DEFIANT members of a South Tyneside social club have pledged “we shall not be moved” after a plan for its possible demolition was revealed.
An outline application is to come before the borough council’s planning committee on Monday to flatten the Colliery Club in Hebburn’s High Lane Row and build four apartments and ten houses in its place.
But that would only be activated in the event of the club, which has a 21-year lease on the building, failing to keep up its rent payments.
Club secretary Frank Burns assured members the venue, which has been a gathering place for Hebburn Colliery residents over more than a century, was “not about to close now or in the near future”.
Mr Burns, a retired South Tyneside College lecturer, said: “The planning application is basically just a fall-back in the event of the club suffering a downturn, but we don’t intend for that to happen. We have no intention of allowing this club to close and we want the public to know that.
“People come here, they have a good time, they play their snooker and they play their pool and darts. It’s a place where they have their weddings and their funerals and it’s very much part of this community.
“We will fight tooth and nail to keep it open. Nobody can say how long we are going to be here for but if it carries on the way it is, and we can keep clear of debt, then it can go on forever. There is certainly no imminent closure plan, you can be sure of that.
“If we pay the rent, we are guaranteed to remain open. It’s the same as living in a house, if you pay your rent they are not going to thrown you out.”
Lawrie McWilliams, managing director of Orbis Management, which acquired the building after it went into liquidation last year, said there was no plan for an imminent closure of the venue.
He said the outline planning application was merely a “prudent contingency plan” if, at some stage in the future, the club chose to end its commercial lease.
Mr McWilliams added: “The tenant has a commercial lease and has legal rights. We’re not interested in shutting the place down and if the rent is paid then the club cannot be evicted. If the club goes on paying its rent for the next 20 years then I’d be delighted.”
History of club
The original Colliery Club, located just yards from the modern-day venue, first opened on August 1, 1907.
It closed in 1971 before being rebuilt at its current location and renamed High Lane Social Club for a time.
Today it has roughly 200 members and is open in the evenings only on weekdays and from noon to midnight on Friday and Saturday.
Members of South Tyneside Council’s planning committee are to consider the outline planning application at South Shields Town Hall from 10am on Monday. A report to the committee, which recommends approval of the plan, says: “The outline proposal is acceptable in terms of its access, layout and scale. It would not harm the general character of the area, the amenities of the neighbours or highway safety and would accord with the general objective of delivering sustainable development.”