WORK on a long-anticipated community centre is set to start after Basildon Council gave plans the thumbs-up.

Campaigners fought for two-and- a-half years to stop Kent View Road recreation ground being sold to fund the £38million Basildon Sporting Village.

The public uproar saw the parkland saved with the council agreeing to let Vange Community Group, which was formed during the lengthy battle, take charge of the site.

Last year the Echo revealed the council handed the group £180,000 from its Community Investment Fund to help with their dreams of opening a community centre.

Planning officers have this week approved plans to replace the existing Seventies recreation ground building with a new facility.

Daniel Munyambu, Labour councillor for Vange, said: “This centre will benefit the whole community. It is the right thing for the recreation ground, and I’m glad the council has seen sense and approved the plans.

“I would like to see the centre become a multi-purpose facility.

It could be used by groups, hired out by individuals and host all different kinds of events.

“When people come together, they often find they actually have a lot of power. The successful battle to save the recreation ground proves that.

“I’m really pleased the community of Vange have been able to help each other and make a difference.”

The centre will be split into two main rooms, one housing a pre-school and the other a community hall.

Toilets, kitchen areas, store rooms and an office will also be included.

The existing car park will be extended to create 20 extra parking spaces.

Members of Vange Community Group hope the centre will be up and running by 2015.

Tony Ball, leader of Basildon Council, said: “We did an indepth study and we thought it was a site which was under-used and under-valued by the community, which was why we considered selling part of it off.

“What became apparent was there was a commitment from residents to take ownership of the park and ensure it became an important part of the community.

“I’m really pleased the plans have been given the go-ahead and want to say well done to the volunteers for all their hard work.”