DARLINGTON'S council had "sound and powerful" reasons to close its historic central library, the High Court heard on Tuesday.

Campaigners and representatives from the authority returned to Leeds Combined Court for the final day of a “David vs Goliath” judicial review.

Mrs Justice Philippa Whipple presided over the scrutiny of Darlington Borough Council's contentious decision to close Crown Street Library and move most of its resources to the nearby Dolphin Centre.

The repeatedly delayed plans were announced in 2016 as part of a £12.5m programme of budget cuts and were met with significant opposition.

On Monday, the first day of the hearing was largely given over to representations delivered on behalf of The Friends of Darlington Library.

As reported, Nicholas Bowen QC argued that the council’s consultation exercises were “pre-determined” and “close-minded” and said that the authority had acted unfairly in its treatment of a business plan put forward by campaigners.

Mr Bowen said that the council pledged assistance it did not deliver and left the protestors without adequate time or support to develop a viable alternative plan to closing the library.

Today, he reiterated his points and said that the campaigners were not given the opportunity to redraft their plan upon its rejection by the council.

The authority’s representative said that the council did not have a legal obligation to offer assistance to the campaigners in developing the business plan but had nevertheless met with them, provided information and offered a room for them to hold workshops in.

Richard Clayton QC said there was no evidence to suggest that the plans would have succeeded even if officers had worked in more depth with them.

Mr Clayton outlined the financial plight of the council but said that the library decision was not made entirely to save money but also to create a modern and more accessible service at the leisure centre.

Mr Clayton said: "Irrespective of the savings, which were very important in the context of the pressures facing the council, there are sound and powerful reasons why it took the position it did."

The QC told the court that the significant delays caused by the legal case had had a detrimental effect and meant that the council could not deliver anticipated savings, estimating that they were losing £25,000 a week as a result.

He highlighted perceived flaws in the campaigners’ case, suggesting it lacked substance and legal grounding and relied too heavily on witness statements.

Mr Clayton urged Mrs Justice Whipple not to grant a relief request made by Mr Bowen’s team, who hoped to secure a further extension of the consultation period to assist campaigners in developing their plans.

The High Court judge ended the hearing with the announcement that she would reserve her judgement, expected to be delivered within weeks.

Afterwards, Yvonne Richardson of the Friends of Darlington Library, said: “This is a David vs Goliath struggle.

“We are ordinary people who know nothing about public law, governance or how the council works.

“Knowing that something was wrong, we had to try and find the background out ourselves as it was not revealed to us.

“The council has full time experts, resources and the privilege of having all of the information at hand.

“There’s no comparison between us and I hope that the judge sees that this is a completely unfair struggle, as expressed by the fact we are funded by legal aid and the council can afford Rolls Royce legal representation.”