NEARLY 2,300 people in Lancashire have voiced their opposition to plans to close 40 out of the county's 72 libraries.

No fewer than 15 petitions have been lodged with County Hall, opposing either general or specific library closures, the county council's executive scrutiny committee has been told.

And more than 250 people called on county councillors to save Longridge Library, with another 186 supporting the campaign to preserve Coppull Library, backed by TV comic Dave Spikey.

Further petitions have been drawn up for libraries in Hyndburn and Rossendale and there is an ongoing fight to save Read Library in Ribble Valley.

Library staff also received a shot in the arm after a public consultation revealed that 97 per cent of people were satisfied with the existing service.

On Sunday a public consultation exercise on the libraries service ended and the results were presented yesterday (tue) to the executive scrutiny committee for review.

County Cllr Steve Holgate (Chorley West) said: "One of the things that this report has clearly shown us is that the library service is valued in its current format. But we all recognise that the status quo is not an option."

County Cllr Gina Dowding (Lancaster Central) added: "How is this consultation and any further feedback likely to influence the shaping of the future library service?"

Julie Bell, head of the county's libraries service, said: "People are being encouraged to put in expressions of interest about specific buildings, like museums, children's centres and libraries, and these are starting to come through.

"They have got until March 27 to put ideas forward and then there will be further consultation going forwards. This process ties in with our ongoing property strategy."

She also confirmed that the feedback generated from the public consultation would be analysed, alongside a number of other factors, including social deprivation, in determining final proposals for the library service's future.

The county council is also looking at making significant cuts to its property portfolio, with savings of at least £5million in running costs envisaged by 2017-18. Several existing county services could be combined within 'neighbourhood centres', depending on their capacity.