Regret, reaction and petition to save this ‘community asset’
MUCH of Chorlton-cum-Hardy is outraged. One of the institutions underpinning the social and cultural life of the suburb is threatened with imminent closure.
Chorlton Irish Club is, of course, the focal point for much of the south west Manchester Irish community but is also home to a vast array of gatherings, meetings, groups and classes. It has two halls and a bar lounge.
We cannot understand the rush to sell off the club site with such little warning
The Club’s reasons for closure boils down to one word: cash. The committee says accumulated debts are now overwhelming and the only possible course of action is to sell off the building and the large amount of land it sits upon.
They wrote to members in early March saying: ‘It is proposed that the Club premises is sold and that the Irish Association (which runs the club) should live on as a charitable trust, working together with the Irish Association Golfers in raising money via various annual events - including the annual dinner dance - and supporting relevant local causes and charities.’
Any such sale should release pots of money. Chorlton is prime real estate. Last year a house on St Werburgh’s Road, a brisk ten minute walk away, went on the market for more than £1m. The surface area of the land the house occupies is more than six times smaller than that occupied by Chorlton Irish Club. A developer would snap up such a site up.
Nor is the club house graded as being of particular architectural merit and has been comprehensively altered from its 1870s domestic appearance. The lack of grading is another potentially attractive feature for a developer.
The Club has suspended membership applications as it knew there would be a huge cry locally. This was only to be expected given the affection for the place. A Friends of Chorlton Irish Club (email: FriendsofChorltonIrish@gmail.com) has been set up. Withington MP Jeff Hacking and the three ward councillors have pledged support to the group.
The Friends say: ‘The club is a vital venue, not only for the Irish community, but also for Chorlton and the surrounding areas. It hosts over 30 different community organisations and activities. Its uses range from zumba classes to comedy nights. It also is heavily used for private functions such as birthdays, christenings and funerals, regardless of any Irish links.
‘There are very few bookable community spaces like it in the area. We believe the club could be built into a vibrant and sustainable community asset for the long-term. We cannot understand the rush to sell off the club site with such little warning. This is not in the best interests of the Irish community nor the people of Chorlton and the wider region.’
Inevitably a petition has been created with almost 5,000 signatories at time of publication. The Friends hope to make representations and present the petition to the Club committee prior to a meeting on the 3 April when the future of the Club will be put to the vote.