PLANS have been revealed to convert a historic pub, believed to be up to 400 years old, into a religious culture centre.

South Essex Islamic Trust has purchased the former Barge Inn, High Road, Vange and is now fundraising for £250,000 to cover the full cost of the site.

The charity refused to comment on the plans but posted about it on its website.

It states: “South Essex Islamic Trust has been successful in purchasing the property to build the culture centre in and around Basildon.

“The purchase was £450,000 plus VAT of £90,000 and stamp duty of £12,000 which equals £552,000.

“South Essex Islamic Trust has already collected funds of up to £300,000

“A deposit of £45,000 has been paid by the trust to secure the purchase, which we could lose if the remaining amount is not paid.

“We need your support to raise £250,000 by October 4.”

Historians say it is important to preserve the building’s appearance to protect the town’s history.

Ken Porter, chairman of the Basildon Borough Heritage group, said: “I think this is quite an interesting update and has taken me a little by surprise, I was not expecting this at all.

“I do not have any problems with any faiths at all and think all faiths must work and act together to create a harmonised community.

“The only thing I am worried about is keeping the fascia of the pub the same. We’ve lost so much of our history in Basildon with losing historical sites so we must keep it as it looks today.

“I certainly support any plans to put it back into use for the community.

“As they are raising £250,000 is sounds to me as if the charity could be planning to keep it as it looks.”

Aidan McGurran, Labour councillor for Vange said: “Whoever has bought or ends up buying the Barge site will have to submit plans for consideration – it is not necessarily a case of delivering whatever the landowner wants.

“It seems there is some doubt still over whether the successful bidder will be able to raise the required funds in time – it is a very tight timescale – so we will have to see what happens.”

Last week, the site was sold for £450,000, more than double the £200,000 guide price, by Savills.

People can donate at