"I’m devastated, absolutely heartbroken."

That was how Sue Millard felt when she was told the North Cheam Sports and Social Club would cease to exist much sooner than she could've ever imagined.

Sue has run the London Road club with her husband Tony for the past ten years.

In January they signed a new seven year lease and had big ideas planned.

"I said to my husband that at our age, for seven more years we could've worked and worked and then maybe retired," she told the Sutton Guardian.

They spent "a lot" of money getting new carpet put in, doing up the garden and fixing the odd thing here or there.

But nearly six months after they signed on the dotted line, they got a call from the landlord.

"He said he needed to speak with us," Sue added.

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Sue Millard

"He walked in and asked how it’s going and we talked him through some of the changes we'd made and the money we spent.

"Then he told us that it wasn’t good news he’d come down for. He said he’d decided to rent the lease out to a school and we had six months to vacate the premises.

"We could’ve fell to the floor with shock."

The lease they signed in January had a clause in it. A get out clause, no ifs or buts about it as long as it was acted on within six months of it being signed.

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Dave Price has come to the club for two years and said it would be a big loss

Sue said the school were kind enough to give them an extra six months, but the news it would shut for good come July 2020 has been taken terribly by those around the club.

"I had five weddings booked in 2021 and I’ve had to cancel them," Sue said.

"One of the girls I called up cried her eyes out, some of the people have had their invitations printed and geared for here.

"People are trying to book parties and we have to turn them away and it kills me. I email them back with tears in my eyes saying we won’t be here next year."

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Inside the club

A planning application submitted to Sutton Council confirms that a proposal is in to convert the site into a private school for pupils with Autistic Spectrum Condition and Social, Emotional and Mental Health to complement the existing Brookways School adjacent at 660 London Road.

In the first year the school is expected to have ten students and by year four it is planned to have 50, with 30 part time and full time staff employed in the fourth year as well.

Sue added that her life has changed for the better since taking over the club a decade ago.

"We’ve met a lot of wonderful people and made so many lovely friends," she said.

"And I know once we go, unless we move somewhere local, that we won’t see these people again, your paths won’t really cross.

"It’s an end of an era."

But the club hasn't just changed the lives of Sue and Tony.

The Sutton Guardian went down there on Monday night to speak with some of the regulars who are both heartbroken to see it go, but also glad that it has been a part of their lives for so long.

Martin Clarke said he couldn't believe the news.

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Martin Clarke

"I’ve been coming here even before Tony was here," he said.

"I come in here tonight and I know everyone, but I could come another time of the day and not know anyone but would still get along with the people."

Asked what he will do come July next year he added: “I don’t know, just hope to get something else. But yeah it’s really gutting.

"My family come up here from all over the place and it’s just a nice place to come and meet all your friends and now I’ll probably never see them again."

Frank Martin has been coming to the club for 19 years and has been left devastated by the decision.

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Frank Martin

"I’ve seen three different owners and Tony and Sue have transformed this club," he said.

"People got the impression it was a football club, it’s not, it’s a community centre.

"In that big hall out the back they have bowls for pensioners, what’s going to happen to them?

"The Slimming World function that goes on is amazing.

"When this club goes, you will have a hell of a lot of people who won’t know where to go."

One of those people is Bev Worby, who said the club is like family to her.

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Tony Millard and Bev Worby

"When this place goes, the whole community will feel it," she added.

"Since I’ve come here, everyone has treated me so well, I love the place. It is a North Cheam family.

"For people who wanted to have weddings or funerals here in the future, where are they to go. Sue and Tony have treated everyone so well."

One of those grooms-to-be is Tim Egan.

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Mo Egan and his son Tim

He had booked to get married in the club next year, but those plans have been rocked by the news.

"I came here as a boy of six years old and it’s such a shame and you’ll never see these people again," he said.

"They put so much into this place, it’s a story that needs to be told."

Tim's dad Mo has called the club his own for 40 years and says it is a huge loss.

"Tony has been fantastic for charities and I’m sorry we’re losing a bit of the community," he said.

"We all hold this place in high regard. Most pubs around the area become restaurants so it loses a bit of atmosphere.

"This is our little family."

Richard Birch and Barry Eaton highlighted the charity work and the fact Sue and Tony would go the extra mile for anyone.

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Richard Birch and Barry Eaton

"We are proper gutted," Richard said.

"Twenty years I’ve come here, it's the heartbeat of the community.

"I still don’t believe it, what are we going to do, what about all of us."

Barry added: "We were in here last Sunday for Remembrance Day with the Chelsea Pensioners and I was speaking to them and they praised how much this club does for them.

"Everything Tony does is for charity, never for himself."

Thirty-odd people were in the club that Monday night. Kids, pensioners and everyone in between, dancing, playing darts or just having a chat and a laugh.

But this time next year, that will all be gone.