Oxford University’s £78m scheme to transform the New Bodleian Library in Broad Street has been approved by Oxford City Council.

The decision to grant the huge renovation project both planning permission and listed building consent was taken this week by planning officers under delegated powers.

It clears the way for the New Bodleian to become the new Weston Library in four or five years’ time, when the building will be opened to the public for the first time.

A new glass frontage will face out to Broad Street, with a large entrance hall, exhibition rooms and a cafe inside the redeveloped library.

The project will allow the Bodleian to put many of its treasures on display in what is likely to become a major new city centre visitor attraction.

The long-awaited project, designed by Wilkinson Eyre Architects, will also create better storage for valuable special collections, while creating extra space for researchers.

Sarah Thomas, Bodley’s Librarian, said: “Securing planning permission is an important milestone in this exciting library project.

“The architects, our Broad Street neighbours, library staff and countless others have all collaborated in this visionary scheme.

“We’ve worked to ensure that the redeveloped building would appeal to academics and scholars but also would contribute to the city as an inviting space to share the Bodleian’s treasures, in dedicated exhibition galleries, with the general public.”

Designed by Giles Gilbert Scott, the grade II-listed New Bodleian Library was completed in 1940. Featuring an innovative design for that time, the much criticised building was created as a huge ‘book fortress’.

The renovation will start next year following the removal of more than 3.5m books, and the Weston Library is scheduled to reopen in 2015.

Despite the challenge of having to relocate millions of books, the Bodleian said it was determined to provide “an uninterrupted service for its readers during the redevelopment”.

Oxfordshire County Council earlier said it would be working closely with the university to create “an exciting public space” between the new Weston Library and the Clarendon Building — semi-pedestrianised with quality paving — but no details have been finalised.

The New Bodleian houses the Bodleian’s special and rare collections, including 10,000 Medieval manuscripts. In recent years, the building’s deteriorating state has led to doubts about its ability to store collections of international importance, with concerns about fire risk, security protection and humidity.

The Garfield Weston Foundation has donated £25m towards the scheme, with the OUP contributing a similar amount. Julian Blackwell, the president of Blackwell’s Bookshop, donated £6m.

The Garfield Weston Foundation was established in 1958 by the Canadian businessman William Garfield Weston. The charity is a major contributor to the arts in this country.

To accommodate the books now housed in the New Bodleian and to provide space for the Bodleian’s growing collections, the university is constructing a book storage facility in Swindon, which will open in late 2010.

The university’s original plan to build the depository on Oxford’s Osney Mead industrial estate was controversially turned down by Oxford City Council.