DESPITE Darlington’s best efforts to save the town’s historic Crown Street Library from closure, plans to shut the building are set to be finalised by councillors.

Thousands of protesters, campaigners and volunteers, dedicated to protecting the landmark gifted by Edward Pease 131 years ago, had hoped it could have been protected from council cuts.

But despite receiving support from internationally acclaimed authors and arts groups, Darlington Borough Council has decided to go ahead with relocating the library in an effort to save more than £100,000.

The blow to the town’s culture comes after The Northern Echo’s campaign to save the building was supported by more than 6,420 readers. More than 3,200 surveys were returned to the council with 91 per cent of those taking part disagreeing with the proposed closure.

Under the plans that are set to be agreed this month, 25 library staff will face redundancy, as well as one operator of the mobile library service, which will be scrapped and sold off.

Darlington Borough Council Leader, Councillor Bill Dixon, has urged residents to support the authority’s move to stave off the closure of Cockerton Library until March 2017.

Cllr Dixon said: “Let’s remember the library isn’t closing. A lot of services are closing and ending full stop – the light is being turned out – the library is moving.

“Cockerton Library may have a future. I would urge people to concentrate on helping Cockerton Library have a future and supporting the move to the Dolphin Centre.

“Let’s see in two years’ time if people still oppose it. It’s driven by economic necessity, but we’ll end up with a far better product being used by far more people of a wider social economic group.”

But John Dean, chair of arts campaigners Darlington for Culture, has branded the outcome of months of public consultation as disappointing after a fully-costed plan to keep library services at Crown Street was turned down by the council.

Mr Dean said: “We are not convinced that the council’s financial arguments in favour of moving to the Dolphin Centre offer much more benefit than staying at Crown Street and increasing its revenue from activities including room hire and events.

“On the positive side, we welcome the granting of extra time to pull together rescue plans for Cockerton Library and The Bridge (arts centre).

“Darlington for Culture and the organisations with whom it has worked, including the steering group and the newly-formed Friends of Darlington Libraries, will now consider our next move then announce our next steps.

“The campaign to block the move of Crown Street is not over, the anger that drove almost a thousand people to protest outside Crown Street Library in March has not dissipated.”

The sale of the Crown Street Library site, which is a Grade II listed building, had been set to raise £300,000 for the authority.

But hidden costs attached to the sale of the building could mean a little more than £100,000 will actually be recovered if a buyer is found.

Cllr Dixon said: “I would also like to reassure the public that there is no question whatsoever of the Crown Street building being demolished.

“Its status as a listed building means there is no chance of any future owner being able to knock it down and start again.”

During the lengthy consultation period, union Unison claimed it had found flaws within the council’s plans stating: “It appears that the proposal to close Cockerton Library, stop the mobile library and switch Crown Street library to the Dolphin Centre has got more holes than substance.

“It would necessitate moving the Registrars out of the Dolphin Centre, significantly downsizing the library offer, relocating the archive and losing expert and experienced staff.

“We have serious reservations as to whether this merry-go-round of services would save any money – in fact we believe it would cost the council dear."