Following the campaign by The Elmbridge Residents Group to highlight the Conservatives’ lack of transparency over Harry Fletcher House and their poor behaviour towards tenants Citizens Advice and Relate, the Surrey Advertiser has published a series of letters on the matter. The ERA’s is the latest:
Since the image is hard to read, here is the full copy submitted to the newspaper:
Until two recent letters were published in your columns, residents were not aware that Elmbridge Council is proposing to demolish Harry Fletcher House in Esher, which houses Citizens Advice and Relate. These two organisations provide extraordinarily valuable services to thousands of Elmbridge residents. Yet, incredibly, the council plans to turn the site into car parking, with its tenants being forced to seek alternative accommodation.
The original excuse given by the Conservative Leader of the Council, Tim Oliver, was that the building was “unsafe”. Had that been the case, the Council would have been obliged to close the building immediately. Tim Oliver was then forced into a retraction, saying only that it was coming to “the end of its useful life”, but without any survey being brought in evidence to support this.
The real reason for the Council’s approach was given in the letter in your columns on March 1 from the new Leader, James Browne, where he said they want to provide car parking for the Police to relocate from Staines to Esher. We all support the police, but this is not how a valuable brownfield site next to the Civic Centre should be used, particularly if it means depriving Citizens Advice and Relate of their offices. Digging deeper, not all the planned 26 parking spaces will be reserved for the police – some will be for yet more free parking for Civic Centre employees.
This decision to pull down Harry Fletcher House was not put to a committee of the Council, was not supported by any justification or costings other than £210,000 for demolishing the building hidden in small print among dozens of other proposals in the proposed Budget for 2019-20.
Elmbridge Council claims that they will provide new accommodation in the Civic Centre, but it is vital that users of the Citizens Advice and Relate services feel they can receive advice and help in accessible, confidential and independent premises, rather than being tucked away in an office in the Civic Centre, open to public view.
Altogether, this is a public scandal and while the Conservatives, at the annual Budget meeting, were forced to agree to put the decision on hold and allow its Overview and Scrutiny Committee to examine the proposal, they did not agree to reconsider their plan.
Residents should lobby their councillors to overturn this proposal.
Esher Residents Association