Chigwell, Buckhurst Hill, Debden and North Weald Libraries are likely to close

Half of the district library is likely to close due to a drastic overhaul of county services.

Chigwell, Buckhurst Hill, Debden and North Weald are likely to close, plans released ahead of an Essex County Council meeting on November 22 have revealed.

Waltham Abbey, Epping and Chipping Ongar could also see their hours drastically reduced and kept open with the support of volunteers.

Even Loughton Library – considered the hub of the neighborhood – could see its hours cut back.

Essex County Councilor Chris Pond said: “I will oppose it.

“I think this will lead the county council to breach its statutory obligation in the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act.

“Even Loughton, as a central library, could see its hours and quality of service reduced.

“Buckhurst Hill, Debden and Chigwell without a library is simply unimaginable.”

The plans come as the library lending rate continues to decline in Essex, dropping 43% from 7.1 million in 2012/13 to 4.1 million in 2017/2018.

During the same period, online lending of eBooks, eAudio and eMagazines increased 205%, and demand is expected to continue to increase.

Currently, the people of Essex are relatively well endowed in terms of libraries, with Essex County Council funding 74 public libraries and two mobile libraries.

This equates to one library per 17,325 inhabitants compared to the national average of one per 22,425 inhabitants.

It also spends just under £ 3 more on libraries per person than the national average.

In the most drastic of the three proposed changes, in which dozens of libraries across the county are either run by volunteers or closed, £ 3.7million would be saved per year.

If only level four libraries – such as Chigwell, Buckhurst Hill, Debden and North Weald – are closed and the other departments remain staffed, £ 974,000 less would be spent per year.

A 12-week audience will run from November 29 to February 20.

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