A JUDGE will consider plans to close Darlington’s historic Crown Street Library when a legal challenge reaches the high court today.

Sitting at Leeds Combined Court, Mr Justice King will preside over a hearing concerning Darlington Borough Council’s contentious plans to cut and change library services across the town, with the authority’s consultation procedures expected to be closely scrutinised.

The case comes following a legal challenge issued by campaigners who have used legal aid to enlist lawyer Michael Imperato to represent them in court.

Council proposals, announced as part of a £12.5m programme of budget cuts, would see the Grade II listed building closed and the majority of its resources moved to create a new library service at the nearby Dolphin Centre.

Cllr Nick Wallis, the council’s lead for the library project, insists that the closure of Crown Street is necessary to provide a modernised library service for the town’s residents.

However, The Friends of Darlington Libraries believe the council could save money by keeping a reduced service at Crown Street and have accused the authority of failing to consult properly with the public - a matter expected to be addressed in court.

The hearing comes after repeated delays to the proposals, which had to be set aside temporarily due to the threat of a judicial review in September 2016 and which were put on hold twice in 2017 - once in January when Conservative councillors called the plans in for further scrutiny and again in February when cabinet members failed to make a declaration of interest before voting on the proposals, despite also acting as trustees for the Crown Street building.

The council is currently unable to progress with the closure of Crown Street until resolution of the latest legal action, which Cllr Wallis says could cost the town £33,000 a month in lost savings from early 2018, when the library was originally expected to close.

The council did not wish to comment ahead of the impending court hearing, but Cllr Wallis previously said: “We await the outcome of the legal process, which is not moving forward at a pace we would wish to get a resolution to the matter.

“We remain fully committed to relocating the central library to the Dolphin Centre, we believe relocation gives the best opportunity to modernise the service and reach more users.”

Campaigners and representatives from the council are expected to travel to Leeds for the hearing.