Plans for a controversial new gym and library complex should sent back to the drawing board, critics claim.

A public consultation began this week on the refurbishment of South Woodford Library, in High Road, to combine fitness facilities and library services.

Proposals involve moving library services from Woodford Green Library, which will be closed, into Sir James Hawkey Hall in Broomhill Road.

Gareth Morley, head of culture and libraries at Vision Redbridge, which runs services on behalf of the council, gave a presentation on the proposals at an Area 2 meeting last night.

“Woodford Green Library is not in a good state and we are not generating as much income from Sir James Hawkey Hall as we should be,” he said.

But the plans were heavily criticised by councillors and residents, who pointed out the cost of hiring the hall was higher than charges for similar facilities in neighbouring boroughs.

Cllr Linda Huggett said: “I don’t think this has been thought out properly. It is not near any shops or any stations and residents will have to pay for parking at the hall, whereas parking in Woodford Green Library is free.

“I think you can go back to the drawing board and do better.”

Cllr Michael Stark suggested library services are being stripped back too far.

He said: “The library should not be something which is scurried away at the weekends and rolled out during the week.

“Visiting a library should be a better experience than that.”

At the meeting, Mr Morley claimed more than 50 per cent of residents who saw the plans this week supported the proposal for a gym.

He later claimed 50 of the 60 people he had seen at consultation sessions so far were supportive of the changes.

The remaining 10 were either just opposed, or opposed but understood the reasons for the proposed changes.

And Cllr Ian Bond supported the proposals.

He said: “It has been earmarked for disposal for some time and is a sad old building.

“The good thing about this is you can share the library with other organisations. Libraries are only open during the day.

“Sharing space with libraries is the way forward – we haven’t closed any libraries.”

Plans and drawings of the proposal are available this week to view at South Woodford Library and Woodford Green Library and a comments box will be available on both sites until January 31.