SLIDESHOW: Walker Welfare Centre protestors – ‘We will stop the bulldozers’

People are willing to chain themselves to a much-loved community centre to stop it being demolished.

Thornhill residents have reacted with outrage over Kirklees Council’s decision to bulldoze the Walker Welfare Centre using emergency powers.

UNDER THREAT Protestors outside the Walker Welfare Centre  (D534D330)

UNDER THREAT Protestors outside the Walker Welfare Centre (D534D330)

It comes just weeks after a new community group was set up with the primary aim of bringing the 200-year-old building back into use.

Thornhill Community Group member Shaun Maddox said: “People are waiting for the bulldozers to come. They are waiting to get arrested – they will chain themselves to the building.”

Mr Maddox had wanted to use the building, which was gifted to the community by a philanthropist, as a base for the new community group. He has submitted a last ditch application to English Heritage to get the centre in Edge Lane protected.

Tenders for the demolition work are being sought, but it is thought the bulldozers will move in within a couple of weeks.

Concerned resident Andy Waring said: “This really is the last piece of history left in Thornhill – everywhere else has been knocked down. It would be heartbreaking if it were to be demolished.”

The building was scheduled for demolition in 2008 but was handed to the community for conversion into a community centre with a grant of £100,000.

Kirklees Council said the building was handed back to them last week after a structural report showed it was ‘an immediate health and safety risk internally and externally’ and ‘beyond economic repair’.

Fences put up to protect the site were torn at the weekend – an act of protest in the opinion of Mr Maddox.

Meanwhile, former Dewsbury South councillor Khizar Iqbal has accused Kirklees Council of ‘betraying’ the people of Thornhill by pushing ahead with the demolition.

A meeting was held last Tuesday between councillors, council officers and community members. Mr Iqbal said a promise was made that a report ‘on the way forward for the building’ would be prepared.

He added: “Yet two days later it was announced that the building was to be demolished. We all feel misled and we have been lied to in the most shameless way possible.”

But councillors have hit back his claim. Coun Salim Patel (Lab, Dews South) said: “In that meeting we never discussed anything about demolition. The officer said they would review the whole situation. We agreed there would be another meeting and we would take it forward, then without any consultation with us they decided to demolish it. It was shock to me.”

Coun Masood Ahmed (Lab, Dews South) said: “I am not happy for one minute – not when I have fought tirelessly for this building in the past.”

A Kirklees Council spokesman said the speed of the demolition process was “really a matter of urgency because of danger.”