Campaigners who set up a petition to retain Cockermouth’s library services have been refused any further consultation extension.

Plans are underway to transfer the Main Street library from the county council to the town council and to turn it into a community hub.

The councils are in talks about the transfer, which would see the tourist information move into the library building.

But campaigners fear the library services will be marginalised as other hub services are introduced.

A public consultation was launched earlier this month and was due to close on Friday. It has since been extended until January 4.

Richard Watson, one of the leaders of the Friends of Cockermouth Library, presented the petition – signed by about 450 people with more than 200 more signatures online – at the county council’s cabinet meeting on Thursday and asked for a further extension.

He told councillors: “What those signatures show is that local people in Cockermouth care about their library and want a fully functioning and fully operational library in Cockermouth.

“What we fear, with the proposal that’s before us, is a process of encroachment. We fully understand the idea to have a tourist information centre on the Main Street. We understand that cuts have to be made and libraries aren’t immune but our fear is two-fold.”

Mr Watson told the cabinet they worry for staff’s jobs and say cuts to opening hours and services will mean it becomes a tourist information centre with the library in the background.

He said the community is not resistant to change but believes Cockermouth Library is being targeted disproportionately in comparison to other local libraries.

He wanted the process of consultation to instead to start on January 5 and run until January 26, when people are back to school and work.

Mr Watson also asked that a more extensive process with community and user groups of the library was undertaken to find out their views, suggesting a public meeting be held to discuss the proposals.

Commenting on the petition, councillor Ian Stewart, responsible for public health and community services, explained that the catchment area of the library is about 15,000 people and that about 3,000 are registered users of the library.

“Whilst there are a lot of people who’ve signed the paper petition and have subscribed their signatures to the e-petition, it needs to be put into context,” he said.

“Regarding an extension of the consultation period, what is effectively a restart of the consultation, that will not happen. There are plenty of opportunities for people to respond to the consultation.

“I think we are protecting a valuable service. We are ensuring that a library for the future will be able to be delivered in Cockermouth.”