Protesters out in force

tis  The protest outside Bilton Library.  110205M2b.
tis The protest outside Bilton Library. 110205M2b.

PROTEST rallies have seen hundreds of people take to the streets in Harrogate this week in fierce opposition to proposed library cuts.

Armed with banners, placards and library cards, 300 people took a stand outside Bilton Library on Saturday as part of a national day of protest.

Pateley Bridge saw its first protest march in living memory, as 250 demonstrators expressed their dismay at the “devastating” council cuts.

The measures would see three of our beloved district libraries closed, including Starbeck which only opened on Monday after a £545,000 investment.

To show their support for this much-loved facility, as many as 200 Starbeck residents attended the opening to take out books.

“This was about the community turning out to show their support, it wasn’t about politics,” said organiser of the Bilton rally Nina Jolly, a mum from Harrogate.

“It was about people - who live across the road and down the street - showing their support for their library and using it.”

“This is the children’s library,” said one protestor. “It’s so friendly, it’s like a home from home.”

“If this place closed it would be devastating,” said another.

Karen Wilson, great-granddaughter of Alderman Charles Fortune, one of the original founders of Harrogate library, said: “My great grandfather would be so disappointed if he were here now to see our national library system so under threat.”

The threat to close 24 out of 42 libraries in North Yorkshire, to save £2.3m over the next four years, has been described by users as “appalling”.

An Advertiser campaign to Save Our Libraries has had a flood support from thousands of residents who believe such a move would deprive communities of a “vital resource”.

Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones said the strength of feeling on the subject has been overwhelming.

“This, combined with the enormous number of signatures being collected on various petitions, sends a strong message that the community care about their libraries and want them to stay open,” he said.

Petitions have now secured 1,800 signatures in opposition to the cuts: 300 in Starbeck, 1,000 in Bilton, and 500 in Pateley Bridge.

Public meetings are to be hosted in Starbeck on February 21 and in Bilton on February 22. A county council representative will be at the meeting in Bilton, but the authority has refused to attend Starbeck’s debate - because it is being hosted by the Advertiser.

In light of the refusal, any comments or suggestions made at the meeting will be forwarded to county hall.