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Schoolchildren to stage their own protest march to save libraries

PUBLISHED: 15:47 23 April 2019 | UPDATED: 12:10 24 April 2019

Holly Turner with son Harry, and Emma Fisher with daughter Iris, are campaigning against the proposed closure of Essex libraries. Picture: DEBBIE BURROWS

Holly Turner with son Harry, and Emma Fisher with daughter Iris, are campaigning against the proposed closure of Essex libraries. Picture: DEBBIE BURROWS

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Children are to fight for the future of their beloved libraries when they stage their own protest marches to save them from closure.

Holly Turner with son Harry, and Iris Fisher, are campaigning against the proposed closure of Essex libraries. Picture: DEBBIE BURROWSHolly Turner with son Harry, and Iris Fisher, are campaigning against the proposed closure of Essex libraries. Picture: DEBBIE BURROWS

Adult opponents to Essex County Council's plan to shut 25 of its 74 libraries have already held their own demonstrations against the proposal, which would affect every district in the county.

But on Saturday, April 27 children as young as four will add their voices to the chorus of opposition by staging a Young People's March for Libraries in Colchester and Manningtree.

Among those joining the protests will be four-year-old Iris Fisher, who said: “Don't close our library we have to save it because it's our library so we can still get new books.”

Holly Nettleton, aged five, added: “I don't want the library to close because I like to borrow lots of books like the Winnie the Witch ones. I want to go on the march and hold signs so they keep it open.”

Essex County Council has said the libraries at risk of being withdrawn are those with “relatively low demand”, adding that those areas have other services nearby and that “a library service is not required in these locations”.

Libraries at high risk include Stansted, Holland-on-Sea, Prettygate, Sible Hedingham and Hatfield Peverel - with another 19 under threat if they cannot be run by the community or others with support from the council.

A consultation on the plan was held by the county council earlier in the year and the council says that no decisions have yet been made.

However opponents say libraries are crucial to a child's education, as they make free books accessible to all generations.

Emma Batrick, from Save Our Libraries Essex (SOLE), said: “We are uniting across Essex by putting on events to celebrate our libraries this weekend.

“With just over a month until the consultation results are expected to be revealed, we are stepping up our campaign to show how people feel about an act of cultural vandalism that will rip the heart out of local communities.

“Essex County Council will ignore the people of this county at their peril.”

Colchester's Young People's March for Libraries will assemble at the town's library at 2.30pm before marching through the town.

The equivalent event in Manningtree will meet at 2pm at the Methodist Church in South Street, while in Chelmsford protesters will be in the High Street between 11am and 12.30pm.

A spokesman for Essex County Council said: “Essex County Council consulted on the draft libraries strategy for 12 weeks, receiving over 21,000 responses.

“We are not planning to close up to 60% of libraries but have consulted on possibly closing up to 25. No decisions about any library has or will be made until the county council cabinet considers the final strategy in the summer.”

“In terms of ensuring young people had the opportunity to have their say, we promoted the consultation countywide to every current library user, we also promoted to families and young people through schools, the Early Years Service, pre-schools and organisers of library groups and activities for children. We also promoted extensively via social media.

“Of the 21,000 responses we received, 4,812 were from families with children under 11 - 527 from those 16 and under and an additional 135 from 17 to 20-year-olds.

“This means that over a quarter of all responses to the consultation were from young people and their families.”

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