems to me the recommendation of the conservation advisory group should have been taken into account.”

He has questioned why the council, which often opens consultations for a longer period, had limited this one to just 21 days, especially over the Christmas period during which meetings of residents’ groups and interested parties might be harder to convene or take place more sporadically.

Notification of the planned changes, which include removing bookshelves to create an office and the addition of external ventilation, was put up outside the library on December 8 and taken down on December 29, the statutory 21 days later.

But campaigners have complained no letters were sent to nearby residents informing them of the changes to the controversial site – which was only narrowly saved from being sold off two years ago by a massive public outcry.

The recommendation from the conservation advisory group was for refusal, but the group did not meet until after the Christmas break by which time the deadline for objections which would determine whether the decision went to councillors had passed.

The group wrote: “The reason for the application is economic: toilets to the basement and removal of staff workroom would enable this area to be let for income generating purposes.

“However, the proposal for new staff workrooms on the ground and first floors the south west would destroy the symmetry of a Grade ll listed building in the Old Hove Conservation Area.

“Also the magnificent design would be lost.”

In a decision dated March 20 in the name of senior planning officer Liz Hobden, the officers’ report concluded: “The heritage team have confirmed that the proposed works would not harm the historic character or appearance of the Grade II listed building or wider conservation area.”