The fight to save half of the district's libraries from closure has begun days after the shocking news broke.

On Wednesday Essex County Council announced Chigwell, Buckhurst Hill, Debden and North Weald libraries will probably shut, with Waltham Abbey, Epping and Chipping Ongar also likely to have their hours significantly cut and kept open with volunteer support.

Even Loughton library - considered the district's hub - could have its hours reduced.

The announcement caused immediate anger across Epping Forest, with Green Party district councillor for Buckhurst Hill Steven Neville spearheading the opposition and launching a petition.

He said: "I am absolutely appalled by the plan to close Buckhurst Hill Library along with Chigwell, Debden and North Weald. Buckhurst Hill.

"The library is a great community resource and Essex have clearly not thought creatively in dealing with it over the last few years.

"If this comes to pass it will be a hammer blow to Buckhurst Hill.

"They have had rooms in the building they have not used or thought of how to use."

Away from the opposition parties, UNISON Eastern regional manager Tim Roberts also took issue with the Conservative County Council's plan.

He said: “Essex County Council is threatening to rip the heart out of our communities.

“If the only thing libraries did was make knowledge available to all, then these closures would be an act of cultural vandalism – but the fact is they do so much more, from children’s story times to helping elderly and vulnerable people connect with the world around them.

“And we can’t run a high-quality and accountable library service on goodwill alone.

"If we want our kids to fall in love with reading, we need properly trained, properly paid staff to guide them through the process in properly resourced libraries.

“Instead the council is telling our children that their futures don’t matter.”

To sign the petition, click here.

Cllr Susan Barker, Cabinet Member for Customer Services, focused on the positives that could come from a library restructuring.

She said: “We want to create a library service with a wider appeal, which is more relevant to and a better fit with people's lives – one which is online 24-7, is faster, and offers users more choice.

“We believe library services play a unique role in society for reading, learning, digital access and culture.

“Society has changed; libraries are not used by the majority of our residents. And of those residents who are library users, only one in five is an active library user*.

“Technology has transformed how people read books and access information and entertainment, which is why we must look critically at our current library locations and respond to these changes.

“We want to introduce better library spaces where we do have them - smart, modern and comfortable – and where, for instance, you might be able to swipe in using a smart card, pick up parcels or bring your toddlers for rhyme time.

“We also have to make sure that we continue to offer value for money. That may mean some libraries are not viable. But if that is the case, we want to talk to communities about how they can become involved and run a library service with our support. The consultation is the opportunity to feedback on our plans and make sure that views are heard and considered."