Club gets reprieve as church looks at damaged building

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A SOCIAL club’s condemned building may last a little longer after church leaders said they will send in surveyors.

Steve Wilkins had complained to the Catholic Diocese of Portsmouth after the Iona Club’s home of 47 years in Fisher Road, Bridgemary, Gosport, was closed.

But now church bosses say they will send in workers to look at the cost of repairs.

Mr Wilkins wrote to Bishop Christopher Egan, saying: ‘This is a club that serves the community in many ways.

‘The Iona Club offered to pay for professional repairs themselves, it would not cost the church a penny.

‘We were also told the boiler has packed in.

‘Again the Iona Club would buy a new one. This generous offer from the Iona Club was dismissed out of hand.’

Mr Wilkins plans to gather a petition to save the club, which has 200 members.

As reported in The News last week, the club’s committee wanted to pay for repairs after storm damage.

Father Peter Glas, at St Mary’s Church, Gosport, told them it could not be done.

But now the Rev Dr Stephen Morgan, the secretary to the trustees and financial secretary at the diocese, says no decision has been made.

He said: ‘We’re in the process of instructing structural engineers to undertake a survey of the building.

‘Clearly if the building is unstable to the extent that it needs major work then we need to look at what the cost of major work is likely to be.

‘Father Peter Glas said it is beyond repair and we can’t do anything – that I don’t know, he may well be right.

‘The diocese and the trustees are the people who own the building and we don’t act without professional advice.’

He said he understands the club offered £5,000 for repairs, which he says will not cover costs of a needed new boiler.

And he added the church has no plans to sell the land.

James Saunders, a voluntary barman at the club said: ‘The letter we received didn’t say that at all – it said we can’t use the hall from there on.

‘What seemed like a definite decision sounds like they’re maybe backtracking, which is brilliant.’

Members have since been able to meet at the Bridgemary, Rowner and Woodcot Community Association, which has honoured their memberships.