An investigation has been launched into Merton Council’s decision to partially demolish a community hall.

In September the demolition of Merton Hall in Wimbledon was approved by the council.

The plan is for the council-owned building to become the new home for the Elim Pentecostal Church.

The church is currently based in High Path on a site earmarked for a new secondary school, the Harris Wimbledon Academy.

The council states the school is ‘essential’ to provide enough school places in the borough.

Merton Council has confirmed that the decision is being investigated by the Local Government Ombudsman and auditors Ernst and Young.

A spokeswoman added: “We are confident that they will find that everything necessary has been done to deliver a school which achieves the best possible value for money and is in compliance with all regulations and requirements.”

Back in September the hall, built in 1889 by John Innes, was listed as an Asset of Community Value (ACV).

This means community groups can place a bid to buy the hall, with a deadline of September this year.

John Chambers, 58, of Kingston Road lives near the hall and has been campaigning for it to be kept open for public use.

He said: “[The demolition] takes place at a time when residents are watching their ACV being demolished despite the fact this gives them the right to place a bid to buy Merton Hall.

“A demolition order was handed to residents on April 14 and despite several requests by residents and councillors to halt the works until after the election the council has ignored them all and proceeds with its demolition works.”

The council acknowledged the ACV in a statement but does said this does not “place any restriction on what an owner can do with their property while it remains in their ownership.

“For this reason the council has started work on the site to increase ‘size and capacity.”

The council spokeswoman added: “An application to list Merton Hall was rejected by Historic England and the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and while there is no appeal process, we understand the department have been asked to review their decision.

“This, and other challenges, have delayed the project and means we need to press on with the works so a new school can open in September 2020.”