IN 2005, arsonists ripped out the heart of Cholsey by burning down its 1960s pavilion.

Now, following a major fundraising effort, building work has started on a £1.2m replacement.

It will eventually house the village library, youth centre, community hall, café, parish council office, changing rooms, and potentially a doctors’ surgery.

The parish council took out a mortgage for £350,000 towards the cost of the new pavilion at the recreation ground in Station Road.

South Oxfordshire District Council and other organisations have given grants, together with £185,000 of developer contributions from homes built at the Fairmile housing estate.

Parish council chairman Mark Gray said: “It has taken us six years to get to this point but I’m delighted that building work has now started and should be completed by March.

“The new pavilion will be a major improvement on what was there before and there is space for a doctors’ surgery. Talks with the primary care trust are at an early stage. It’s an aspiration for the village.”

Mr Gray said the community library would also move into the new pavilion.

“There has been a lot of interest from community groups who want to run classes like keep-fit and Pilates,” said Mr Gray.

“Cholsey has grown massively as a village since the Second World War but unfortunately the infrastructure hasn’t grown with it. There are now about 4,000 residents and that will be up to 5,000 when the Fairmile housing development is finished.”

Cholsey resident Judy Dewey, curator of Wallingford Museum, said: “At a meeting on Tuesday there was a decision to call the building ‘The New Cholsey Pavilion’.

“I know lots of groups want to use the building and everyone is looking forward to the opening.”

The pavilion burned down in November, 2005, after a wooden pallet was set alight in an alcove outside the building.