HAMPSHIRE TV wildlife expert Chris Packham has made a fresh rallying call to fight for the future of Southampton’s libraries.

The naturalist today urged residents to “shout above the noise” and to battle proposed cuts that will see the city’s library services slashed.

The BBC Springwatch frontman’s plea comes ahead of tonight’s public meeting hosted by campaigners at Cobbett Road Library in Bitterne – one of five services at risk of closure.

Labour council bosses are proposing to cut opening times by more than 50 per cent – losing 120 hours and a total of 18 jobs as a result.

Plans to slash services there and at Millbrook, Weston, Thornhill and Burgess Road, as well as some mobile library services, would save £303,000 from the £30m cuts needed.

Chris is one of more than 1,800 people to have signed a petition to protect Cobbett Road library, where books nurtured his love of wildlife as a child.

Speaking on a visit to the library, he repeated his condemnation of the cuts, saying: “Cajole and fire up enthusiasm in anyone else you know to attend that meeting. These days every day is a fight. Caring isn’t enough. We’ve got to do something, and doing something in this instance is turning up at that meeting.

“It will be a travesty if this city is without its libraries as at some stage in the future its populace will be poorer on that account.

“Stand up and shout above the noise.”

The meeting is being hosted by the Friends of Cobbett Road Library group in partnership with Southampton Itchen parliamentary election candidate Rowenna Davis.

Those attending will discuss options for keeping the library open, while recognising the council’s predicament.

Cabinet member for resources and leisure Stephen Barnes-Andrews will answer questions from the public at the meeting chaired by incumbent MP John Denham.

Friends secretary Rachel Hickman said: “We are already seeing how important Cobbett Road is to so many people and the amazing value it already offers.

“We are looking forward to a productive meeting and hoping to work with the council to keep the library council-run and staffed, but costing the council even less money by considering the options we have been working on.”

n Tonight’s meeting starts at 7pm at the Ascension Centre, Thorold Road, Bitterne Park.