PLANS have been submitted to transform a historic library to meet a community’s needs for decades to come, three years after a council dropped its cost-cutting plan to close it.

Darlington Borough Council has lodged an application with its planning department to refurbish Crown Street Library, which will see a new roof installed, cleaning of external facades of the grade II listed building, repairs of internal heritage features, floors changed, alongside new toilets and fresh decoration.

The documents state the improvements are being undertaken with a view to increasing visitors to the library, which is described as “a key community and educational asset”.

The application states: “The library building has been neglected over the years with repairs and modernisation works only being carried out when necessary, this scheme provides the opportunity to breathe life back into the building whilst updating the ageing infrastructure it is hoped that the works will also maximise the commercial potential of the library.”

While the documents state the estimated cost of the project remains unknown, it has previously been forecast that the council would spend £2.9m updating and improving the large building.

The application states the library in main will be retained in its original configuration maintaining many of its heritage features. Works to the ground floor will not significantly impact on the existing layout of the building, with the remodelling of the front entrance being the only change to the visual appearance of the external façade.

The papers state the extent and type of repairs will largely be based on restraining the process of decay, without damaging the character of the building, or altering the features that give the building its architectural or historic importance.

Councillors voted in 2016 to shut the library, which was built in 1884, and move the service to the Dolphin Leisure Centre in an attempt to save £300,000 a year.

The lodging of the plans marks another milestone in the rebirth of the library since Darlington council overcame a High Court challenge to its closure in 2018. However, two months later, the council decided “slightly improved finances” meant the library could be kept open.

The Conservative-led authority has said it is determined to improve the facility and Council leader Heather Scott said it was “one of the main things people were concerned about” in local elections.

Ahead of a public consultation over the council’s proposals to transform the building, Cllr Scott said: “Reading helps broaden children’s horizons and it makes people more confident.”

The building needs a new roof, asbestos removal, structural repairs and new mechanical and electrical equipment.

Earlier this year the council has revealed renovations will cost £900,000 more than was initially estimated.