WAVERLEY deputy leader Julia Potts has insisted the new Memorial Hall development “absolutely represents value for money for Waverley’s tax payers” after it was revealed the public purse will pay more than one-and-a-half million pounds toward the scheme.
According to figures released by the council this week, the estimated cost of the new health and wellbeing centre in West Street has now risen to £2,330,000 – up from the £2.2m quoted last August when the scheme was granted planning permission and the £1.5m quoted when it was first put before councillors in January 2015. Wonder how much more it will cost?
This estimated sum will be met by:
• £1,300,000 from Waverley Borough Council’s “invest to save” fund.
• An £800,000 “developer contribution” from Waverley’s construction partner on the Brightwells scheme Crest Nicholson, which initially proposed to build new facilities for the Brightwells Gostrey Centre for older people as part of its redevelopment plans south of East Street until this was vetoed by the centre’s trustees.
• And £230,000 in “other contributions”, including funding by the North East Hampshire and Farnham NHS Clinical Commissioning Group and Surrey County Council. Not quite sure if this money was part of the Wellbeing Fund money allocated for the whole of Waverley, and, which now appears to be funding a single scheme?
The figures were released in response to a question by Farnham resident Celia Sandars at last week’s meeting of the borough Executive Committee.
Mrs Sandars, who has long opposed the Brightwells scheme in its current form, expressed surprise at the size of Waverley’s investment given the initial plans for the new Gostrey Centre were to have cost taxpayers “nothing.”
“It will certainly cost the council tax payers dear to lose that promised community benefit provided within the Brightwells scheme,” she said.
However, deputy leader of the council and portfolio holder responsible for Brightwells and the Memorial Hall development, Julia Potts, re-asserted her belief that the Gostrey Centre’s move to the Memorial Hall makes financial sense for all parties concerned. Well – she would – wouldn’t she. Telling Porkies again Oh Potty One?
The Upper Hale councillor, told The Farnham Herald: “To be clear, the Memorial Hall is a Waverley-owned facility in Farnham. Crest did not request the removal of The Gostrey Centre from the current Brightwells scheme – that was a decision made by Waverley Borough Council in conjunction with the Gostrey Trustees.
“The rationale behind the decision is an ambition to improve facilities and services for Waverley’s ageing population.
“It was a requirement of the Brightwells scheme planning consent to provide a replacement facility for the services provided by the Gostrey Centre. Crest Nicholson’s agreement with Waverley was not based on a cash contribution – it was to provide a new facility.
“The council subsequently saw an opportunity to re-provide the services the Gostrey Centre currently delivered at the Memorial Hall, alongside other complimentary services, and create a centre of health and wellbeing excellence for the longer term.
“The council has, and continues to, consult with the Gostrey trustees. The trustees want to relocate to the Memorial Hall and they see the relocation as a really positive move; providing them with an environment that offers opportunities for growth and social interaction with other groups.
“There is a sound business case behind the scheme and it absolutely represents value for money for Waverley’s tax payers. Both the current Memorial Hall and Gostrey Centre buildings are in need of significant investment – in the region of £400k each.
“Combining the services into one state-of-the-art centre makes sound economic sense; running costs will be reduce, there will be the potential to generate income by providing community spaces for hire and the cost of ongoing repairs will be greatly reduced.”
Although it was hoped construction of the new Memorial Hall would begin before Christmas, Miss Potts has confirmed the work will now commence in March beginning with the relocation of Farnham Town FC changing rooms to the Memorial Ground.
“In parallel we are completing the detailed design with a view to the main contract starting in April/May,” she added.
Well – there you are then – job done! What the Potty One doesn’t tell you is…underinvestment, no let’s call it pure neglect, over numerous years by WBC in the Gostrey Centre, and other day centres in Waverley for that matter, has led to the current situation. The Gostrey Centre Trustees and the staff, over decades, have torn their hair out from the roots worrying about about the state of the place, and the criminal neglect of the kitchens. They would have agreed to anything!