County council chiefs have defended a decision by their planning panel to approve a controversial extension to the records office in Whitehaven.

The move comes after Tory councillor Graham Roberts wrote to the authority’s chief executive Katherine Fairclough urging a rethink amid claims the ruling should be called in.

The county authority was granted permission by elected members of its planning panel to build a two-storey archive store on the site of the existing records office on Scotch Street last month.

But Mr Roberts, who represents the Bransty division, has raised concerns over parking issues and disabled access to the development, warning officers to expect a hard line of questioning at the next meeting of the full council.

He has also expressed fears that the development would lead to reduced footfall to the library by pushing it up a side street away from the public view – claims strenuously denied by the council.

Mr Roberts claimed the matter had not been signed off by the county's Copeland Committee though council chiefs have said it was indeed agreed by the panel last year.

A council spokesman said the application to relocate the archive centre and Whitehaven Library was subject to public consultation in May and June, with further consultations planned.

He said: “The new facility will offer full access for disabled customers, including disabled toilets and a lift to all floors. There will also be on-site disability parking – which the previous site did not have.

“We will continue to liaise with our district council colleagues and the local community to ensure the new facility meets their needs and continues to offer the services they require.

“We will shortly begin a further round of consultation for when the new facility opens which will address any questions from the local community.

“The county council is committed to libraries – they are community hubs offering access to services and a variety of information, books and learning opportunities.”

But Mr Roberts told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that he felt the decision should be referred to the county council’s Scrutiny Advisory Board for Communities and Place.

He added: “I don’t want to see the whole service downgraded. Out of sight is out of mind and this development could reduce footfall to the library.

“The records office has a much lower footfall than the library and the site is problematic for disabled access and parking. I think we should rethink it before it goes any further."

He stressed that his concerns were primarily over the “operational aspect” and he questioned if there was enough room in the curtilage for the development to work.

Planning chiefs and councillors at borough council level have already blasted the county council for ignoring their concerns over the extension at the Whitehaven Archive and Local Study Centre.

The borough council’s planning boss raised significant concerns over the scale and shape of the extension, as well as the materials used, ahead of the decision.

But county councillors decided to give it the go-ahead after hearing from one of their own planning officers who reassured members that the visual impact was not significant.

And the extension, which also includes a new foyer with information hub, has been described by David James, Inspector of Historic Buildings and Areas, as very poor and unsympathetic.