Three respite centres for adults with disabilities are to close in Hertfordshire – despite hundreds of parents and carers calling for them to remain open.

Currently there are eight short-break centres across the county, where adults with physical and learning disabilities can stay overnight – giving family members a vital break from their caring role.

But on Monday, it was decided that three of them – Tewin Road in Hemel Hempstead, Hixberry Lane in St Albans, and Apton Road in Bishop’s Stortford – would close.

The decision comes just weeks after parents and carers presented councillors with a 1,500 signature petition, calling for the plans to be halted and for the county council to work with them on an alternative.

The closures will reduce the overall number of respite beds available by 14 – from 48 to 34. Council officers have estimated that this could save up to £970,000 a year.

Councillors have been told that too many beds at the centres are empty on too many nights – with data showing the average occupancy at some of the centres was as low as 44 per cent.

At the meeting of the cabinet on Monday, executive member for adult care and health Cllr Richard Roberts said demand for the short break centres had declined.

He said: "The reason for taking this decision is not to remove any service for those on respite breaks at all, in fact service levels will be maintained throughout. But it is in fact that we have spare capacity.

"We have had a declining attendance in recent years. There has been spare capacity. And we have taken that capacity out ."

Cllr Roberts said that in the next six months – before the closures would be implemented – the remaining centres would be refurbished and users of the service would be individually reviewed.

He acknowledged the concerns of parents, carers and some members of the adult care and health cabinet panel.

He also stressed that even after the closures no existing user will have to travel more than 15 miles to access a short break centre.

However, following the meeting Jackie Wilks – who presented the petition opposing the closure plans – said she was very worried about the impact the closures would have. She added the consultation had been "woeful".

She said she was frustrated that the county council’s short break strategy had not been co-produced in full consultation with the clients from the start.

But instead she said she feared it had been too much of a ‘desktop exercise’, that hadn’t taken on board the full impact of the changes on clients.

In practice she said she feared the changing locations and the reduced number of weekend slots would mean clients would have to miss a regular day time activity in order to access an overnight stay.

She questioned whether it would result in the savings that had been estimated by the county council.

And, she said, by making it more difficult to access respite care, the number of people using the service would fall – not because families didn’t want or need it, but because it did not match their needs.