Go-ahead for library closure appeal
A judge has ordered an urgent hearing of an appeal against a landmark decision giving the go-ahead for the closure of six libraries.
Last week a judge at the High Court rejected claims that decisions to close the "treasured" libraries in Brent, north west London, were "fundamentally flawed and unlawful".
On Wednesday Lord Justice Elias ordered that an appeal to the Court of Appeal should be expedited, and attempts are being made to arrange it for two days early next month. Meanwhile, Brent Council has agreed to take no irrevocable steps to prevent the libraries reopening if the appeal is won.
Local residents fighting the cuts are being backed by celebrities including author Philip Pullman, playwright Alan Bennett, singer Nick Cave and bands Depeche Mode, the Pet Shop Boys and Goldfrapp. Mr Pullman is to join protesters at the weekend.
The six facing closure by Brent Council are Kensal Rise, Barham Park and Preston Road and libraries at Neasden, Cricklewood and Tokyngton. Brent Council says the closures will help to fund improvements to its remaining library service and contribute towards the £104 million of savings it needs to make.
The campaigners are accusing the council of failing to comply with its statutory duties when it decided in April to close half of its libraries while promising to provide "fewer, but better resourced, libraries". After losing its case last week, campaign group Brent Save Our Six Libraries vowed to appeal.
In the wake of Mr Justice Ouseley's ruling that the closures were "rational and lawful", the libraries were closed and council workers began boarding up buildings and removing books - provoking protesters in some cases to mount vigils and other acts of defiance.
Dinah Rose QC, appearing for the campaigners, expressed "surprise" over the council's actions, saying officials knew of the intention to appeal. Ms Rose said Brent Council had agreed on Wednesday not to take irrevocable steps, and said it should be made to pay the campaigners' legal costs.
Lord Justice Elias refused the application after Elisabeth Laing QC, for Brent, argued that the council had been entitled to act as it did before it was first indicated on Tuesday that permission to appeal was being granted. Ms Laing said: "For three months the council has been struggling along trying to maintain services in these six libraries".
The court heard that, as part of Wednesday's interim agreement, the council has agreed not to board up Kensal Rise library, on the condition campaigners agree to cover the costs of providing security for the site pending the appeal. A round-the-clock vigil had been set up to stop the boarding up, while a "library outside a library" has also been set up at Kensal Rise in defiance of the closure plans, using books donated by residents.