A ONCE thriving social club is set to be demolished 70 years after it was built to make way for a new community garden and sports pavilion.
The Holbury Club, off the A326 Long Lane, has been proposed for destruction after standing empty since 2016 when the organisation that managed it, the Waterside Sport and Social Club, collapsed.
The site is owned by Fawley oil refinery operator Esso, which has now submitted plans to New Forest District Council to redevelop it.
The shuttered, brick building contains changing rooms, a bar and clubroom, and the only large theatre space in the Waterside. Behind it are sports facilities used for football, cricket, tennis and bowls.
Cllr Malcom Wade, the Liberal Democrat member for Butts Ash and Dibden Purlieu, welcomed ongoing sports use but said: “It was a theatre and we do not have anything like that on this side of the Forest.
“While I can appreciate Esso want to use the land positively, because we want to keep using the sports facilities, it’s a shame we will lose it as a cultural facility.”
He added: “When it was shut down lots of organisations had used it to store stuff or put on performances. There was nowhere to go aside from the parish hall.”
The replacement will provide about 100 parking spaces and add a new sports pavilion, leased in the long-term to the Holbury Community Sports Association, which launched in 2017.
The “community garden” will be open to the public and feature a picnic lawn and lines of cherry and magnolia trees.
In its application Esso said the boarded up site had been subject to sporadic incidents of theft and vandalism.
It said: “Due to the ongoing costs involved to keep the buildings safe, it is now considered to be uneconomic to further maintain and repair these redundant buildings.
“It is therefore considered preferable to demolish the redundant buildings and replace them with a landscaped community garden space. In addition to this, a new purpose-built pavilion building is proposed to be built towards the rear of the site overlooking the sports field.”
Permission has also been requested for temporary sports changing rooms before the new replacement is delivered.
As reported in the A&T, Cllr Wade raised the future of the club at a meeting of New Forest District Council in September last year.
Cllr Mark Steele, NFDC’s cabinet member for leisure and wellbeing, offered assurances that the sporting designation of the land meant there was a presumption against development without anything to take its place.
Clubs using the site include Fawley AFC, Fawley Cricket Club, Waterside Tennis Club and Waterside Bowling Club.
NFDC is scheduled to make a decision by 20th May after the deadline for public comments on 1st May.
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