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Church hopes dashed after former club demolished

PUBLISHED: 13:55 28 May 2019 | UPDATED: 14:39 29 May 2019

Demolition work under way at the site of the former Apollo club in Harleston ending hopes it could be turned into a community church. Picture: Simon Parkin

Demolition work under way at the site of the former Apollo club in Harleston ending hopes it could be turned into a community church. Picture: Simon Parkin

Archant

Hopes that a former social club in Harleston could be re-opened as a community church have ended as the building has been demolished.

Hope Church team leader Graham Blake who had helped launch a campaign to the turn the former Apollo club in Harleston into a church and venue for community services. Picture: Simon ParkinHope Church team leader Graham Blake who had helped launch a campaign to the turn the former Apollo club in Harleston into a church and venue for community services. Picture: Simon Parkin

A petition to save the former Apollo Club, which was at the heart of the Harleston community for 30 years, and re-open it as a faith venue had garnered more than 1,000 signatures.

Hope Church, based in Diss but which holds weekly meetings in Harleston, had wanted to buy it to turn it into a permanent home in the town.

The church group had written to the owners asking them to re-consider the decision to demolish it and use the site for retirement homes. It also applied to South Norfolk council to have the building listed as a community asset.

Demolition work under way at the site of the former Apollo club in Harleston. Picture: Simon ParkinDemolition work under way at the site of the former Apollo club in Harleston. Picture: Simon Parkin

A church appeal had also raised enough to put in an offer at the asking price of £380,000 but the owners had written back to say they did not want to sell.

However demolition work has now reduced the disused former function venue at Mendham Lane to rubble.

Hope Church assistant team leader John Heasley said they were disappointed that a campaign that had drawn widespread support had ultimately been unsuccessful.

Diss-based Hope Church regularly holds Sunday services in Harleston but has no permenant base in the town. Picture: Simon ParkinDiss-based Hope Church regularly holds Sunday services in Harleston but has no permenant base in the town. Picture: Simon Parkin

"From our point of view we tried all options to try to get hold of that place and keep it open but they just weren't willing to engage with us," he said.

"There is no resentment about it. We are just disappointed because we wanted to have the conversation but that was taken out of our hands."

Hope Church currently holds Sunday services at Archbishop Sancroft High School but is still hoping to identify an alternative permanent base in Harleston.

Demolition work under way at the site of the former Apollo club in Harleston. Picture: Simon ParkinDemolition work under way at the site of the former Apollo club in Harleston. Picture: Simon Parkin

Mr Heasley said: "We are going back to the drawing board. As a faith based organisation we have got to believe that there is something else that is going to happen for us in that town.

"There are about 100 of us that meet on a Sunday morning in the school and we would love to be doing what we currently do in the Diss centre in Harleston and that is still our hope and intention. Anyone who has alternative suggestions we would love them to get in contact."

The Apollo hosted christening celebrations, wedding receptions, wakes and parties, as well as some of the world's top darts and snooker players for tournaments, before it closed on New Year's Eve 2016.

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