Controversial plans to demolish and relocate Beckenham library have been referred back to councillors for a final decision.

Proposals to knock-down the library, relocating it to Beckenham Halls to make way for a housing development, have faced stiff community opposition since their announcement in November, with campaigners slamming them as "sheer vandalism."

Labour Councillors have now 'called in' the decisions made to move forward with the project at last week's executive meeting, sending them back to the Renewal, Recreation and Housing Committee to be revisited.

Clr Josh King, Labour, said: “I have never seen the public gallery of the Council Chamber so full as it was when the Library was being discussed.

"That showed just how much the people of Beckenham care about their Library and the strength of the opposition to this proposal from all parts of the community.”

Supporters argue the relocation would make the library accessible to more residents and free up space for much needed, affordable housing of up to 46 units.

Critics say the new site is just a third of the size of the current one, meaning a reduction in services would be likely.

More than 5,000 members of the public have already signed an online petition calling for the library to remain at its current location.

Labour councillors claim the proceeds of sale from the land will go towards a £400,000 maintenance backlog at Beckenham Halls, the consequence of a council policy of "not maintaining its properties unless it is essential."

They further argue that the current location, which is near to Beckenham Spa and Venue 28, makes the library part of a community "hub" which can't be recreated elsewhere.

Peter Morgan, executive councillor for Recreation, Renewal and Housing, said: “The decision by the Executive last week was simply to allow officers to appoint consultants to study the possibility of refurbishing and adapting the Public Halls in the centre of Beckenham to determine whether or not the Beckenham library could be moved to that location.

"As I said at the meeting, if it is found that a library in the Public Halls would not have as much floorspace and could not accommodate as many books then I would not recommend the Council to proceed with the project.

"If it does prove possible then Beckenham would gain by having the Public Halls renovated thus making them more attractive for community uses, having the library in the town centre and thus mire accessible to more people and open the possibility of a significant number of homes on the existing library site of which 50% would be available on social rents to the homeless families for which the Council has responsibility.

"Clearly the design of any new homes on the existing library site would have to be sensitive to the surrounding buildings.”