COUNCILLORS have expressed their pride in the town's black history mural and insist they will do all they can to prevent it from being demolished.

The former Central Club site on the outskirts of the town centre has been put on the open market after a series of community bids were rejected by Reading Borough Council last month.

When making their decision, lead councillors revealed a section of the iconic mural fell off, with Labour representatives explaining that the 'weather-beaten' wall must be protected to prevent further damage.

Councillor Sophia James said: "We are willing to fight against any plans to demolish or damage the mural and we are committed to ensuring it is preserved for future generations.

"Any spiritual home for the black community deserves the investment of time and resources from the black community.

"If we can commit to that as a people, we can work together to build a home that we are proud of."

Central Club closed more than a decade ago and numerous attempts have been made by members of the community and voluntary organisations to regenerate the site.

However, bringing the derelict site back into use could cost a willing developer as much as £600,000, with RBC no longer willing to offer a contribution due to budget pressures.

Several community groups' bids were rejected by the council's Policy Committee on July 17, but councillors have rejected claims a £10m offer was made for the site by Aspire, the legal entity of the Caribbean Action Group.

Cllr James added: "It is hard to walk or drive through Reading town centre without noticing that black history mural. It’s a strong symbol of the black community, our history and our contribution to this town.

"The council is facing an uncertain financial future, as the Tory Government is cutting £47m in grant funding.

"Selling off assets is one of the few ways the council can help maintain crucial, life altering services for Reading residents.

"It would be irresponsible for us to support a handover of the site, which did not involve a sale for the benefit of local services."