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Inner Temple votes to cut library space by nearly 60% so it can build a lecture theatre

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Move comes as rumours of not-for-profit BPTC continue to swirl

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Inner Temple has given the green light to controversial plans which will see space at its historic library cut by nearly 60% to create an “auditorium for education and training”.

Legal Cheek can reveal that following a meeting late last month Inner Temple’s benchers — who are senior barristers that run the Inn — have ignored high-profile opposition to the proposal from across the legal profession.

Notably, over 1,500 people have signed a petition against dramatically shrinking the library, while influential law blogger David Allen Green penned a widely read article about why he believes Inner Temple is making a big mistake.

So why is Inner going to the trouble to do this?

Rumours continue to swirl that the four Inns of Court are teaming up to deliver a not-for-profit Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC). As Legal Cheek reported over the summer, Lincoln’s Inn has already approved plans to hollow out a huge sky lit bunker next to its main hall. The development will include a 150-seat lecture theatre that is for education and training purposes.

Lincoln’s Inn says that the “intended use” of the proposed building is not as a law school but has stopped short of issuing a full denial that it is involved in plans for a new BPTC.

So Inner’s decision to create its own lecture theatre is bound to set even more tongues wagging. At the very least, it can be interpreted as symbolic of a determination by the Inns to move towards re-claiming their historic role as law schools.

When Legal Cheek contacted Inner today, it declined to comment on the not-for-profit BPTC chatter, issuing this statement:

Benchers of The Honourable Society of the Inner Temple met on the 21 October to discuss proposals to add an additional floor to the Treasury Building in order to develop an Education and Training Centre and additional facilities for the Inn. The discussion was followed by a postal ballot in which the Governing Benchers voted to approve the proposal. The Inn fully accepts that in creating these new facilities we must ensure that the Library is able to continue to deliver all its core services, so that the Inn’s members continue to have access to our collection and receive the highly valued assistance of our library team.

The Inn added that it was keen to “meet the demands of modern legal education”, continuing:

Education and Training is a core function of the Inn throughout a barrister’s life and there is a recognised need to ensure that the Inn’s facilities meet the demands of modern legal education. The development option approved by Governing Benchers will ensure that the Inn is able to fulfil its educational purpose by providing modern purpose-built facilities, including an auditorium and training rooms, to match the world class training which we already deliver.

Under the approved plans for what was termed “Option 2” in the consultation document, Inner Temple library’s entire upper floor and gallery will now be converted into an auditorium, with meeting rooms and offices also being created in the space.

This means that 58% of the library’s main floor will be lost to storage, equipment, lifts and stairs to a new fourth floor extension. 50% of reader spaces will be lost, while 25,000 books from the main part of the library and in everyday use will be displaced and the library will be closed entirely for a year and a half for the works to be carried out.

An alternative plan to create the new space with less impact on the library was rejected.