An ambitious strategy to protect all ten of Thurrock’s libraries has received backing from council leaders who say they want to see them evolve into community hubs.

Approval of the five-year strategy is likely to be welcomed by residents as it bucks the trend of closures taking place in other parts of the county.

Thurrock’s aim is to modernise libraries by developing individual business plans that will look to embrace new technology and integrate other services, ranging from learning and health facilities to arts and culture events.

When the council’s cabinet members met to discuss the plans on Wednesday evening, Councillor Deborah Huelin, cabinet member for Communities said: “Libraries are extremely important to community spaces for our residents and this strategy, which is the first one in 20 years, will help us to evolve our existing offer.

“Unlike Essex we are not closing our libraries, we are investing in them and there will be more investment but we need to be creative with how we do that, such as co-location of other service areas and income generation but individual business plans for each library will help us.

“A great example of this is Ockendon where the library supports so many other things like housing, back to work and eye tests.”

Council leader Rob Gledhill also stress that Thurrock would not be closing libraries like Essex County Council.

He said: “We are not doing the same as Essex, this is not about a place you go and get books – that is not the library anymore, the library can be used for some many other things.”

There will be two phases to the strategy with the first including the redevelopment of the East Tilbury Library that was damaged in a fire in 2017. It is currently being redeveloped and is expected to open in Spring 2019.

Plans to redevelop the Corringham Library into a community hub will also be drawn up in 2019 and the Tilbury Community Hub, including the library service will be moved into one of the planned Integrated Medical Centres due to open in 2021.

Among the changes in the second phase will be publications of redevelopment options for the Blackshots library where the existing branch is considered too small for community activities. The council will be working with the Blackshots Community Group to build a series of options that will be outlined in 2019.

In Purfleet the regeneration scheme is expected to provide the existing library service the opportunity to expand.