A proposal to rebuild the Community Centre run by St. Mary’s Church in Chessington, and build new affordable homes for low-income residents has been stopped by LibDem councillors.
After three years of extensive work by the vicar and members of St. Mary’s Church in Chessington and the YMCA (SW London), LibDem Councillors have cynically ended the dream of a new community centre and much needed affordable housing, all at no cost to the Council.
St Mary’s Church approached the Council in 2015 as their lease on the community hall was ending and the cost of a new lease was set to significantly increase. There was also a concern that the lease required the Church to carry out all repairs on an ageing and deteriorating building.
In order to fund the community centre repairs and secure its long term future, St Mary’s Church worked with the YMCA to come up with a plan that included affordable housing, that would see the long term future of the community centre secured.
Kingston Council agreed to grant a lease, subject to securing planning permission and resolving any land covenants. These land covenants have now been resolved and the scheme is ready to go before the Lib Dems stepped in.
Ill-informed rumours have been spread locally that the residents of the proposed new homes would be homeless, drug addicts or alcoholics. This was never the case as the financial model will only work if the homes go to those with stable incomes to pay the rent. The Lib Dems did nothing to quash the rumours.
The LibDem Council Leader Liz Green and ward councillor Patricia Bamford have now stopped the plans, putting the future of the community centre at risk and ending any hope of new affordable housing.
Cllr Kevin Davis, Leader of the Opposition, said:
“It’s devastating. This is an astonishing lack of Leadership by the Lib Dem Council. Politicians are elected to protect and help those in need, which sometimes requires tough decisions to be made. Yet, the so-called Leader of the Council and her Chessington ward members have turned their back on the poor. Instead of leading, they have sided with prejudice, leaving the local community and those in desperate need of housing out in the cold.
“Local key-workers, young people leaving care or those who need a hand to recover from life’s difficulties will no longer be able to use their low waged incomes to provide a roof over their head. And of course, Chessington will be deprived of a new community centre paid for by the YMCA.
“I would like to pay tribute to the Vicar and members of St. Mary’s who have worked for so long to provide these much-needed community facilities. It’s a crying shame that they have been let down by their local Councillors who have stood by ‘on the other side of the road’. We don’t know what might happen next but it must now put in severe doubt the future survival of the community centre.”
Notes to editors
- There is a well established large need for housing and particularly housing for those leaving care or key workers and single occupancy. This site is a perfect site for such development being close to a rail station and on a local bus route. It is also a widely populated area for social housing.
- The scheme developed was for a new community facility to be built, run by the YMCA with guaranteed access for the Church. There would be a community cafe and nursery, as well as various meeting rooms. In addition, much needed single person homes were to be built at the rear of the site. The allotments were to remain.
- St. Mary’s Church was fully in support of the scheme and excited by the opportunities this offered a historic local community Church. Both Chessington School and St. Mary’s School were supportive.
- Given the current condition of the community hall, the Church will now need to consider whether it can find the money to undertake the expensive repairs or reluctantly close the centre.