WATCHET library is at the centre of a High Court challenge to save it and others across the county threatened with closure.

Birmingham-based human rights law firm Public Interest Lawyers issued a judicial review claim this week against the controversial decision by Somerset County Council to shut the door on 11 of its libraries and cut the number of mobile facilities from six to two.

A further claim was made against Gloucestershire County Council, with the joint action centred on the pending closures of Watchet and Cheltenham libraries.

The challenges came on the day that Somerset ratified its cutbacks, which include a 20 per cent reduction in opening hours at all libraries.

The Somerset case is being brought on behalf of library user Rebecca Hird, who lives in Watchet with her family.

Rebecca, who is in her 20s and single, suffers from a number of medical conditions.

Unable to drive and without any means of transport, she said she could not afford the £3 return fare to her nearest alternative library - Williton - on a regular basis.

"Watchet is a small town and there are very few amenities remaining," she said.

"It's a disgrace that the library is being closed."

Rebecca, who is also dyslexic, said she used the library several times a month.

"I find the service absolutely invaluable - it is vital for me."

The legal challenge is being made on three grounds.

Firstly, that both councils are in breach of their obligation under the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act to provide an efficient and comprehensive library service.

The authorities are also said to have failed to pay due regard to their equality duties and, lastly, that the consultation process was insufficient and the results ignored.

PIL solicitor Phil Shiner said Somerset had consulted for only a month, over the Christmas period.

He said the harmful effect that the closure of the libraries would have on vulnerable members of society could not be overstated.

"Councils have a very clear and specific statutory duty to provide a comprehensive library service," said Mr Shiner.

"That is a duty owed by councils, not the 'Big Society'.

"Libraries are a lifeline for the disenfranchised."

In a statement, Somerset County Council said: "We are very aware of the judicial review and will respond accordingly.

"We are confident that the council has acted appropriately and in the meantime will continue with work needed to implement the budget reduction agreed by full council."

Somerset initially wanted to close 20 of its 34 libraries as part of a £34 million package of cuts across all services this year.

And it says it must make a total of £80m savings across the board over the next three years.

But a high profile campaign of protests resulted in it revising its plans on libraries.

However, in West Somerset, although the change of heart removed the threat of closure from Dulverton's library, it still left Watchet and Porlock libraries facing the loss of all public funding from September.

Communities in both areas have demonstrated their commitment to saving what they regard as a core and vital facility.

The recently launched Watchet Library Friends, a community-led action group which has campaigned against the closure, said it fully supported the legal challenge.

Spokesman Jan Simpson-Scott said: "Watchet is one of the lower income areas in Somerset and cannot afford to lose this facility."

The library building was a lifeboat station from 1875 to 1945 but in 1953 was bought by Leonard Stoate, a local miller and gifted to the town for use as a library to further the education of local residents.