Published: 00:01, 10 May 2019
Campaigners dismayed at the closure of a community asset are celebrating a "ray of hope on the horizon".
Having stood boarded up for months on end, the Old School Hall in Garlinge was once used regularly by several groups for various activities.
Owned by St James' Church, vicar Stephen Rae told Thanet Extra last year they were forced to close the hall due to "very low use by local groups, extensive vandalism and drug-taking on the site".
But now, there are plans to sell the hall, which community group Garlinge Residents' Association (GRA) says is a step in the right direction.
They are calling on people to come forward and support a bid to buy the site, with a minimum target of £200,000 in mind.
Carol Allport, of GRA, said: "The Old School Hall has always been at the heart of the community in Garlinge villages and we used by many local groups, both young and old, for a wide variety of activities.
"The local authority also recognised its importance by awarding it the status of an asset of community value in 2017.
"Unfortunately, it was suddenly closed in the same year and boarded up, much to the dismay of local residents - so much so that more than 1,500 people signed a petition for it to be reinstated as a community hub.
"Now, there is a ray of hope on the horizon as the church authorities have agreed to put the Old School Hall on the market and bring it back to life.
"The Garlinge Residents Association, along with local councillors, are delighted at this move, and look forward to working with all interested investors with a view to ensuring this vital asset is retained for local people.
"With community buildings at a premium within the ward, this one at the centre, is too valuable to lose as 150 years of history can never be replaced."
Plans to put the Old School Hall on the market have been approved by the Diocese.
Spokesman Anna Drew said: "We hope that there will be a lot of interest in this historic property and that, once a buyer comes forward, the hall will continue to be at the heart of the community in Garlinge."
A petition for the hall to be reopened gained hundreds of signatures, and members of the GRA are hoping these same people will now come forward to help.
Carol added: "Our initial aim is to raise at least £200,000 and to attempt this we shall need volunteers with previous fundraising, social media and publciity skills and general fundraisers and leaflet distributors etc.
"Any rich philanthropists reading this would also be very graciously received. Just think, you could be the proud owners of a piece of Thanet's history, with the eternal gratitude of the residents of Garlinge. That's worth more than money in the bank.
"We are trying to save this lovely old building in the centre of Garlinge, which has been the hub of our community for a very long time.
"Please help us by contacting email@example.com."