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Locals told to continue centre fight

PUBLISHED: 10:00 23 July 2007 | UPDATED: 17:33 26 February 2010

RESIDENTS in a seaside community have been urged to continue their fight against the demolition of a much-loved sports and entertainment venue.

The Squirrels at Dovercourt was a popular location for bowls, darts and tennis as well as a venue for wedding receptions and christening parties before it closed earlier this year.

RESIDENTS in a seaside community have been urged to continue their fight against the demolition of a much-loved sports and entertainment venue.

The Squirrels at Dovercourt was a popular location for bowls, darts and tennis as well as a venue for wedding receptions and christening parties before it closed earlier this year.

Tendring District Council, which declared the centre surplus to requirements, has sold an option to develop the site to a property company.

A planning application to knock down the Squirrels, which had more than 900 members, is expected within weeks.

Developers are hoping to replace the Lower Marine Parade venue with 24 flats in two blocks, four storeys high, with 40 car parking spaces.

But Eileen Tyrer, chairman of Harwich Environmental Action Team, is urging residents to make the council's planning committee aware of their objections before it votes on the application.

She said: “Everybody is upset about what happened as it was used for a venue for all sorts of things - it really was a well-known community facility.”

More than 1,000 people have signed a petition urging the council to save the Squirrels.

And last night, its organiser Ben Howlett, leader of the Conservative group on Harwich Town Council, said he was still hopeful that the development could be halted.

During May's local elections, the Conservative group said they would save the venue if they took power at district level, but were subsequently kept out by the Anything But Conservative (ABC) coalition.

Mr Howlett said: “The planning committee cannot take the petition into account, so that is why people should write in with their formal objections.

“The feeling is that local people have been let down by the council, but we are hoping the developers will not get planning permission.

“I hope Tendring district councillors looks to their hearts and see if they can oppose it - I would be annoyed if they did support the development of the land.”

David Lines, leader of the council, said there had already been a long process of evaluation and scrutiny of the decision.

He said: “When we took over the administration earlier this year, the process was well down the line, almost 99% there.

“The developers have paid for the option to develop the land and they can exercise that option at any time, subject to planning law.

“The council was minded to allow that site to go do the developers and it is entirely at their discretion what happens.”

It is understood an outline planning application will be considered by the council within the next month.

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