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Council backtracks over closures

15 January 09 21:40 GMT

Councillors have backtracked on controversial plans to close libraries and leisure facilities in Wirral.

The borough council planned to close 13 libraries, three arts centres and three leisure facilities to reinvest £20m in multi-purpose complexes.

At Wallasey Town Hall, the cabinet said Birkenhead Central library and those in Pensby and Upton would stay open, as would Woodchurch Leisure Centre.

But many other libraries across the borough will shut down as planned.

The closures were initially proposed as part of a "strategic asset review" by Wirral Borough Council.

'Detailed arguments'

Local people objected to the cuts, with hundreds joining demonstrations in the area in recent weeks.

About 400 people packed into the town hall to hear the results of the review on Thursday evening, with some having to wait outside for the news.

In a nod to the protesters, the council said in a statement: "Cabinet noted the often passionate support of what were felt to be local community facilities and recognised the considerable time and effort put in by a number of correspondents who sought to provide detailed arguments for the retention of a particular facility."

Libraries which are confirmed to close are Beechwood Library, Ridgeway Library, and those in Eastham, Higher Bebington, Hoylake, Irby, New Ferry, Prenton, Seacombe, Wallasey Village and Woodchurch.

Guinea Gap leisure centre was given a two-year reprieve, and negotiations will be held to transfer several other facilities - including Grange Road West Sports Centre and Woodchurch Community Centre - to community ownership.

The council said it would look for interested parties to run Pacific Road Arts Centre as an independent arts and performance venue.

Wirral Museum, however, is to close but the building will be retained and a new use for it sought.

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