A DECISION on the future of an historic library building has been delayed due to a fresh legal challenge.

Darlington Borough Council’s cabinet members – who also hold the role of trustees for the Crown Street Library building – decided in a special meeting held today to defer any decision on its future until the outcome of the latest legal challenge.

The authority is facing the threat of a judicial review over plans to close the library grade II listed Crown Street building as part of a £12.5m programme of budget cuts.

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It was also confirmed in the meeting that the council had received an independent valuation of between £200,000 and £400,000 for the historic building.

The council have proposed developing the site for community use or - if no suitable use can be found - sell the building for redevelopment and invest the money.

Councillor Nick Wallis, cabinet member for leisure and local environment, said although they support the recommendations “in principle”, they will “defer any final decision until the impact of the legal challenge was known”.

As the meeting drew to a close, Councillor Joe Kelley attempted to ask a question from the public gallery, but leader Bill Dixon stopped him, saying “you know the rules”.

This resulted in an angry response from campaigners, who shouted back “we want to know his views” and “this should be democracy”.

A packed public gallery also raised concerns about the “potential conflict of interest” of cabinet members acting as trustees.

Campaigner Yvonne Richardson said: “Most charities have aims and objectives which gives them a transparent way of operating.

“We don’t know what they are and we have to take what you are saying on trust.”

But Cllr Dixon said: “We did not understand that we were trustees until the process started.

“Once we started, it is clear that cabinet assumes the role of trustee.

“We decided the best way to do that was publicly and openly.

“We have indicted the direction of travel rather than make any decision at this time, and this is a debate for the whole of the borough, not just the town.”

Lawyer Michael Imperato – whose work has helped to save other UK libraries – submitted concerns over the authority’s consultation process and the trust that governs future use of the building.

A similar letter issued in September 2016 saw the council set aside an initial decision to close the library, leading to costly delays.

In April, Darlington’s MP Jenny Chapman, who vowed to ‘chain herself to the railings’ to stop the building being sold to developers, called for the Forum Music Centre to move to the Crown Street building.