RELATIVES of Quaker pioneer Edward Pease last night made an impassioned plea for Darlington's historic central library which faces closure under controversial council cutbacks.

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Matthew Pease, a direct descendant of Edward’s brother, Joseph Pease, revealed that Darlington Borough Council had contacted the family after announcing £12.5m worth of cuts to services last week.

The authority is planning deep cutbacks in library service provision which could see the central building - a gift to the town in Edward's will - the Cockerton branch library and the mobile library all axed.

Mr Pease, a 53-year-old architect who is also involved in the preservation of historical buildings, said that any decisions made in the future should “reflect what the people want”.

Under the council’s proposals, the Pease’s Crown Street Library legacy would be lost with the building sold off to generate funds to support the Civic Theatre’s refurbishment. Council officers have contacted the Pease family to open discussions over the building which is protected by a legal covenant.

Last night Mr Pease urged the local authority - which is facing a chronic cash crisis as a result of cuts to central government grants - to respect "what my ancestors would have wanted" when it decides the library's fate.

Mr Pease said: “I’m aware of what’s going on and the council has made contact with us so, at the moment, I’m really just sounding the idea to the rest of the family.

“I think I gave an immediate reaction in that these are very difficult decisions that must be made by the council members that are elected to represent the people.

“However, it is really a matter for the people of Darlington. I don’t live in Darlington, I don’t pay rates in Darlington and I don’t vote in Darlington and it might not seem the right thing for me or the family to get involved in.

“But I think we do have some input as the library was a gift to the town. It might be a matter more suited to be decided by the senior members of the family.”

A £10,000 donation in Edward Pease’s will was the final gift he left to Darlington and the site has since served the town for 131 years.

And a covenant still protects the oldest half of the building, which houses an art gallery, e-library and Centre for Local Studies.

Mr Pease, who resides in Scotland, added: “There’s a slight concern about if we should be interfering at all, but clearly we’d like to hear more about what the people in Darlington think. We’ve got to identify and take into account those opinions and support them.

“My view is that what decision is made must be respectful to the people of Darlington. The council’s decision should reflect what the people want and equally, it should respect what my ancestors would have wanted.

“At the moment we must stay neutral until we learn more about the details and plans.”

Despite an uncertain future, Darlington’s libraries celebrated National Libraries Day over the weekend (February 6) with a range of children’s events and sold-out tours that explored the book store and basement of the building.

Around 35 members of staff face redundancy if plans go ahead to move library services to the Dolphin Centre before spring 2017.

Darlington Borough Council said current proposals would maintain a library service in the town centre, along with the housebound library service.