NEW Darlington Borough Council leader Stephen Harker tonight revealed he plans to keep the town’s historic Crown Street Library open.

The authority hopes to invest £2m in improving the facilities in an attempt to secure its long-term future.

The proposal comes more than two years after the idea to close the library and move services to the Dolphin Centre was originally mooted and follows a lengthy legal battle with objectors including a judicial review.

Cabinet papers due to be released on Tuesday morning will outline the council’s plan to invest in the listed building amid fears of it standing empty following the closure of the town’s Marks and Spencer shop and uncertainty over the future of the flagship Binns store on High Row.

Councillor Harker said: “Since the decision was made two years ago, things have changed a lot, in particular the challenges faced by the town centre retailers. We felt, before finally implementing the decision, it was appropriate to consider whether it is still the right decision to make.

“I have considered the report and will be recommending to my colleagues that we overturn the decision and instead look to revitalise the Crown Street building by investing up to £2m in its modernisation and repairs.”

The proposal to relocate the library services to the town’s Dolphin Centre was met with strong opposition from campaigners who demanded that the building was retained in public ownership and used for its intended purpose.

Cllr Harker said that decision to revisit the plans would have a financial impact on the authority but he believes that it is important to keep the building in use and not risk leaving it empty.

He added: “Finding an alternative use for Crown Street now feels much less likely than when the decision was made. The proposals to improve Crown Street and to provide some services, such as a ‘Quick Pick and returns’ scheme at the Dolphin Centre, will deliver many of the advantages of the relocation without the need to relocate the service.

“There is a cost of non-relocation of £220,000 per annum, the cost reflects non-delivery of savings associated with the relocation plus the cost of repaying borrowing associated with the £2m investment planned for the Crown Street building. We can accommodate this because of our good financial management as our finances have improved since the decision was originally made.”

The report will be considered at the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, September 11.