Bid to revive ‘soul’ of Hainault community on last legs

A THREE-year bid to revive the “soul” of a community by reopening a deserted building as a community centre looks over.

Since Hainault working men’s club closed its doors for the final time in 2008, a 150-strong army of residents have clubbed together in a bid to take over the building in New North Road.

Their long fight, which has seen thousands of pounds raised, took them to the council chamber in Redbridge Town Hall, High Road, Ilford, earlier this month, to make their case ahead of a behind-closed-doors decision by the cabinet.

It now appears the 10 councillors have backed a bid by the Hainault and Chigwell Muslim Association.

As stipulated by Redbridge Council, all bidding parties had to include a community use element for their takeover of the Jacques Hall building.

In 2008, Barry Bird established the not-for-profit Forest Social Club company in an attempt to win back the building for the community.

Mr Bird, of The Lowe, Hainault, said: “It would be a loss for the community if we couldn’t re-open it.

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“If the Muslim Association has won the bid, I believe it wouldn’t be for the whole of the borough when you consider that the area it will be in is predominantly non-Asian.

“That’s not a prejudiced thing, it’s just how I feel.”

Explaining why so many residents want to see a community centre run from Jacques Hall, 54-year-old dad-of-three Mr Bird, said: “We’re passionate about this. It’s our soul.

“There is a real demand for a community centre for old and young.”

A spokesman for the Hainault and Chigwell Muslim Association said: “We want to provide good community services for everyone in the area.”

Deputy council leader and Liberal Democrat group leader Cllr Ian Bond told bidders earlier this month: “We have a large responsibility to get the best deal for the tax payer.”

Redbridge Council was unable to confirm to the Recorder which applicant has been successful.

But it is understood town hall bosses are now in talks with the winning bidder – Hainault and Chigwell Muslim Association – about the 25-year lease.