CONCERNS have been raised about the future of the borough's libraries after the council said the site of Walthamstow's Wood Street facility could be "redeveloped".

Campaigners and unions suspect that the authority has let slip that it is preparing to shut some libraries, or transform them into multi-purpose buildings.

The council is aiming to slash £65 million from its budget over the next three years following an unprecedented cut in government funding, and other local authorities have already announced proposals to shut more than 360 libraries across the UK.

The fears come after the publication of the council's Local Development Framework document, which lays out the authority's strategy and vision for Waltham Forest.

The report says that there is potential for new housing and improvements in the Wood Street area's shopping facilities.

It states: "Regeneration of this area could provide up to 1,000 homes.

"Redevelopment across a cluster of sites, including the library site, Wood Street precinct could enhance the public realm and open spaces whilst also ensuring sensitive renewal and refurbishment of historic and character buildings."

For more than two weeks The Guardian has repeatedly asked the council whether it is considering closing the library and what "redevelopment" of the site is being considered.

The council has refused to comment.

Waltham Forest library convenor and union activist Nancy Taaffe said there were rumours among staff that the council is considering using some libraries to house services previously provided by branches of Waltham Forest Direct, which are due to close as part of cost-cutting measures.

She said: "Any plans to close or merge existing library buildings will be fought by Unison.

"We think that unrestrained development like this will have us like San Paolo, with high density housing and no amenities or facilities to accommodate this expansion."

Janet Wright, one of the lead campaigners against the closure of Walthamstow's St James Street Library in 2007, said she would not be surprised if the council were planning to shut down similar facilities.

She said: "I'm very pessimistic about what will happen when you consider the council's past record, such as when they pulped 225,000 books.

"I dread to think that they might close any more libraries. St James Street only cost £70,000 a year to run, which is a small amount in the context of the council's budget.

"There are so many proven benefits of libraries, especially in poorer areas such as Waltham Forest. It would be a tragedy if any more were to close."

In December last year it was revealed that the council had paid £20,000 to market research firm BMG to carry out a review and survey of the borough's libraries.

It has yet to be published.

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