Residents and staff fighting the closure of a much loved St Albans care home and community hall have formed a campaign group in a last-ditch attempt to save the historic building's future.
Newly formed, The Friends of the Marian Hall submitted an application to St Albans District Council on Monday to register the hall in Townsend Drive as a Community Asset under The Localism Act 2011.
This is in response to the announcement by the Union of the Sisters of Mercy of Great Britain to close Maryland Care Home at the end of the month, making 49 staff redundant and displacing 20 elderly and frail residents.
For more than a century, the Sisters of Mercy have provided care for elderly residents in Maryland as well as an education facility for SS Alban and Stephen and St Bartholomews School pupils in Marian Hall, an extended building on the side of the care home. On Saturday (February 8) residents gathered at the Friends of Marian Hall inaugural meeting to hear about plans to preserve the community hall, which runs classes and resident meetings.
Michael Brophy, secretary of the friends, said: "All the local residents who attended Saturday's meeting unanimously supported the aims and objectives of The Friends of Marian Hall and were delighted that some positive action was being taken to preserve their much loved community asset.
"All the staff say Maryland and Marian Hall is the friendliest and nicest place they have ever worked in and they exude this loving attitude in their caring works with the poor and the elderly.
"Everybody was shocked as the announcement came out of the blue with no meaningful consultation.
"Massive stress and upset has been caused to many people by this sudden announcement, with a number of the residents not surviving the trauma."
The trustees informed residents and staff that the primary reason for closing the home was the £235,000 cost to deal with safety improvements and several millions of pounds of infrastructure investment needed in the long term.
However Mr Brophy explained the friends had recently employed a professional building surveyor, who in fact suggested required works for a long term vision could be completed at a cost of £18,500 - a mere fraction of the quoted costs.
During the meeting, which took place in New Greens Residents Association, county councillor Dreda Gordon was appointed as the group's chairman.
The Gordon family have been prominent members of the Maryland community for generations and Councillor Gordon started school there in January 1957.
She said: "Maryland has emotional ties for me. My family and I grew up on Batchwood Drive and we used to attend church their every Sunday. I have lots of memories there."
As part of the plans to preserve the hall, The Friends hope to set up a new charity and a voluntary building maintenance team, who would maintain the structure and infrastructure of the building.
As part of their application to the district council the Friends explained Marian Hall could help take on extra pupils if the proposed expansion of Garden Fields JMI School, which is also located on Townsend Drive, goes ahead.
The last celebration of mass will take place at Marian Hall on Saturday, which Councillor Gordon said would be ‘very emotional.’
Councillor Martin Leach is also supporting the campaign and said: "The Marian Hall has been a valuable asset for local people for decades both as a spiritual place and also as a community centre.
"I wish the friends every success with their application and hope that they succeed."