Hersham Hall – a Lost Opportunity

Hersham Hall has now been closed for several years following an independent condition survey which judged it to be dangerous due to a number of building related issues needing attention. It was also during this period deemed unfit for purpose as a sports hall and was underused.

£650,000 of taxpayers’ money spent on short term attempt

At full Council on Wednesday 2nd October, 31 councillors from the Residents Association, Conservative and Brexit parties on Elmbridge Borough Council voted to spend at least £650,000 of tax payers’ money in an attempt to extend the life of Hersham Hall by just five years!

Counter to the Council’s Climate Emergency Declaration

This controversial and expensive refurbishment decision was taken in the face of solid opposition from all 10 Liberal Democrat councillors and a small number of Residents Association councillors, who argued that the proposal to refurbish the ‘G’ rated EPC (energy performance certificate) Hersham Hall ran counter to the Council’s vote to declare a Climate Emergency.

The decision by the Council to declare a Climate Emergency had been taken at the previous Council meeting on 17th July 2019, witnessed by a full balcony of extremely supportive Elmbridge residents. That decision was welcomed by residents and businesses across the borough and puts Elmbridge at the forefront of progressive local government.

Additional running costs take it to £1m

Knowing that a proposal to rebuild Hersham Hall, which could have been combined with much needed affordable housing had already been dismissed by the local ward councillors and The Hersham Hall member reference group, your Lib Dem councillors proposed that the decision to spend such a large amount of money on what would be a short term fix with at best a ‘D’ rated EPC should be deferred. They further argued that the additional costs of running the hall would take expenditure in the short term to over £1 million.

Lib Dems suggest a 21st century community hub

The reasons for deferral was to give further consideration to the costs and benefits of refurbishment vs rebuilding. The LibDem councillors wanted a more thorough gathering of evidence for the potential to provide Hersham with a 21st century multi-purpose community hub fit for the future. This would give Elmbridge not only a hall to be proud of but also much needed affordable housing in a central village location. This viable proposal would also have brought in revenue to cover the cost of the rebuild, furthermore it would protect the risk of having to build on our precious Green Belt.  This  Liberal Democrat suggestion was outvoted.

Climate Emergency changes everything

The arguments given in favour of the £650,000 refurbishment were that the village had been deprived of its hall for several years, there had already been numerous different decisions made on the future of the hall, and the residents of Hersham had asked for and been promised a refurbishment by their local Councillors.

The Climate Emergency decision presents the Council with the opportunity of proving its commitment to taking real steps towards reducing the borough’s carbon footprint and increasing its affordable housing for key workers.

This is a missed opportunity

Regrettably the first chance for the Council to progress with this policy has now been missed and most unfortunately the LibDem group’s principled debate in favour of this as well as giving the community a state of the art building to be proud of was defeated in support of short-term political aims.

Elmbridge Liberal Democrat Group October 2019