THE THREAT of a fresh legal challenge has prompted a further delay to contentious plans to cut and change Darlington’s library services.

As the battle to save the historic Crown Street Library continues, volunteers set to take over Cockerton Library have announced the postponement of their plans.

Last month, councillors approved proposals to axe Darlington’s mobile library, hand Cockerton Library to volunteers and close the Crown Street facility, moving much of its resources to the nearby Dolphin Centre.

Campaigners have now re-enlisted the services of lawyer Michael Imperato in their battle against the closure of Crown Street Library, meaning that Darlington Borough Council is likely to face a fresh legal challenge.

Mr Imperato – who has succeeded in saving other libraries from closure - was initially appointed to represent campaigners last year, with the subsequent threat of a judicial review prompting Darlington Borough Council to set aside an initial vote approving the contentious proposals.

In light of the legal issues that could arise from his reappointment, the steering group heading the volunteer takeover of Cockerton Library have announced the postponement of their own proposals, pending the resolution of the uncertain legal situation.

Chair of the Cockerton Steering Group, John Whitehouse, said: “We do not want to press ahead with our plan until we know what is happening and that means waiting to see if legal action is forthcoming and what the outcome of that action might be.

“Although Cockerton Library negotiations have taken place separately from talks on Crown Street, any decision on Crown Street impacts on the future of the library service as a whole.

“We feel it would be unwise to proceed further until the situation is resolved.”

A spokesman for Darlington Borough Council was unable to confirm the potential cost of Cockerton Library remaining under council control for longer than anticipated.

However, he said that the council was confident the transfer into community hands would happen.

He added: “We are aware of the volunteers wish to hold back on finalising the transfer until certain potential legal issues are resolved.

“The scope of any such legal challenge is beyond our control.”

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