Plea to save community centre

Residents are campaigning to stop the closure of St Gregory's Parish Centre
Residents are campaigning to stop the closure of St Gregory's Parish Centre
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Save our club!

That’s the impassioned plea from desperate residents who are faced with the closure of their social club, after more than 70 years at the heart of the Chorley community.

Shocked parishioners reacted with anger when they were told the much-loved St Gregory’s Parish Centre, on Ash Grove, would be closing at St Gregory’s Church on Sunday.

Church heads blamed rising maintenance costs and a change in social attitudes for the move.

The Guardian understands the building will now be taken on by the nearby Westmorland School to extend their facilities, although no one from the school was able to confirm this.

Frank Swarbrick, 78, of Balcarres Road, said: “I have been coming to this club for 50 years. I come every day to check up on things.

“It is just the way it has been done that is upsetting people – we didn’t known anything about it.”

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The social club, which was built in 1938, hosts various activities including a bowling club, domino club, karate lessons, and the Women’s Guild luncheon clubs.

Church bosses say all group activities will be transferred to the church site apart from the bowling club, which will be lost.

Mr Swarbick said: “There are at least 50 people in the bowling club and we have eight teams who meet on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.

“This decision affects quite a few people.”

Kevin Masterson, 68, who lives on St Gregory’s Place, said: “It’s a beautiful green and a lot of people will be very sad to see it go.

“For some people this club is a lifeline, it’s the only opportunity they get to go out.”

Marlene Rudd, of Lime Grove, said: “The club has been here all of this time and it has been well used. My husband has been coming here since he was 15.

“We have had family parties, christenings, birthday parties, and a funeral. We don’t want to see it close.

“We were told in church on Sunday and everyone was surprised. It was the first we had heard about it.

“My worry is as soon as you stop using it for recreation it will be used to build houses on.”

Mandy Clayton, who ran the club in 2004, said: “We are gobsmacked. So many people can’t believe it.

“It is not just a place for drinking - people don’t go in there drinking as the prices are so high - it is a community place.

“Parish centres are closing all over and it is heartbreaking. I am broken hearted.”

Monsignor Michael McKenna, who announced to the church on Sunday the club would be closing, said: “It is not a decision we have taken lightly.

“It has happened by accident in a sense. Westmorland School want to expand their site and want to extend what they are doing.

“The club is not commercially viable.

“The building is in such a poor condition it would require a lot of money to refurbish it and put it in good order.

“It is a different way of life, the world has changed.

“There was a luncheon club and a dominos club and we are going to transfer all of these activities to the church site.

“Only the bar activities will stop, and unfortunately the bowling green.

“That was a good bowling club, but we can’t afford to maintain it.

“The club was built by the men of the parish back in 1938 and it was run very successfully. It was a great social centre.”