PROTESTORS hoping to save Eccleston Social Club yesterday launched a desperate last-ditch rescue bid, writes Andy Moffatt.
Up to 50 club members marched the 100 yards from their club to demonstrate outside developers Jones Homes’ plush new showhome in a show of defiance to the corporation.
Emotions boiled over following a torrid few days in which the club first appeared to have been saved only to see those hopes dashed.
Club stewart Karl Leigh was told last Thursday the company’s board had rejected a business plan put together by the club members to secure its future.
Members say were told at a meeting with the company’s land manager Rob Gray that the club DID have a long term future - a claim denied by the company but backed up by ward councillor Teresa Sims, who was present at the meeting. Mr Gray declined to comment when contacted by the Reporter.
Senior councillors today publicly urged Jones Homes to re-think their position and work to with the members to find a solution.
Deputy council leader Barrie Grunewald said: “If Jones homes had allowed the club to continue but it was clear it was not financially viable that is one thing but to try and pass the buck to Ruskin Leisure and force this closure to happen against the wishes of the local community is simply not good enough.
“It is time to stop being callous and putting profit above community wishes and time to start helping the community and save a much cherished facility.”
And Coun Sims, whose Eccleston ward covers the club, added: “They gave assurances and said Eccleston Social had a future; that they were 100 per cent behind the club. I have had people on the phone to me literally in tears. The workers at Triplex were a loyal workforce; that’s why this has hard them so hard.”
Jones Homes purchased the land surrounding the club several years ago to build a housing estate.
But planning permission came with a caveat that the club must be kept open.
However, a legal loophole means that if the club is closed before it is officially handed over to Jones Homes the caveat does not apply.
That handover takes place on Friday when current owners Ruskin Leisure plan to shut the club.
Simon Thompson, who acts as chairman to the club and its action group, added: “I’m livid because I just think that if you give your word to someone in business then that is binding. We’ve jumped through every hoop they’ve asked us to. For them to turn around and say it’s now not happening is just taking us for a ride.”
A spokeswoman for Jones Homes said: “We requested a business plan with their proposed plans for a potential ‘New Company’ Social Club. We agreed to review these plans without any future commitment.
“On receiving the business plan, the Board reviewed its contents in great detail and are of the view that the overall financial case put forward would not support the continuation of the club commercially.
“Eccleston Social Club is not yet the property of Jones Homes and as such we have not made any plans for the site. Its closure has nothing to do with Jones Homes and is a matter between Ruskin Leisure and the Club. When the site is officially Jones Homes’, we will work with the Council to determine its future use.”