THE cornerstone of Crown Street is set to be vacated within one year under council plans to close Darlington’s central library.

Labour councillors sitting in a full Darlington Borough Council meeting on Thursday evening unanimously agreed to run a severely reduced library service from the town's Dolphin Centre.

The decision also sees 25 members of library staff now facing redundancy, as well as one operator of the mobile library service, which has been scrapped and taken off the road.

The decision will see Cockerton Library become a community-run service after a Cockerton Library Cooperative steering group produced a strategy to save the site that holds 6,000 books.

However, despite numerous protests, petitions and residents’ efforts to protect the Grade II-listed Crown Street Library from being closed, the council has revealed the downsizing of the service is set to be completed by early 2018.

A Darlington Borough Council spokeswoman said: “A tentative start date on relocation works would be September this year with completion set for spring 2018.”

The Grade II-listed building opened in October 1885 after Quaker pioneer and Darlington forefather, Edward Pease, left £10,000 – or £1m in today’s money – for a “library or other educational purpose”.

Following a legal challenge to the original decision taken by the council in 2016 to close the library, the Charity Commission confirmed that the site is held on trust for use as a public library.

A council spokeswoman told The Northern Echo: “We will be advising the Charity Commission on decisions that have been made about the library service.

“Our intention is to update the Commission as matters move forward and we will comply with any advice received from them.”

The authority has stated that the closure of Crown Street Library – which houses the Centre for Local Studies and an art gallery – will generate annual savings of around £300,000.

Passionate campaigners have vowed that Thursday night’s decision will not stop their fight to protect Darlington’s library services.

In a statement issued by the Friends of Crown Street Library yesterday, a spokesman said: “The Friends of the Library have been heartened by the continual support of the people of Darlington and we will continue to look at how we can further challenge this wholly inappropriate decision.”