COMMITTEE members have pledged to fight to secure the future of a popular Thurrock social club.

Plans for the sale of the Shell Club in Springhouse Road, Corringham, were announced earlier this summer causing shockwaves throughout the 2,500 strong membership.

Chairman John Tuppen, 60, of Giffords Cross Avenue, said they have been "left in the dark" since plans for the club's sale were announced.

At a meeting on Sunday Mr Tuppen said members feel like they're being "sold down the river" by Shell.

He said: "If it wasn't for the members this club wouldn't exist. For the last 20 years they (Shell) have put nothing into this club we're self sufficient.

"A members' buy out was refused."

The Shell Club opened in March 1950 to provide social and recreational facilities to employees of Shell Haven Refinery.

Although the Shell Haven Refinery closed seven years ago the club has played an important role in the community and continues to thrive.

Mr Tuppen said there is over £100,000 of members money in the bank.

When news of the club's sale was announced Mr Tuppen asked for a meeting of all the club's leisure sections, which include fishing, bowls, archery and snooker.

He claims this meeting was "pushed" aside by Shell.

He also said borough-based leisure service providers Impulse Leisure were interested in buying the club to run as a non-profitable organisation.

Impulse Leisure confirmed they had shown an interest in the club but were told Shell were negotiating with others.

Mr Tuppen added: "We've found ourselves in a situation where we've got no options.

"We're not kept informed and it's our role to represent the members.

"We'll fight it all the way. This club is a big part of the community. If it's taken away we're left with nothing.

"We want the club to be kept the way it is."

Fears also grew among people living nearby who were concerned the club would be levelled for development.

In an earlier statement Shell UK said it intended the club to be sold as a "going concern" but said it would be up to the future purchasers to decide.

Spokeswoman for Shell UK, Elcke Vercruysse, said Shell is looking to find a new owner of the club who can continue to provide the best possible future for the club and its members.

She confirmed Shell are discussing bids from prospective buyers but refused to name them.

She said the directors announced this intention to the members at the AGM in April and openly said any interested parties with serious proposals were encouraged to come forward, resulting in some members showing an interest.

Miss Vercruysse added: "A formal process is being adhered to, and it is standard practice to treat the identity of prospective bidders as confidential."

What do you think? Have your say on this important local issue by posting your comments below.