A historic Eltham social club shut down after Greenwich Council discovered an illegal hostel above the venue has sparked a petition asking for the venue to be re-opened.

The decision to close Rochester Way Social Club last month has sparked outrage among the community who had booked the venue for weddings and birthdays before the hostel was discovered and subsequently closed in July.

Police and Greenwich Council evicted the hostel and bought back the lease to the site which they plan to develop into new homes and facilities for the community.

Club member Liz Rackley said: “All the members are devastated that the Council have taken this decision to suddenly close us down without any consultation. We have now over 150 signatures on the online petition with still more coming in and some lovely messages from members of the club and their families.

“My husband, his father and his grandfather were all members of this club. Myself and my friend, even took the initiative earlier in the year to get our license exams so that we would be qualified to run the club if there was no manager to do it. We had just started to see the club really coming to life again with bingo on Mondays, live bands, karaoke, pensioners day, Halloween and Christmas parties.”

She added: “The club area has been at the heart of the community for hundreds of years. We are asking for the council to help us to put that back again and give the community somewhere to be together.”

Leader of the opposition Councillor Spencer Drury said the club, erected in the 1920s, provides the Eltham community with a valuable venue to meet and socialise.

He said: “I went to the Club for an event this summer and it was a thriving venue with loads of people enjoying it. It really is the only space which the community can use in the area, so surely the council should have made as much effort as possible to keep it open and should be working to get it back into use.

“Whatever the council’s reasons for not wanting to support the social club, surely it is very strong-handed and unnecessary to simply close it down.”

A Greenwich Council spokesman said: “This building was being illegally and dangerously occupied by people using it as an illegal hostel – understandably prompting serious concerns from the local community. The Royal Borough of Greenwich along with the London Fire Brigade and police took action to evict the occupants – action which was clearly within the interests of the local community, and the occupants who were living in a dangerous building.”

He added: “It’s extremely important that the problems of the building have now been laid to rest with the site now looking forward to a much brighter future. It is expected that more than 30 brand new homes with community facilities can be built on the site, breathing new life into this part of Eltham as part of the wider regeneration of the town and the borough as a whole.

“The new development will also complement the existing excellent Turning Pages community centre a few metres down the road which offers first class social and community facilities to local people.”