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Church goers' fury at council 'betrayal' over Ashburton library

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CHURCH members who were prepared to bring the derelict Ashburton Library back into use have been betrayed by the new council, it was claimed this week.

But calls from Conservative councillors at Monday's full council meeting for His Grace Evangelical Church to be compensated for money lost when the deal to take over the building was dropped were defeated.

Instead, members were told by Cllr Timothy Godfrey, cabinet member for culture, sport and leisure, that the council was working to bring the building back into community use as part of an overall scheme to upgrade facilities in Ashburton Park, where the former library stands.

Church members are angry that, after they struck a deal with the former Conservative council to buy the building for £84,000 and spend up to £1million on refurbishing it as a meeting place and community venue, Labour pulled the plug on the project when it took power in May.

The new administration said the deal was not good value for money or in line with what the residents of Ashburton wanted.

Members of the church, which is based in Thornton Heath, renewed their protest on Monday, staging a demonstration before the meeting.

During the debate, Pastor Bola Thomas called Cllr Godfrey a "liar" for claiming he had talked to the church about possible alternative arrangements and meeting places for worshippers.

Pastor Thomas reiterated her claims after the meeting but Cllr Godfrey said despite ending the deal, it would still be possible for the church to get involved in some way with the building.

He said: "We even suggested we could look at an application for costs incurred, but Pastor Thomas rejected everything."

Pastor Thomas claims the church paid out around £10,000 in legal fees during the original sale negotiations.

The Conservative motion on Monday called for the church to be compensated for all reasonable costs incurred in the failed purchase.

Proposing the motion, Cllr Vidhi Mohan said: "The Labour council kicked this group in the teeth and withdrew from the agreement we had with it.

"They would have provided a youth club, a nursery and a lunch club which would have benefited the wider community."

He said the council was now talking about spending £700,000 itself on refurbishing the building and asked: "How are they going to find the money?"

Cllr Godfrey maintained that selling a building worth £500,000 for £84,000 was not a good deal for the council.

And Ashburton councillor, Andrew Rendle said: "We have spoken to thousands of residents and they want to see a widely-used community facility run by local people and not a building sold off at a knockdown price."

Church goers' fury at council 'betrayal' over Ashburton library


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