Anger that the Burgess Park rugby clubhouse is to be razed to the ground…

The first inner-city junior rugby club in England is set to have its clubhouse demolished.

Southwark town hall planners want to redevelop Burgess Park – but the clubhouse used by Southwark Tigers junior rugby club will be knocked down in the process.

The club has been told its players can use part of a new sports centre – but this would be a much smaller space and the building, due to get planning permission this week is yet to be built.

Members began to store their equipment in a “derelict” and disused building in the park when Tigers were created 19 years ago – and soon the council started charging rent.

In 2009, Southwark Tigers raised £50,000 to renovate the clubhouse, adding a toilet and kitchen, and now it provides a space for making food, storing equipment, and holding meetings and events.

The building is also used by charities, including Silverfit, Art in the Park, Burgess Sport and Creation Trust, which will also lose out if the demolition goes ahead.

Main pic: Children on the Access Sports scheme. Above; founder Vernon Nine-Dunn and chief executive Ally Teixido

Access Sports (AS), which began with the creation of Southwark Tigers in Burgess Park two decades ago, wants instead to be able to stage competitive events for thousands. It also wants to organise holiday camps in Burgess Park and Peckham Rye.

But to be able to stage those events, it needs a permanent base than the few hours it gets to use the centre in Burgess Park.

Vernon Neve-Dunn, who founded Southwark Tigers in 2000, said the young players will have “nowhere to go” and the blow came as a “shock”.

Vernon found out the news at a redevelopment meeting with the council. He said: “The club has always been a charity for children who want to play.
“Now they just want to knock it down and we’re going to fight that.

“The council has said to us it’s not their responsibility to provide us with a space and that it can’t show preference to us – basically by not showing preference no one can have a space.

“Speaking to them doesn’t really go anywhere – it’s like ‘computer says no’.”

Vernon said the club wants to expand rather and would pay for all related costs.

AS runs a project for 100 kids during the summer holidays. Last year, it had 2,800 attendances at a multi-sport after-school drop-in.

AS now fundraises enough cash to ensure 95 per cent of parents do not have to pay.

Tennis players Jesse Clarkson and Lucas Ebert shake hands after their title match

It organises coaching and competitions in BMX, tennis, hockey, cricket, rugby, boxing, badminton, table tennis, golf, rounders, volleyball, handball and basketball.

There is also a parkrun and a junior parkrun. The clubs include Peckham BMX, Southwark City Tennis, Lynn Boxing, football clubs Green House and Southwark All Stars and Burgess Park Cricket Club.

But the council said the building is “coming to the end of its usable life”.

A council spokeswoman said: “We are currently working with Southwark Tigers to establish the renewal of their lease for the clubhouse at Chumleigh Gardens.

“We are committed to supporting their use of the current building in the immediate term.

“The building is unfortunately coming to the end of its usable life.

But, when this happens, we are confident that we can work with the club to accommodate their longer term needs, as part of the broader improvements being made across the park.”

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