CONTROVERSIAL plans to hand over the running of Lechlade library to volunteers has been vehemently opposed by residents.

Campaigners turned up in their hundreds at a public meeting in the town, chaired by Cotswold MP Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, in which they voiced their unanimous rejection of plans to overhaul the current running of the library.

Gloucestershire County Council plans to drastically cut library services by 43 per as part of plans to save £108million over the next four years.

Lechlade library is one of 11 earmarked for closure unless volunteers come forward to take it over.

Reassurances from county councillor Ray Theodoulou and Cotswold District Councillor Sandra Carter that the Cotswold Centre for Volunteer Service had expressed interest in taking on the role did little to assuage concerns.

Helen Jones, a Lechlade WI member, said Lechlade would be a "depressed community" without the library.

"The closure of this library would have a real detrimental impact on the children in this town, it gives them another platform for education," she said.

"This town is a cheerful and lively one. It will fail to keep that up without this facility."

Cllr Theodoulou said libraries had not been a major concern for people who responded to GCC consultation on cost cutting.

But he added: "We do not want to close our libraries. We want to find ways of running them in a way which is cost effective and reduces the burden on the tax payer."

CCVS has confirmed it is considering taking over the service but if it decides not to, and no volunteers come forward by February, Lechlade Library will close.

The plans will also see Fairford library turned into an 'express’ branch, with opening hours reduced to three and a half days each week and less stock.

That revelation led to outrage at the meeting with claims that Fairford was getting "preferential treatment".

Lechlade town councillor Sue Coakley said: "We have a substantially younger and older population here than they do in Fairford, therefore we have far fewer people who are able to drive to another facility."

Resident Ken Moir said he feared that if the Lechlade was closed down it would be "lost forever" despite Government assurances that the economic climate would recover within five years.

And St Lawrence's Primary School governor Andrew Kirk said the library would miss the expertise of paid workers if CCVS took on the challenge.

"The professional staff and what they give to the children in the town in terms of educational benefits can not, and should not, be replaced," he said.

Residents have until February 2011 to make representations to GCC.