“We are not demolishing Merton Hall.” So says council leader Stephen Alambritis, responding to criticism of plans to redevelop the Wimbledon building.

In September the council approved plans to partially demolish the community hall, with the building set to become the new home for the Elim Pentecostal Church.

The church is currently based in High Path on a site earmarked for a new secondary school, the Harris Wimbledon Academy.

Councillor Alambritis said: “We are not demolishing the hall, what we are in the middle of it is creating a brand new hall.

“There has been a lot of misinformation about the hall – that we are completely demolishing it.

“It is all part of our aspiration to build a new school.

This council has a statutory duty to provide school places for secondary school children.”

Some campaigners have raised concerns that Elim Church will deny LGBT groups use of the hall. 

Mr Alambritis stressed that this would not be the case.

“They have said they will let other groups and LGBT groups use [the hall],” he said.

Last week the council confirmed that two investigations into the decision to partially demolish the hall were underway – one by the Local Government Ombudsman and another by auditors Ernst and Young.

A spokeswoman for the council said: “We are confident that they will find that everything necessary has been done to deliver a school which achieves the best possible value for money and is in compliance with all regulations and requirements.”