VALE residents campaigning to prevent their library from closure have won the right to take their legal challenge to the High Court.

Rhoose residents fought against the closure of their local library, but under the Vale Council’s strategy review, councillors voted in March to close Rhoose library as part of a cost cutting plan unless volunteers come forward to take over the library and run it themselves.

The community instructed one of Wales’ leading experts in administrative and public law, Michael Imperato of Watkins & Gunn Solicitors to help fight the closure.

A judge in the High Court in Cardiff agreed, last month, that the campaigners have an arguable case that the consultation conducted as part of the council’s library strategy review may have been unlawful. The High Court has granted campaigners a full hearing later this year.

Dad-of-two Adam Riley, of Station Terrace, East Aberthaw, said the library closure would have a detrimental effect on his family as he borrows books from Rhoose library to read to his daughters every night to develop their literacy skills.

Adam said: “Rhoose library has played an important role in our community since it first opened in 1965. I know so many people of different ages that use the library and would be lost without it. It’s been a part of my daughters’ lives since they were very young when as we used to take them to the regular rhyme and sing sessions for toddlers, run by the professional librarians in Rhoose.

“Now, they both hold library cards and have developed a love of reading and achieved reading skills as a direct consequence of the number and type of books we have been able to borrow from our local library.

“I have also used the library to buy kitchen waste bags and to find out local information. My partner’s mother, who is in her 80s, is a regular user of Rhoose library. She borrows books for the enjoyment of herself and her husband, who is over 90 years old, wheelchair-bound and unable to leave the house without assistance. The books they borrow from our local library greatly enhance their quality of life.

“Rhoose library plays an important role in all our lives and we have maintained throughout that the Vale of Glamorgan council has acted unlawfully over the future of our library. We’re delighted a judge has agreed that the council’s actions and processes must be opened up to proper scrutiny in a court of law.

Michael Imperato has acted for individuals and campaign groups in a number of high profile judicial review cases against national and local government in Wales over the last few years. Last year, he successfully worked with Rhydyfelin Library Support Group when Rhondda Cynon Taff Council made a u-turn decision to reopen Rhydyfelin library.

Michael said: “Rhoose library is a very important case that is part of a bigger issue concerning the viability of libraries. Local libraries play an important role in the development of residents’ literacy skills and are taken for granted by many local authorities. Other services such as IT access and social events offered by libraries play an important part in community life. Even if a library is to be run by the community, as suggested in plans for Rhoose library, it still needs to be properly supported by the council to make it viable. It cannot be cast adrift, to sink or swim on its own with little or no support.

“I’m delighted that we have been given the opportunity to take this matter forward. It’s important that local authorities are aware that they need to follow correct legal consultations procedures otherwise they will be held accountable.”

A Vale Council spokesman said permission was granted by order of His Honour Judge Curran QC sitting as a judge of the High Court on July, 7.

He said: “His Honour observes in the Order that the grounds are in his view arguable. His Honour in exploring the most common reason for refusing permission is that the claim is wholly lacking in merit, or unarguable, observed that he is not satisfied that it can be said that this claim is wholly lacking in merit or unarguable: however such a view, he observed, is not to be taken as an indication of a view that the claim is likely to succeed. The Council continues to challenge the claim brought by the claimant in this matter.”