Our newsletter will be posted through your door in the coming week. Here’s a taster…
Lower Green Community Centre NOW OPEN
Having long been supporters of the Lower Green Community Centre, the Esher Residents Association is pleased to hear that it has reopened, following a £200,000 refurbishment.
We spoke to Joanna Sansom, Lower Green Development Worker, who works for Surrey Community Action and is based at the Centre to find out what the Lower Green community can expect. She sees the new café as the hub that will bring people together. It’ll serve snacks and light lunches. The expectation is that the Centre will go on to host a nursery, pilates and yoga classes, football, over 60s and young parents’ coffee mornings, as well as Brownies, Rainbows and Scouts. There is talk of children’s after school cookery groups and even boxing.
Making the Centre a success will be the responsibility of new trustees, who are currently undergoing training.
Certainly, the revival of the Centre is a milestone moment for Lower Green. For those who know little about it, the area has been described in the press as ‘deprived’. However, for many residents, it’s more a matter of the way they are regarded by the rest of their wealthy Esher neighbours and the powers that be.
Lower Green has a thriving community of all ages. It boasts some handsome former council properties, designed by Blair Imrie, one of Surrey’s most notable architects, who also designed the main house at RHS Wisley. Built during the era of Esher Urban District, most of the housers are now privately owned with the larger properties commanding upwards of half a million pounds. Lower Green is justifiably proud of its brand new Cranmere Primary and Nursery School with its spacious, state of the art modern buildings and glowing reputation.
However, resident since 1976, Geoff Cooper, describes the area as being forgotten by the rest of Esher. “We are the other side of the railway. For many, Esher begins in More Lane” It’s a view shared by David Short, Chairman of Lower Green Football Club who is concerned that a promise made by Elmbridge Council to license the premises for alcohol consumption is not being met. He feels this implies that Lower Green residents are seen as second class citizens, unable to be responsible. Elmbridge Borough Council has planned for the Centre to focus around community activities and are looking into alcohol being available through the cafe for certain events.
It is hoped the revived Centre will help rebuild some of community spirit that went when its predecessor closed.
That community spirit was much in evidence when the Centre was first assembled. The story goes that it was actually a cafeteria used by the contractors who built the Esher Bypass in the mid 1970s. When the work was finished, a group of residents ran a raffle and raised enough money to transport the erstwhile eaterie to its current location from the Copsem Lane site that it originally served.
The Centre has played an important role in Lower Green. Former Esher Residents Association councillor Christine Andrews remembers it acting as a proper village hall. It received a massive financial boost in the late 1970s, when Edwin Stevens, founder of Amplivox gave £5,000 to upgrade it. As well as hosting a youth club and a mother and toddler group, it was the start point for long term resident, Betty Bowpit’s Silver and Gold Club and, of course, a base for David Short’s football club.
Christine Andrews said that the advent of the Centre led to some ‘really good local people coming out of the woodwork’. We hope the same will happen again since Lower Green needs the Centre to do well.
Grove Farm – Glacial progress!
You’d be hard pressed to find an Esher resident who knows anything about Grove Farm. Yet it is one of Esher’s oldest and most notable buildings.
It was acquired, with the fields around it, by Surrey County Council as a site on which to build Cranmere School in Arran Way, Lower Green. Dating from between 1620 and 1640 it is mercifully hidden behind the school, surrounded by barbed wire, having been severely vandalised and now boarded up with an uncertain fate.
Grove Farm Cottage is Grade II listed and believed to be a ‘Hearth Passage’ house, a very rare layout for a Surrey dwelling.
In 2016 Surrey County Council said:
‘The house is in need of substantial work to make it habitable and having conducted some initial surveys on the house, it has been concluded that the property should be brought to the market for disposal.
However, given that the house is Listed and in need of complete renovation and in order to maximize the disposal value, we are about to commission a feasibility study with a view to pursuing a planning consent to:
- refurbish the house and outbuildings.
- extend the house to improve the accommodation.
The feasibility study will then enable the business case to be finalised identifying the way forward with this particular asset.”
Since then, it would seem that little has happened:
We contacted Surrey County Council and asked for an update. A member of the Acquisitions and Disposals Team told us “We have recently finalised a substantial plan of works to make the Grade II Listed property safe, at present preparatory surveys are being finalised to allow that work to start”
They have had two years to do this work. One might describe progress as ‘glacial’.
A subsequent note from Peter Hopkins, the Lead Asset Strategy Manager informs us: “The site is currently allocated in the Business Plan for Surrey County Council Joint Venture partner to explore the longer term options for this site. Therefore at this current time until the option analysis is complete and a decision taken there is no further information I can provide”.
We would have liked to have heard more positive news about this significant building, but it does seem that little has happened.
The Esher Residents Association has a keen interest in preserving our historic buildings and is acutely aware of the pressure from developers to build at the expense of our heritage. A classic example of this is taking place in Walton where a furore has developed over Elmbridge Council’s approval for the demolition of the modernist, former Birds Eye offices. In spite of being Grade II listed, Crest A2D seemed to have won the argument for the building to be razed to the ground. The 20thCentury Society has stepped in to try and stop what many would see as an act of vandalism.
For Esher residents, vigilance on the Grove Farm matter is essential.
Changed parking regulations on Esher High Street.
Beware of changed parking restrictions in Esher High Street. Whilst parking in the service road outside the Oxfam shop and McColls has remained at 2 hours, a few yards further up the street, outside Blink, the parking is now restricted to 30 minutes. Whilst it’s probably been posted on some obscure site, there was really no warning to shoppers. Tickets have already been handed out.
Interestingly it is not mentioned on the recent parking update on Surrey CC’s website, which does mention changes across the road to accommodate an upcoming Tesco store at No50 High Street (formerly a Health Food shop), although it would seem that the wind has gone out of that particular project.
Esher Residents Association Quiz Supper in aid of the Princess Alice Hospice
Richard Williams hosted the Association’s bi-annual Quiz Night in aid of the Princess Alice Hospice at the King George’s Hall in September.
103 people enjoyed an exciting night of quizzing together with a Fish & Chip supper and a raffle. £537.50 was raised for the Princess Alice Hospice.
Our thanks to Joan Leifer and her team for preparing a stimulating Quiz that contained some unusual questions. One round of questions consisted of the actual questions asked of would be immigrants and left most wondering if we really are British citizens.
The winning Quiz team, “White Cliffs”, received a prize of 8 bottles of French wine, which had been anonymously given by an Esher Resident.
Several Esher businesses, together with local people, contributed generously to the raffle and our thanks go to:- Majestic Wine, The Everyman Cinema, The Albert Alms, Garsons Farm, Zizzi Esher, Skinsmiths Esher and John D Woods.