Large-scale redevelopment planned for British Library site at Boston Spa


18 March 2022
Storage building public viewing gallery (Credit: Carmody Groarke)
Plans to create a ‘modern and sustainable’ home for the UK’s growing national collection at Boston Spa in Yorkshire have been revealed, after planning permission was granted by Leeds City Council.

A ‘major construction project’ will transform the 44 acre site - originally a World War II armaments factory, and for the past six decades the northern home of the UK national library - into a modern archive capable of storing its growing collection for decades to come.


The £95 million Government-funded redevelopment will create extra storage capacity, with further work dedicated to improving facilities for staff and visitors and making significant improvements to the environmental sustainability of the site. 

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A growing collection

The Library’s 44-acre campus near Boston Spa is home to over three quarters of the British Library's collection of over 170 million items, including books, sound recordings, maps and much more. The collection grows constantly, requiring 8km of new shelving every year – roughly the length of 80 football pitches.  

As part of the new development, 220km of extra shelf space will be created in a new high-density, automated storage building which will have the highest possible level of air tightness creating a low energy passive archive. Once complete visitors to the Library’s Boston Spa site will be able to see the inner workings of the spectacular storage facility through a new public viewing gallery. 

A long-term investment

Phil Spence, Chief Operating Officer of the British Library, said: “We are delighted that Leeds City Council have approved our plans to re-develop our site at Boston Spa to accommodate the UK’s growing national collection and build on our commitment to shaping a brighter climate future. A national library is, by its very nature, a long-term investment and an expression of hope in the future, so it’s essential that sustainability should be at the heart of this development. It marks a major step forward towards transforming our presence in the north of England and creating a sustainable British Library for everyone”. 

The British Library aims to open its new spaces at Boston Spa by 2026.

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