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Hundreds back church campaign to save former club

PUBLISHED: 11:51 24 March 2019 | UPDATED: 12:39 24 March 2019

Hope Church team leader Graham Blake hope owners of the former Apollo club in Harleston will re-think their plans to demolish it. Picture: Simon Parkin

Hope Church team leader Graham Blake hope owners of the former Apollo club in Harleston will re-think their plans to demolish it. Picture: Simon Parkin

Archant

It was at the heart of the Harleston community for 30 years, and now a petition to save the former Apollo Club from the bulldozers and re-open it as a community church has attracted hundreds of signatures.

The Apollo Club at Harleston was at the heart of the community for 30 years until it closed in 2016. Picture: Denise BradleyThe Apollo Club at Harleston was at the heart of the community for 30 years until it closed in 2016. Picture: Denise Bradley

Hope Church, based in Diss but which holds meetings in Harleston, wants to buy the disused former function venue at Mendham Lane to turn it into a permanent home in the town.

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

An online petition calling for it to be saved has already topped 800 signatures with more support coming on social media and at written petitions in shops in the town.

Hope Church regularly attracts 250 worshippers to its Sunday services but has no permenant base in Harleston. Picture: Simon ParkinHope Church regularly attracts 250 worshippers to its Sunday services but has no permenant base in Harleston. Picture: Simon Parkin

Hope Church team leader Graham Blake said an appeal had raised enough to put in an offer at the asking price of £380,000 but that the owners said written back to say they did not want to sell.

“We don’t have a permanent base for the church in Harleston and currently meet in the high school,” he said. “We’ve been searching for a long time for a space that we can use, not just for our Sunday meetings, but for all the community services we are involved in, such as the Waveney Foodbank, as well as a social space where we can host community lunches and offer support services. We would love to give clubs in the town a usable space for hire too.

“The Apollo centre would be perfect in so many ways and we know it has a special place in so many people’s hearts in Harleston.”

Hope Church has launched a petition to save the Apollo club in Harleston that it wants to buy to create a new community base in the town. Picture: Simon ParkinHope Church has launched a petition to save the Apollo club in Harleston that it wants to buy to create a new community base in the town. Picture: Simon Parkin

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.

Diane Dukes, from Needham, who is a member of the Harleston congregation, said: “The school has been very accommodating and we have a great relationship but it is quite restrictive.

“There are other groups that also use the space like the Harleston Players who we have to work around when they have their staging up. It being a school we also have no mid-week access for contact community work like lunches and social groups.

Hope Church team leader Graham Blake outside their Diss base in Vinces Road. The group want to create a similar facility in Harleston. Picture: Simon ParkinHope Church team leader Graham Blake outside their Diss base in Vinces Road. The group want to create a similar facility in Harleston. Picture: Simon Parkin

“The Apollo building would be ideal to duplicate what we are doing in Diss. It has so much space though it would require a lot of work. We want to be part of the local community but that is difficult to do without a building.”

• You can find the petition at Save the Apollo Club

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