A LEGAL challenge lodged by campaigners hoping to save a historic library will cost Darlington at least £33,000 a month from early 2018.

Contentious plans to close Crown Street Library and transfer most of its resources to the nearby Dolphin Centre have been delayed repeatedly since being announced in February 2016.

As part of a £12.5m programme of budget cuts, Darlington Borough Council estimated saving around £330,000 a year with plans to cut and change library services. Proposals were put on hold when campaigners sought a judicial review of the plans and the council’s consultation procedures.

The council say the delay resulting from the on-going legal process will cost £33,000 a month in lost savings from early 2018, when the library was scheduled to close.

Cllr Nick Wallis – who is the council’s lead for the library project – said: “The delay means the library will not complete its move to the Dolphin Centre as was originally planned and as such, the council will not achieve its planned savings from that time. This means there will be less money available to fund other services such as Street Scene.”

He added: “We await the outcome of the legal process, which is not moving forward at a pace we would wish to get a resolution to this matter, but we remain fully committed to relocating the central library to the Dolphin Centre.We believe the relocation gives the best opportunity to modernise the library service and reach out to more users.”

Darlington's Conservative leader, Cllr Heather Scott, said the council should have anticipated the risks associated with their plans and should fund costs associated with the review from contingency funds.

Cllr Scott said it was unacceptable to link the actions of library campaigners to a deterioration in services like Street Scene, which maintains the environment and appearance around Darlington.

She added: “It is quite legitimate for people to make a legal challenge.Though it is a shame it has not been concluded sooner, it is a completely different issue to that of Street Scene and other services. To use this situation as an excuse not to spend money in those areas is not acceptable.”

Paul Howell, spokesman for the Friends of Darlington Libraries, said the group had no intention of backing down in their fight to save the beloved library.

He said campaigners believe the council could have saved a significant sum of money by housing a reduced library service at Crown Street.

Mr Howell called again on the council to sit down with campaigners to “discuss numbers”, adding: “We would like that to happen before this goes to court.

“The council is in last chance saloon when it comes to making a decision themselves and listening to the residents of the town.”