ACCLAIMED film and stage star Sir Derek Jacobi has backed a campaign protesting against council plans to close Leytonstone's Harrow Green Library.

Sir Jacobi, who was born and grew up in Leytonstone, said he owed much of his successful career to the “grounding” provided by the branch when he was a child.

The council has proposed shutting down the library, along with the South Chingford branch in Hall Lane, as part of attempts to save £1million following an unprecedented cut in Government funding.

Other smaller libraries will also have their opening hours slashed under the plans, but Walthamstow Central, North Chingford, Leyton and Leytonstone branches will be rebranded as 'Library Plus' facilities with longer opening hours and extra council services.

Sir Jacobi declared his support in a response to a letter by campaigner and former councillor Vi Gostling, who wrote to inform him of the possible closure.

In it he said: “It is with great pleasure that I lend you my whole-hearted support in your campaign to keep Harrow Green Library open.

“I owe a [great] deal to the Leytonstone library in my early years without which grounding I doubt I would have enjoyed the career that later occurred.

“Fight the council to the bitter end.”

Ms Gostling, who was made a member of the British empire (MBE) for 60 years of service to the community and who opened the library in 1960, is currently recovering from an illness.

But a friend told the Guardian she was “very pleased and thankful” for Sir Jacobi's support.

She added: “She thinks the letter speaks for itself”.

The campaign endorsement comes as protesters gear up for a “day of action” this Saturday (August 13) against the plans with a protest and “celebration” of reading in Walthamstow Town Square from 4pm.

They argue that the shake-up will have a disproportionate impact on the elderly and deprived and fear that the merging of other council services with the remaining library branches could “ruin” their atmosphere.

The council's Cabinet Member for Leisure, Arts and Culture, Cllr Geraldine Reardon, denied the claims.

She said: “If they go ahead, these plans will offer residents more than ever before. As we have said many times already, any quiet study areas would be retained while residents with in-depth enquiries will have to book appointments in advance and will get to discuss their matters in private and away from the main library area.

“We have been trialling this idea in Leyton Library and, so far, the response has been extremely positive.”

A public consultation into the plans closes on Friday September 9.

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