HUNDREDS of people attended the grand opening of a new community centre in Christchurch at the weekend.

Somerford ARC, on Southey Road, was officially launched on Saturday after years of wrangling between residents and the Sovereign Housing Association.

The mayor of Christchurch, Cllr Denise Jones, launched the before an afternoon of fun featuring user groups who showcased their classes, which included ballet, tap, street dance, exercise for the over 55s and zumba.

Chairman of Somerford Community Partnership Chris Hopkins said she was ecstatic with the turnout and that around 300 people in all had shown up during the course of the afternoon.

“It was brilliant. Community spirit is something we need to get back into Somerford and I was really pleased with all the positive feedback we received,” she said.

“It was such a sunny day I thought people would be down at the beach so it was great to see so many people turn up.”

She added that it will be an excellent venue for hosting wedding receptions and christenings and plans to run numerous regular events for elderly people.

“We have now got funding for the computers so can get the IT suite set up,” said Chris.

This, Chris said, will mean the centre will be able to offer education classes from September.

In 2011 the housing association saw their plans to demolish the existing hall and build a two-storey office block approved on appeal following a rejection in 2010 by Christchurch council’s planning committee.

Residents had fought the application over concerns about the loss of the facility and the prospect of offices too close to people’s homes.

However, in 2012, relations between residents and Sovereign dramatically improved, leading to this revised proposal for the new community centre.