A WAR of words has broken out over the controversial decision to sell off Golden Crescent Library in Hayes.

The Conservative councillor responsible for the decision to sell the building as flats dismissed campaigners trying to save the building by insisting they “ducked it”.

The 18th century former mission church looks likely to be converted into five flats after a decision to use the site to raise cash to spend on schools.

Leader of the opposition Labour group on Hillingdon Council, Cllr Mo Khursheed, said: “This whole thing stinks.”

He had called for a review of the decision by the Conservative majority council.

Supporters signed a 1,000-strong petition against the idea and Labour MP John McDonnell said he thought the whole matter had been handled despicably.

Cllr Jonathan Bianco, cabinet member for finance, property and business services, told me that alternative plans for the site were not financially viable and that the argument to use the site for desperately-needed housing in the area was decisive.

“The area needed residential, so we pushed a residential plan,” he said. “When we asked the local MP, they did not come up with an alternative plan and they ducked it.”

The council decision last week had appeared to settle the issue, but Mr McDonnell and supporters are determined to keep the issue alive.

Cllr Khursheed said: “We submitted a community response to the leader of the council, with over 1,000 signatures, but the cabinet are not prepared to take their views into account.”

The petition presented to Cllr Bianco in July set out the view that Golden Crescent library should remain in public ownership.

Cllr Bianco said: "We asked ward councillors for their opinions on this issue, so we could make an informed choice, and we think it best to get on with the business of selling it."

John McDonnell MP told me today he was aghast at Cllr Bianco's response and was at a loss as to how the Conservative group had come to its decision.

Mr McDonnell said: "I was so proud of local community representatives for setting out so clearly how we could work with the council on developing the community ownership and community use option.

"We even provided him with a detailed briefing on Eric Pickles' proposals that are going through Parliament at the moment.

"These proposals specifically place a duty on councils to offer redundant buildings to local communities and to give them a specified time of six months to develop a bid and Mr Pickles cites a disused library as an example.

"We even presented Cllr Bianco with a briefing on the funding options available to us."