A campaign group has expressed their delight in latest development to prevent Essex libraries being voluntary run.

Save Our Libraries Essex (SOLE), has already fought against Essex County Council’s decision to close 25 of 74 libraries across the county.

The council have since faced another blow in their revised strategy to have voluntary groups running smaller and less-used libraries, after the Expressions of Interest (EOIs) withdrew from Brightlingsea and West Mersea branches.

This means that nine facilities originally listed to be voluntary-run, including Chigwell two Harlow-based libraries will no longer be.

Matt Cooke of Brightlingsea SOLE said: "With the support of Local Town Councillors we championed the Library remaining controlled and run by ECC, and discovered that initially there were two expressions of interest.

“One was withdrawn prior to the ECC U-turn, but the Community Centre expression remained on the table with all the best intentions.

“We wrote to the management team at Brightlingsea Community Association to ask it to consider its position and withdraw and in reply received the following email from Helen Bishop, manager of Brightlingsea Community Association:

'Further to your recent correspondence regarding our interest in undertaking a Community Library at the Community Centre, I would confirm that our expression was made to ensure that Brightlingsea retained some form of library service.

‘I can now advise however that following discussions with the Library Services and the recent U-turn made by Essex County Council, we have formally withdrawn our expression of interest in the knowledge that Brightlingsea Library will remain open and run by the County Council. I would be happy for you to forward this information to SOLE.'

“We all heaved a sigh of relief as a result of this response."

In a statement a SOLE spokesperson said: "It is clear a gun was pointed out the heads of local communities by Essex County Council, who were told 'run your library or else it's going'.

“Now ECC has put its gun away for at least five years, it is hardly surprising local communities are telling ECC that they only made bids under duress.

“It is not the job of local people to house and run libraries. It is Essex County Council's statutory duty. It is a further testament to the campaigning efforts by people in Essex that ECC's closure plan by stealth is crumbling."

"In the case of West Mersea we understand there was much confusion about what was expected of a volunteer group, and when they saw what exactly was required the bid was withdrawn.

“It seems ECC is happy to allow confusion to reign, because when local groups realise they're expected not just to staff the library but find a building, do all the fund raising and pay all the bills, people don't want to know.”