HEREFORD'S historic library building could re-open by the end of this year after plans to turn it into a cultural hub were backed by leading councillors.

The Broad Street venue has been closed since last September when traces of asbestos were discovered during maintenance work.

Library users have since had to either visit Belmont Library or a 'pop-up' facility at Hereford Town Hall.

But Herefordshire Council's Cabinet this week gave the thumbs-up to Hereford Library Users Group (HLUG)'s idea to re-open the venue as a multi-use community hub, with the site "reinstated" in the interim.

The group says a community-led project team will develop the proposals and find funding.

Cabinet member for contracts and assets, Cllr Harry Bramer, called it a "good news story" which could see the Broad Street building back in use by January 2017, although HLUG will push for an earlier re-opening.

HLUG's proposals would comprise demolishing and removing all the interior rear areas - while preserving and modernising the listed frontage – and installing a new structure that would provide additional floor space not just for a modern library but for museum and art gallery displays and other community and cultural services.

The plan also proposes special features for children and space for parents and children while a floor would be dedicated to serious research and would include facilities for the new Herefordshire University.

HLUG chairman, Will McMorran, said he was pleased that Cabinet was supportive of getting something done.

"They are of a mind to get something done and it's a window of opportunity for us," he said afterwards.

"The project must go forward with everyone on board.

"They have said they are looking at a January date for re-opening but we are going to try to get it open by the end of the year."

He added that the building should be a social hub for the city with the hope it would increase footfall in that part of the city centre.

Since the city library's closure, visitor numbers to Belmont Library have soared with 34,000 people passing through its doors in the year to March 2016, up from 22,000 the year before.

Anyone who would like to get involved in the project is welcome to attend a meeting at Hereford Shirehall at 2pm next Monday (16th).