THE High Court has ordered a temporary halt to the closure of libraries in Gloucestershire.

There were mass protests last November when Gloucestershire County Council said it would withdraw funding from 10 branches as part of its £11.4million spending cuts.

Campaigners have now won an injunction stopping the council proceeding which the local authority will challenge on July 7.

GCC leader, Cllr Mark Hawthorne said the council was not surprised by the delay tactic.

"This is very frustrating for council taxpayers and community groups," he said. "They are being forced into a costly legal process at a time when 20 communities have stepped forward with innovative and exciting business plans to take over their local facility.

"My message to them is that this is a short-term setback and we will continue to support them in developing and working towards successful community-run facilities."

Under the controversial proposals, 10 Gloucestershire libraries will close unless volunteers come forward to take them on, including Lechlade.

Fairford, Tetbury, Bourton-on-the-Water and Moreton-in-Marsh libraries will also be affected with both reduced stock and opening hours.

Lawyers launched the legal challenge on the grounds that the consultation process carried out by GCC was "insufficient", that it did not pay due regard to its equality duties meaning library closure would have a big impact on vulnerable society members, and that GCC was in breach of its obligation to provide an efficient and comprehensive library service.

Johanna Anderson, spokesman for the Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries, said although she regretted the court action, the authority had been warned that it was a possibility if it proceeded with the plans.

She said: "More than 15,000 people signed a petition calling on them to pause and carry out an impartial, independent review of their proposals.

"The consultation feedback shows that the public overwhelmingly rejected their plans. Yet they refused to listen and have instead chosen to walk into an expensive court case."