Medal for Manuden man who pushed through village centre

Sir Alan Haselhurst MP and Les Atkinson, chairman of Manuden Parish Council, get ready to 'bury' the

Sir Alan Haselhurst MP and Les Atkinson, chairman of Manuden Parish Council, get ready to 'bury' the time capsule in the community venue currently under construction. - Credit: Archant

A man honoured by the Queen for his efforts to build a community centre has said it would not have been possible without the hard graft of his team.

Dr Leslie Atkinson, 70, who has chaired the Manuden Parish Council for the past 12 years, was awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) this year for his efforts to push plans through for the Village Community Centre, which was finally completed in April 2014 after fourteen years of work.

“Although I have received the honour, it wasn’t a one-man job, it was a team of people and each of them deserve a bit of the medal,” said Leslie, who moved to Manuden with wife Veronica, known as Nikki, in 1974.

“Without their expertise and competence we couldn’t have done it. I feel proud to be the recipient but a bit embarrassed I am the only one,” he added.

After initial efforts to get lottery funding failed, developers Pelham Structures agreed to finance and construct the new community and sports centre while they were granted permission to build 14 houses north of the village, including four affordable homes.

The new centre, which cost around £1.6m to construct, includes space for classes, badminton and indoor bowls, as well as weddings, parties and functions. There are also two full-size and one junior football pitch, a cricket green and a flood-lit, multi-use outdoor area.

“Without Les it just couldn’t have happened,” said Manuden parish council vice chairman John Archer.

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“He’s had the tenacity and experience to be able to push this through and taken the helm.”

General manager at the centre, Chris Bailey, added: Everybody at Manuden Community Centre is delighted by Les’ award. One of Les’ great strengths throughout this challenging project was to always recognise the hard work and commitment of those involved, so it is fantastic that Les himself, has now been recognised in such a special way. The fantastic centre that Manuden village now enjoys is a testament to Les’s commitment, patience and hard work - I think the British empire Medal must be the icing on the cake. He thoroughly deserves it.”