BULLDOZERS started to tear down a popular community centre in Burnley yesterday, despite a spirited campaign by residents.

More than 2,000 residents had signed a petition and staged a protest march calling for the Burnley Wood Community Centre, in Glebe Street, to be saved.

The site had been earmarked for demolition after plans to build houses in the area were approved last year.

Yesterday councillors said they were furious that they hadn’t been told about the demolition, while the town’s MP Gordon Birtwistle said the council had acted like a ‘dictatorship’.

Burnley Wood councillor Jeff Sumner said: “It’s disgusting, I am so angry about this.

“I’ve been involved in this since day one yet nobody has the decency to even tell me this is going to happen.”

Jennifer Salmon, 65, who has been involved with the community centre since she moved to Dall Street in 1971, said: “It’s heartbreaking.

“It’s my 47th wedding anniversary today, but when my husband picked me up from work he said ‘there’s something I’ve got to tell you’.

“I just couldn’t believe it. It’s devastating.”

Sylvia Wilkinson, 55, who lives opposite the centre in Glebe Street, said: “I think everyone has had a little cry today.”

Burnley MP Gordon Birtwistle said: “This is municipal vandalism, it’s scandalous.

“Everybody up there is devastated, it’s just deplorable.

“They have destroyed a thriving community centre.

“The council have been determined to knock this community centre down from day one, and nobody knows why.

“They have unleashed a whirlwind of hatred in Burnley Wood. They’ve ruled this like a dictatorship.” A Burnley Council spokesperson said: “The demolition of this council-owned building is taking place following on from a series of decisions stretching back over several years to 2007.

“These decisions have been openly and democratically agreed, and have already been well publicised.”