PLANS to spend £600,000 renovating an historic library have sparked outrage from councillors who were denied the chance to retain their ward’s own beloved service.

Bolton Council has approved the refurbishment of the former Great Lever Library for community use, but Astley Bridge councillors have labelled the decision ‘appalling’.

The Carnegie library in Moss Bank Way was shut down in 2012 and is now used as offices by mail room equipment supplier Franking Sense.

Cllr Hilary Fairclough said: “This is appalling, to think that £600,000 can be found to turn an old disused library into a community facility when the area has so many other community buildings is outrageous.

“The three Astley Bridge councillors fought hard to try to retain our library, we thought outside the box to both keep the use of the library and expand and promote its community use.

“We had fully costed our plans so that no money was needed to be spent by the council. Our petition of over 1,500 names was ignored and the council just pressed ahead with its closure.

“Astley Bridge’s community buildings are virtually non-existent, our old library building on Moss Bank way would have been the ideal site to have a mixed selection of uses including continuation of a library, community and educational use for all our residents.”

She added that Franking Sense is 'an asset to the area' in the absence of a community building.

It has not been confirmed which community groups could be based at the Great Lever site, in Bradford Road.

Tory leader, Cllr David Greenhalgh, added: “Unfortunately this decision, although legal and made through the correct process and I’m sure welcomed by the residents of Great Lever, does highlight the issue of fair funding to all within the borough. Why would it be an appropriate use of £600,000 of council tax payers’ money to renovate a building for community use in Great Lever, an area which already has buildings used by the community, when only a few years ago, when libraries were being closed, such requests to maintain similar buildings for community use were refused?

“I was told that these repairs were a statutory obligation, but this decision is about priorities, and at this time when Labour are happy to remind us that council budgets are under pressure, the use of over half a million pounds on the renovation of a building with no sustainability plan moving forward, and with only the promise of a number of peppercorn rents from community groups, is not I’m afraid the best use of council tax payers money.”

Council leader Cliff Morris said the libraries’ situations were ‘completely different’.

He added: “Someone wanted to buy the Astley Bridge library and it was in a bad position on the main road anyway. The Great Lever Library is in the heart of the community and needs repairing. Astley Bridge has sports facilities which we invested into, so the wards do get even funding. There are no double standards and I don’t want anybody thinking that.”