Residents’ plans to take Merton Council to court over the historic Merton Hall were suddenly halted on Thursday in a fresh blow to the campaign to save the Wimbledon building.
Built in 1899, Merton Hall has an architectural aesthetic unique to south Wimbledon, but Historic England refused the hall a Grade listing.
This has damaged the High Court review, but campaigners are set to challenge these proceedings, before a visit to court next month.
The organiser of the campaign to save the hall, Sara Sharp, said: “The council has agreed a major introduction contract without thinking hard about it, it is political party lead, rather than thinking about the people of this borough.”
“We are not human beings in the eyes of this council, just numbers.”
A fundraising website site to cover legal costs raised £4,725 pounds of a £5000 goal needed to take the fight to save Merton Hall from demolition before a court review.
A row has been growing over the £3m move of Elim Pentecostal Church to Merton Hall in Kingston Road, with the figure confirmed by the council in a Freedom of Information request.
Last week (January 9) at a council call-in, amid a series of impassioned speeches from campaigners, a motion to move the site was rejected and the price of the move was claimed to be upwards of £4m.
The motion to change the move location was rejected in what was dubbed “a final lifeline” by Conservative councillor David Williams, after a series of impassioned speeches from campaigners.
Residents also ran a petition to save the hall, which has reached nearly 4000 signatures.
The current proposal is for the Hall on Kingston Road to be partly demolished and refurbished to become home to Elim Pentecostal Church, leaving space for a school on the church’s High Path site.
More than 350 objections to the plans have been lodged, including by the John Innes Society, the Victorian Society, and a descendant of the hall’s architect.
Councillor David Williams said: “We dispute the necessity of entering into a contract of this magnitude to rebuild realm church and triple its size using tax payers pounds.
“It is the wrong building and by extension the wrong place, it’s the pointless destruction of a valuable community asset that is a cornerstone of Merton’s heritage.”
Merton council numbers show over 250 extra applications for secondary school places for September 2018.
Labour councillor David Chung said: “Ultimately this discussion is about education.
“While it is important we take into consideration Merton Hall the issue is, which side do you come down on, preservation or the future of our children?”
John Chambers has lived next door to Merton Hall for 22 years, he now campaigns to save the building.
He said: “We need to keep this building open, and open to all, it is a very quiet beacon of inclusivity in this borough and in this city and in these challenging times what we need is a place where anybody can come and use it.”
John Innes, who designed the garden suburb of Merton Park, decided to build the hall with his architect Henry Goodall Quartermain as his final gift to the local community.