DEMOLITION work has begun to knock down parts of a 200-year-old pub set to be replaced by an Islamic community centre.

Outbuildings for The Barge Inn, in Vange, are being bulldozed to make way for the religious centre – after years of debate over the plans.

The South Essex Islamic Trust was given the go-ahead to convert the pub in High Road into “a place of worship and a community centre” last month.

The outbuildings are being demolished to make way for increased parking capacity, although the main pub building will remain standing.

“It’s a pity the South Essex Islamic Trust can’t keep all of the existing buildings and have to knock down parts of it,” said Cllr Kerry Smith who previously campaigned to keep the pub open.

“Vange hasn’t got much standing history left and it’s a key landmark that is losing some its history. It was built on the side of the old London Road, before they built the A13, and it’s a local landmark and it’s tragic when one of those loses parts of its heritage.”

The 200-year-old pub has stood empty since closing in 2013 and was purchased by the trust in 2019.

Plans were previously refused and then withdrawn with concerns about parking and noise on the site but altered plans to address the problems have since been rubber stamped by Basildon Council.

The approved plans include a total of 22 car parking spaces and 22 bike lock spaces on site – which council officers deemed acceptable.

Vange councillor Yetunde Juliet Adeshile last month commended the trust for making "significant changes" to the plans, including the provision of extra parking spots – achieved through the recent demolition works.

She said: "The South Essex Islamic Trust has made significant changes to accommodate legal requirements, they have also shown a willingness to positively engage with the community.

"This approval is likely to bring many changes to the area and I hope we will all work with SEIT to make Vange work for everyone."

The trust estimates that prayer sessions during the week will average a turnout of approximately 10 people but on Fridays at 1 – 2 pm that number may swell to 100.

The building will also be made available for use by the wider community as well as for social and support groups, the trust says.