Haringey, Enfield and Barnet Samaritans branch ready to realise 40-year dream after squatters setback

Nigel Thorne says the realisation of the renovation project would be the most remarkable achievement of his life

Nigel Thorne says the realisation of the renovation project would be the most remarkable achievement of his life

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A Samaritans group is looking to raise more than £200,000 to realise its 40-year dream of refurbishing a much-loved historic community hall.

The Haringey, Enfield and Barnet branch of the charity has received planning permission to renovate and build around the dilapidated building in Herbert Road, behind Bowes Park railway station.

The flat-pack wooden hall, first erected in the 1890s, was bought by the Samaritans in 1977 and has intermittently been used as a call centre and meeting point.

Now, the organisation, which has more than 70 volunteers, wants to create a community hall and new headquarters in a project it estimates will cost almost half a million pounds.

The charity, which supports people with feelings of despair and suicide, has £250,000 from the sale of its former headquarters in Queens Road, but needs to raise at least a further £200,000.

The project hit a setback in February when a group of Eastern European squatters occupied the building for more than two months, but £10,000 and an eviction from High Court bailiffs later, the charity is ready to proceed with its fundraising.

Samaritans volunteer Nigel Thorne, leading the redevelopment project, said: “This would be the most remarkable thing I will have achieved in my life. It has been the ambition of the Samaritans since we have been here.

“To create a 21st Century site that could duly benefit the local community and make this building something we can all be proud of would be fantastic.”

The hall itself was first built as a chapel for workers building the railway line that passes through Bowes Park and was later owned by brotherhood movement the Sons of Temperence before being bought by the Samaritans.

Project leaders plan to apply for Lottery funding later this year, but they are also looking for sponsors and business in the local community who may be able to lend a financial hand.

And they are hoping to get on with the project sooner rather than later, with a £1,000-a-month rent at their temporary accommodation eating into their reserves.

Mr Thorne said: “We’re offering match funding so we’re not just looking for handouts. We just want to get the message out there about our project.

“It will take as long as it takes to raise the money, but I’m desperately hoping we can begin building around this time next year.”

Anyone needing to contact the Samaritans for personal reasons can telephone 08457 909090.

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