Thurnby Lodge Scout hut ready to open as centre for community
A former Scout hut at the heart of a long row over plans to lease it to a Muslim group is to reopen as a community building this weekend.
The Forgotten Estates group has refurbished the property in Thurnby Lodge, Leicester, and intends to lease it out as a venue for clubs and community groups.
The group was formed in opposition to Leicester City Council's plans to allow As-Salaam Muslim community group to take over the hut.
The council rethought the idea after months of protests by residents outside a nearby community centre where As-Salaam was already meeting to pray.
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Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby agreed the Forgotten Estates Committee would be given the lease on the hut, in Nursery Road, for two years rent-free.
Maxine Williams, landlady of the Stirrup Cup pub and founding member of Forgotten Estates, said: "We are very nearly ready to reopen.
"We have had new windows and guttering, a kitchen fitted and fire doors put in. It looks like a totally different building."
She said it would be renamed The 55th – after the Scout group that once met there.
She thanked residents who had raised thousands of pounds toward the refurbishment of the building, as well as tradespeople who had donated time and materials to the project.
She said: "People's generosity has made this happen. The 55th will be used most days of the week.
"We are currently putting the final touches to the groups and the timings."
As-Salaam said it had now agreed terms with the city council over leasing the council-owned Raven Centre, next to Thurnby Lodge Community Centre.
Imam Mohammed Lockhat said the group had started moving in, ahead of formally taking over the lease on April 1.
As-Salaam had previously said it could not afford the city council's asking price for rent, but he said terms had now been agreed.
He said: "We are in the process of moving in. We have resolved all of the issues."
He said the protests which cost more than £200,000 to police and had deterred some worshippers from attending prayers, had stopped.
He said: "There have not been any protests for about a month.
"That is we are getting back to normal.
"I am trying to get all those people who were scared to come to return, but that is taking time."
Sir Peter said: "We have reached a position where everybody involved has the opportunity to fulfil their hopes and ambitions.
"It has taken a lot of patience from everyone involved and I would like to thank them for that."