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They've got the message 'loud and clear', say opponents to controversial library closures

A petition has been organised against planned library closures in Essex. Picture: SAVE OUR LIBRARIES ESSEX

A petition has been organised against planned library closures in Essex. Picture: SAVE OUR LIBRARIES ESSEX

Archant

Campaigners say opposition to the proposed closure of libraries in Essex has been demonstrated "loud and clear", with 30,000 people signing a petition against the plans.

However the councillor leading the planned closures, which includes Colchester’s Prettygate library, has said that she is “extremely encouraged by the overwhelming response to the library consultation so far”.

Last year Essex County Council announced the potential closure of 25 of its 74 libraries, affecting every district in the county.

Libraries at high risk include Stansted, Holland-on-Sea, Prettygate, Sible Hedingham, and Hatfield Peverel.

Another 19 are at risk if they cannot be run by the community or other partners with support from the council.

It said those at risk of being withdrawn are because of “relatively low demand, the availability of other services and considering the community served, a library service is not required in these locations”.

But Save Our Libraries Essex (SOLE), set up in opposition to the plans, quickly denounced the idea as being “doomed to failure” and organised a number of protests, including a demonstration outside the Prettygate library.

The group now says that at least 30,000 have signed a petition against the plans - with its latest statement saying organisers believe the true number could be closer to 50,000 or 60,000, including other petitions.

“It sends a message loud and clear to Essex County Council,” a spokesman for SOLE said.

“The people of Essex are against this act of cultural vandalism. Our libraries must stay open.”

There are just a few days left for people to have their say on the county council’s Future Strategy for Essex Libraries.

The consultation will close on Thursday, February 21.

Sue Barker, cabinet member for customer and corporate at Essex County Council, said: “I am extremely encouraged by the overwhelming response to the library consultation so far.

“The consultation has sparked a great deal of interest and debate and I’m really pleased with some of the ideas coming through.

“I hope that together we can ensure we have a library service that meets the needs of Essex residents.

“If you haven’t yet completed the consultation survey, please take the time to participate and have your voice heard.”

Complete the survey here.

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