Local campaigners have appointed one of the country’s leading judicial review lawyers to challenge Darlington Council in the courts over its decision to close the Crown Street Library. DfC’s comment is at the bottom of the piece.
Peter Cuthbertson, who last year ran to be the MP for Darlington, is working with top lawyer Michael Imperato of Watkins & Gunn Solicitors and other local campaigners to ask the Council to think again.
They claim that the decision to close the library was taken without due process and proper public consultation. A letter of challenge was delivered to Darlington Council on Friday 12th August.
Earlier this year, Michael Imperato worked with the Church Stretton Library Support Group in Shropshire to prevent the local council moving the library from the town centre to the edge of the town. In April, Shropshire Council quashed their decision moments before the case was due to be heard by the High Court.
Mr Imperato previously worked with Rhydyfelin Library Support Group to successfully save their local library in South Wales. He also took to the High Court a legal challenge to the proposed closure of a library in Rhoose, Wales.
Peter Cuthbertson said: “Crown Street Library has been a much-loved part of the town for 130 years. It was hugely valuable for me when I was younger, as a place to revise for exams. It’s no substitute to pack everything off to the Dolphin Centre.
“This has been a real team effort for the last five months. As well as Michael’s legal expertise, we couldn’t have done this without the time and support – usually anonymously – of key local groups.”
Michael Imperato said: “Our legal case is simple: councils have to go through a full, proper consultation process when they make decisions of this importance. Darlington Council has failed to do that.
“This is a radical reconfiguration of the town’s library service and it clearly flies in the face of strong feelings locally. I have seen how fierce the support has been for keeping the library open, and how angry campaigners are at feeling ignored.”
John Dean, Chair of Darlington for Culture, one of the groups that campaigned against the changes, said: “Although we are not involved in this legal action, we do believe that, if the borough council has made errors in the consultation process over Darlington’s library service, then it is only right that they be fully investigated. The thousands of people who campaigned to keep Crown Street and Cockerton libraries open, and to save the mobile library, will, I am sure, await the outcome of the legal action with interest.”
Darlington Council told The Northern Echo that it believes the decision was taken appropriately.