Plans to lease out sections of Barnet libraries to business start-ups have been dropped following public opposition.

South London-based company Wimbletech had planned to rent out desks in three of the borough’s library buildings – East Finchley, North Finchley and Chipping Barnet – under its Workary scheme.

But the firm has decided not to pursue the council-backed plan and will instead seek to create a community space in an alternative location.

Campaign group Save Barnet Libraries (SBL) thanked residents who responded to its call to write to Wimbletech and chair of the council’s communities committee Cllr Reuben Thompstone expressing their opposition to the proposals.

Emily Burnham of SBL said: “Thank you to the Barnet residents who made their views clear to Cllr Thompstone and to Wimbletech.

“It is clear that many people were unhappy at the prospect of substantial spaces in three library buildings being leased out for private profit without any local consultation or consideration of alternatives and even without any financial benefit to the library service.

“This isn’t an acceptable way of treating valued public spaces.”

If the plans had gone ahead, desk spaces would have been leased out to start-ups at a cost of around £800 a year.

The council had argued the Wimbletech scheme would support small businesses in the borough and generate extra revenue that could help to keep the libraries open.

But SBL claimed the library spaces were not “under-utilised” and had provided important facilities such as study areas and a computer room offering free classes.

It has called on the council to return the spaces to library use and to explore working with local community groups to make use of free spaces.

Erini Rodis of SBL added: “The council was offering subsidised rent to Wimbletech, as well as around-the-clock access to newly accessible facilities, for example to the top floor at East Finchley.

“Instead of charging us to use our own desks, it’s time to work out how residents, who have already paid over £4 million to reconfigure Barnet library buildings, can actually benefit.”

After this article had been published, the council confirmed to us that it would continue to seek alternative commercial tenants for the library spaces.