Plan to close Uttlesford libraries is shelved amid council rethink

A Stansted Library protest was held earlier this year. Picture: SAFFRON PHOTO

A Stansted Library protest was held earlier this year. Picture: SAFFRON PHOTO - Credit: Archant

Plans to close Thaxted and Stansted’s village libraries have been shelved, after Essex County Council (ECC) backtracked on proposals which could have seen 25 libraries in the county shut their doors for good.

Thaxted Library.

Thaxted Library. - Credit: Archant

Plans to close Thaxted and Stansted's village libraries have been shelved, after Essex County Council (ECC) backtracked on proposals which could have seen 25 libraries in the county shut their doors for good.

The leader of ECC announced on Tuesday that no libraries would close for five years, after more than 21,000 responses, 1,000 letters and 50 petitions were received in response to a consultation, which proposed a rafter of changes to the way libraries are run in Essex.

Under the proposals, Thaxted and Stansted would have closed, while the hours at Dunmow Library could have been slashed by more than half. The hours at Saffron Walden Library could also have been reduced.

Next Monday, ECC will publish its final libraries strategy for approval at cabinet on July 23, which has been changed following the consultation.

According to ECC, the new strategy focuses on developing an investment plan to improve libraries as well as working with and supporting community groups or other partners to set up community run libraries, with the aim of ensuring a library service is retained in every current location.

District councillor Martin Foley, who campaigned to keep Thaxted Library open, said: "After a fantastic campaign and support from people in our area, Essex County Council this week has said 'no libraries will close' but as usual, the devil is going to be in the detail.

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"The statement still refers to community-run libraries, and there is no commitment to keeping libraries open as part of the statutory offer. We want to keep Thaxted Library open with the staff."

Cllr Foley and Councillor Martin Tayler, district councillors for Thaxted and The Eastons, said: "The fight must go on to make sure our libraries are properly funded with a sensible staffing level like we have now."

Cllr Susan Barker, cabinet member for customer, communities, culture and corporate, said: "Our future libraries strategy has changed drastically due to what the people of Essex told us. I am delighted that the consultation ignited such passion for keeping the service alive.

"We assured everyone that their feedback would be taken into account, and it has - all our libraries now have a future."

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