More than 20,000 people had their say on controversial plans to shut down libraries across Essex.

Essex County Council wants to close a third of its libraries, while it hopes volunteers will run others, in a move which will save £2million.

The plans show 19 libraries out of the 74 in Essex are earmarked to be run by community groups.

County Hall has now confirmed more than 21,000 people responded to its consultation held earlier this year.

There have also been 50 expressions of interest by groups wanting to take over the running of libraries.

The council said this included two proposals for new locations which have never had a library of their own.

Interest has been received from pre-schools, parish councils, churches, businesses, charities, care companies, community groups, those interested in forming a community group as well as the University of the Third Age.

Council libraries boss Susan Barker said work was under way to progress discussions with the groups.

She said: “We have been delighted with the number and broad range of groups that have come forward with expressions of interest and I am hopeful this number will continue to grow.”

She added: “We have now started to engage with these groups and communities in these areas, however, no decisions have been made.”

Campaigners are fighting to save libraries across the county, including at Southminster and Wickham Bishops.

The council claims book loans are down by more than 50 per cent over the past ten years and the demand for computers is down 34 per cent.

A final decision on the proposed cuts is expected later this year.