Chrismas Lodge Environmental Community Trust
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25th October 2012 - HCC meeting - "Former Chrismas Lodge Older Persons Home - Outcome of Marketing".
What have HCC got to hide ?, why are they so afraid to let the public know what is going on at Chrismas Lodge ?, what is the "price adjustment", have we actually got value for money on this site or has a developer got it cheap ?. Yet again we have to wait, for reasons of "Confidentiality" - until it is too late for us the public, to do anything about THIER decision, a decision which affects OUR community, a community who pay their wages.
13th September 2012 - Aldershot Civic Society's report showing how Chrismas Lodge and the Manor Park playing field could be purchased for the community at no cost to Rushmoor Borough Council from existing and future planning payments. The report (available here) is currently unpublished and a member of the Society has been censured.
This reply by email from Councillor Ken Thornber CBE of Hampshire County Council is in response to an email from Johanna Lance of the Aldershot Civic Society regarding their "assessment of issues affecting the future use of the County Council's Chrismas Lodge former Older Persons Home in Aldershot.". It took SIX weeks to produce the reply.
13th July 2012 - Aldershot Civic Society comments on the sale of Chrismas Lodge here.
6th July 2012 - Aldershot News - "Home site for sale but fight against houses goes on", article pdf copy here.
28th June 2012 - Aldershot News - "Empty nursing home goes up for sale" - article here, pdf copy here.
June 2012 - Hampshire County Council are again marketing the Chrismas Lodge site. Last attempted in May of 2008, just around the beginning of the UK's current financial difficulties, Hampshire County Council are again trying to divest themselves of Chrismas Lodge. No asking price has been listed this time. A whole new set of documentation has been posted for the site, some of it quite old, some updated and newer, all of it listed below. Readers should peruse this documentation and form their own opinions on this sale and any proposed development.
One thing is confirmed however - our original statement that H.C.C. would use the section of land within Brickfields Country Park as a bargaining tool has been confirmed in their site plan document (a-3-310-k.pdf, see below), showing a purple hatched area as - "Area currently used as part of Brickfields Park to be transferred to Rushmoor Borough Council". There will be no nett gain to Brickfields Park or the local community from this development, whoever the final developer is will get off lightly, merely handing back that which is already ours !. We foresee that this handing back of land will very neatly cancel out the developers section 106 contribution, resulting in no nett gain to the community.
August 2011 - This good old rumor mill just keeps on going, although now its at bit more than rumour - just. Having kept in quite close contact with Rushmoor over the intervening years that this little farce has been going on, it was let slip that Hampshire County Council were preparing a Planning Application, indeed residents have seen people on site taking measurements. In a recent telephone conversation, it was also mentioned that County documents have been "seen" and planning was expected "soon". It is expected that H.C.C. are forming an application for development so that they can then sell the site "with planning" for even more money.
Also in the telephone discussion, and as we have said all along from 2005-6 when this situation first reared its ugly little head, it appears that H.C.C. are going to retain that part of Brickfields Park that they own and allow a prospective developer to use it in mitigation against any Section 106 developer contributions for the site. Usually used to garner improvements to the local community / environment, Rushmoor Borough Council, local residents and Brickfields Park will see no nett increase in green space provision from this development and no contributions to the local community, but will see the benefit of more cars on our residential streets.
23th July 2008 - "HCC meeting approving the sale of Chrismas Lodge" - ( HCC meeting)
26th June 2008 - "County is ahead of game" - ( The Star letters page)
26th June 2008 - "Do your homework" - ( The Star letters page)
19th June 2008 - "Local people have been ignored" - ( The Star letters page)
13th June 2008 - "Son slams council for demolishing care home" - (not available online, copy here)
12th June 2008 - "We want action not apologist" - ( The Star letters page)
6th June 2008 - "Urban myth" about lodge" - ( The Star letters page)
6th June 2008 - "We had better idea about site" - (The Star letters page)
6th June 2008 - "No Evidence Building Was Donated to People" - (not available online)
15th May 2008 - "Questions over derelict site's future" - News article about the sale of Chrismas Lodge. (News report).
9th May 2008 - "Proposed disposal of Chrismas Lodge" - HCC letter to residents.
The letter we have been shown (to a local resident), says -
The letter continues -
We are keen to ensure that the strips of land to the South and West of the site, which have become an important part of the Brickfields Park, can continue to be enjoyed by the local community and remain part of this valuable local park. To ensure that this area of land will remain as part of the park a condition will be attached to the sale of the site requiring the purchaser to transfer this land to the Borough Council under Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.
So there we have it, HCC sell the site with the land included in Brickfields Country Park, as we predicted, to maximise their profit. They then leave the possible transfer of that land back to RBC as part of a Section 106 agreement, we say possible because a developer could argue that this condition was unfair, appeal and have it overturned by Central government. HCC win out all round and leave their problem to be sorted out by somebody else !, meanwhile Brickfields Country Park and the local community loose. As we have stated before, there was no reason (other than for profit), for HCC not to have handed this land under dispute back to Rushmoor Borough Council and their residents a long time ago. The have missed a valuable opportunity to demonstrate that they might just actually have a care for our community.
Marketing details for Chrismas Lodge were on the web at one time, along with their press release, however as of July 2011 the links were removed from the HCC website - has the site been sold ?, luckily we have copies.
Chrismas Lodge is being put out as "Property for Sale - Former Older Persons Home", with a picture of the boarded up Chrismas Lodge minus the fire damage !. This picture and title could be deemed miss-selling as the home is no longer there, just the land, it is however corrected in the sale particulars as being demolished. This sale surely should be listed in their "Land for Sale" category.
22nd April 2008 - Lodge "should be retirement complex" - (Aldershot News report)
A county council spokeswoman said - "Our plans for the Chrismas Lodge site have always been to secure capital receipts that we can reinvest back into adult services and facilities for older people and the vulnerable. When proposals are fully developed and formal planning procedures can be commenced, there will be opportunities for consultation and comment on any planning application".
Think you have heard that comment before, you have !, go back and read some of the other "spokeswoman's" comments from previous articles, they are pretty much identical, word for word, she has either learned her lines very well, or more likely just reads from a script - "Oops now just where did I put that comment about (insert site name here)".
This is a rather sad end for the local community, Chrismas Lodge would have provided a valuable facility for residents and although not totally unexpected this is still not the end of the fight. Hampshire County Council now have to present a planning application for the Chrismas lodge site to Rushmoor Borough Council, so we will now have to see what they propose - watch this space - or this one - the Rushmoor Council - planning website - and see just what Hampshire County Council want to foist onto their residents 1.
The demolition of Chrismas Lodge over December 2007 to January 2008 was done under the guise of "Health and Safety" because of the supposed "Serious" fire in May 2007. Hampshire County Council demolished Chrismas Lodge so that any other "miscreants" who chose to break in would not "hurt themselves" whilst they were wrecking the place!. Following that fire it took Hampshire County Council some months to get security fencing up and 24 hour patrols on site, if they were that worried about "Health and Safety" why was the security not put in place when the building became empty ?. The demolition of Chrismas Lodge cost the taxpayer £120,032.
The B.E.S.T Report and Aldershot Civic society spent many months trying to convince Hampshire County Council to pass Chrismas Lodge over to a Trust and group of volunteers to run the site as an Environmental Education Centre and facility for the local Community. Unfortunately they were not to be convinced of our aims and ploughed on regardless, one throwaway comment during a meeting with Hampshire County Council was "We don't care who we sell to, if you can afford £3M to buy it you can have it". They totally disregarded the Quirk Review and applicable Labour Government legislation allowing local groups to purchase disused Council buildings in their quest to "secure capital receipts".
15th January 2008 - Fears over park drug-taking if land is developed - (Aldershot News report)
A spokeswoman for Hampshire County Council said - "Regarding the boundary, our plans for the Chrismas Lodge site have always been to secure capital receipts that we can reinvest back into the Adult Services and facilities for the older people and the vulnerable. No development proposals have yet been submitted to the planning authority, but we anticipate being able to pursue options that will enable that part of the Chrismas Lodge site that is included in the Brickfields Park site, to remain as part of the open space."
This is the same old worn out statement that HCC have been trotting out for nearly two years, virtually word for word, but now it links "Regarding the boundary" with "secure capital receipts that we can reinvest", in one sentence with "pursue options" and "to remain as part of the open space" in the next.
For that we think you can safely read - we will sell that portion of Brickfields Park to a developer who will be required to maintain it as part of the park. It won't be returned to the park, but be owned by the developer who could conceivably in years to come sell it on making further unneeded profits.
We have said this before and re-iterate it again, There is no reason for Hampshire County Council to delay the return of this piece of land back to Brickfields Country Park. If Hampshire sincerely want to have it retained as part of the park, as they keep saying, negotiate its return with Rushmoor Borough Council now. If the land does not form part of the supposed development it's return can be dealt with as a separate matter, you are only fuelling the fires of uncertainty for the future of Brickfields Country Park and confirming residents fears that part of the park will be lost.
7th January 2008 - No home for Lodge Bats
Demolition continues despite denial - Demolition work on the Chrismas Lodge buildings continues, again in spite of assurances from a Hampshire County Council spokeswoman that the demolition work would cease on site, quote - "Once this has been done and the asbestos removal is completed work will cease on site, apart from the security guard presence until the new year.". Work is continuing on both buildings as shown by removal of window boards so that the demolition workers can get some light into the building. This goes beyond a simple "removal of asbestos", but supports the full gutting of the interiors back to walls and what's left of the roof. That's one way of getting on with the job and not seeming to do much from the outside.
Health and safety concerns at Lodge demolition site - In the past Hampshire County Council have pointedly made the "Health & Safety" case to support their actions at Chrismas Lodge. Recent photos of the demolition site show a marked disregard for the supposed "Safety" of those poor souls gaining access, the safety barriers have been removed !, along with other panels preventing access to the buildings. Access for an arson attack would be even easier now, no barriers, hop over the fence lob in a petrol bomb and scarper - just like last time!, that's if they can afford the cost of the petrol !. And yes we have noticed the very obvious security barriers in the second photo, but what's the use when large sections elsewhere are missing.
10th December 2007 - "Chrismas Lodge bats promised new home". (Aldershot News report)
Unless HCC can prove different, it is our contention that Hampshire County Council through their contractors Huges and Savage, are not adhering to any agreements (if any) with Natural England as to the care and welfare of the Bats on site, no NEW Bat boxes are evident and their roost has been interfered with. UK and European legislation makes it an offence to intentionally or recklessly damage, destroy or obstruct access to any structure or place that a Bat uses for shelter or protection.. Note the "intentionally" and "obstruct" both covered by the photo of the roof tiles, especially "obstruct" where the gable ends have been taped up !.
Now if Hampshire County Council were to let us, the public, know what has been agreed and what the are / intend to do ..... (some hope)
29th November 2007 - Demolition progresses at Chrismas Lodge and still no word about the bats!, and it would appear that no articles are being carried by our local press. Photos have come to light through Google via Photosales at the Byfleet News & Mail ? - why are our local press not covering this ?. The photos here, are for sale so the press have been up to the lodge snapping away, but for some reason they deem them not worthy of appearing in any articles. We must presume that now Chrismas Lodge is coming down, the press, are no longer interested in this campaign, except to make a quick pound or two from selling the photos. We will go one better - you can have our photos (below) for free !. Note - as of 3/7/2012 the Byfleet News (www.byfleetonline.co.uk) website is not answering as it now is part of the Get Surrey group (http://www.getsurrey.co.uk/woking/).
26th November 2007 - It looks like the demolition of Chrismas Lodge has started, although Hampshire County Council will probably just say they are just clearing up and claim "Health and Safety" requirements, if that's the case why has it taken them six months to do a clear up operation and make the building safe !, after all the arson attack was back in May.
This whole situation regarding Chrismas Lodge is a fiasco, we have spoken recently to even more local people who would support an environmental use of the buildings and / or land for the community. HCC's stance is incredible, we have met with them, made suggestions and comments, they have and continue to ignore us and press ahead regardless, the local community is ignored, yet again.
Why have HCC not completed the issues regarding the land ownership within Brickfields Park ?. If they fully intend to hand it back to RBC as they have said, completion of that aspect of this ongoing fiasco could have been done a long time ago.
Their inaction only serves to confirm our worst fears, they will keep and develop that land.
HCC's continuing statement that they - "need to secure capital receipts that we can re-invest back into adult services facilities" - is an old broken record and wearing very thin now. They need a new "spin supremo", somebody who can at least think up a new line so it's not quite so obvious !. Perhaps a freedom of information act request into the funding of the new Ticehurst home, to which Chrismas Lodge residents and others were moved, might clarify just how much they need funds from the sale of Chrismas Lodge. Just what did funding from the National Health Service budget play in the building of Ticehurst ?, "several millions" was heard during a meeting.
19th October 2007 - In an Aldershot News lead article for the 19th October* an unnamed County Council spokesman said - "demolition work should begin in December after a delay caused by the discovery of a colony of bats. We have appointed specialist environmental consultants to advise us on the management and monitoring of any work that we propose to do". (* article not available on line)
Heaven forbid but "we told you so", you would not believe us. Surveys have confirmed Pipestrelle Bats in Brickfields Park and a conversation with a licensed bat worker suggested they were also in the Chrismas Lodge buildings, that person having been called to Chrismas Lodge a few years ago to remove bats from the common areas, they were not caught but they "returned to the roof space" - their roost. It now remains to be seen what the "specialist environmental consultant" advises, not that HCC will let anybody else know. The last consultants engaged by HCC could not find any bats on site, only stating that there may be some potential there ! (See the notes below). Given the time of year, any bats on site are highly likely to be in hibernation by December, so demolition of the Lodge then would be undesirable and unlawful as bats and their roosts are protected, bats found elsewhere on the site (eg. trees) would not have stopped the August demolition, so they have to have been found in the building, confirmed above.
English Nature were informed of the bat situation at Chrismas Lodge a long time ago, they should have acted then, and should do so now, however they prefer instead to "wait and see". In May this year Val Pollard of Natural England said in the Star - "if bats were using the building to nest everything possible would be done to protect them. Generally when a planning application goes in and there are special protection issues Natural England are statutory consultees. Although bats are protected there is a licence developers can get so that activities can be carried out lawfully". As it seems HCC's intention is to demolish this building for "health and safety" reasons (in-case some poor vandal hurts themselves), and probably before a planning application is made, there won't be any "special protection issues", the bats and their habitat will have gone! - to little to late.
From the same article - "No development proposals have yet been submitted to the planning authority but we anticipate being able to pursue options that will enable that part of the Chrismas Lodge site that is included in the Brickfields Park, to remain as part of the open space".
HCC also state - When formal planning procedures can be commenced, there will be opportunities for consultation and comment on any planning application submitted to Rushmoor Borough Council, OK this is normal planning procedure but note that only the immediate neighbouring properties bordering Chrismas Lodge will be officially notified of the application, we ask that everybody keep a weather eye on the Planning Application panel in the Star newspaper and the Rushmoor Council website - here. Remember, if HCC do not like the outcome of their application they can act as their own planning authority and pass any application over the heads of Rushmoor, they can also appeal to the Secretary of State, who will not generally oppose a County Council.
7th August 2007 - Our first communication from a member of HCC, talk about keeping it low key!.
Needless to say we replied straight away to Eric's email answering all the questions, so far we have not heard anything else from him or had a reply.
25th July 2007 - In a very short letter to local residents Hampshire County Council have announced their intention to demolish Chrismas Lodge, citing it being empty for a "little over a year" (actually 19 months) and "has been boarded up for security reasons. Despite this there have been several break-ins resulting in damage and possible injury to those trespassers. The Council has, therefore decided to demolish the buildings." Citing section 80 of the Buildings Act 1984, the letter is dated the 19th July, with a scheduled demolition date of the 20th August, the Act requires six weeks notice of intention to demolish, not just over four weeks as given by the letter. It is our contention that the fire back in May only "helped" HCC in their determination to divest themselves of Chrismas Lodge and help themselves into the bargain of a large amount of money in the process. The arsonists were never found (handy that), the building became "unsafe" (handy again eh?), "we have to knock it down incase another miscreant hurts himself". Bothered!
Current valuations of the Lodge land, with planning permission, are in the order of £2.5M - £3.0M, that's going to be a large number of houses or even flats (heaven forbid, we've enough in the town already), to recoup that sort of money plus a profit. Work it out for yourself, eleven houses at £350,000 is four million, but eleven houses on 1.2 acres is 440sq meters, not much for your money, and given that we have not even allowed for access roads!. Development on this site has been a hair-brained scheme from the day it was suggested. If HCC is so short of money for adult care provision, we (they) would be better served by looking to their own systems and cash flow, get back that £18 million they recently publicised they were owed in rents. Selling off assets, Chrismas Lodge and others, and even possibly the West End Centre is only a short term once only fix, once they are gone they are gone, small fixes for a large problem. Large problems require large solutions - go back to government and say "Enough is Enough - fund us properly". As an example of their wrong headed thinking in service provision see this article in the Star recently - Bus service cuts. At a time when we should all be seeking to reduce our resource usage, Hampshire County Council CUTS subsidies possibly / probably forcing actual cuts in bus services - ???
25th June 2007 - At our second meeting in St. Michaels Hall, those who expressed an interest at the public meeting in going forward with The Chrismas Lodge Environmental Community Trust discussed the Trust and its proposal for the Lodge. No major changes to the proposal were put forward so it became our main document for the future of the site and will be sent to the relevant departments and leaders in both Hampshire County Council and Rushmoor Borough Council, we await their reply to the proposal. The CLECT committee members were decided, covering various roles within the group so we now have a formal basis for operation. Further discussions were held about future and further representations, documents and meetings that could be prepared to further our cause for the Chrismas Lodge, and a start was made on a constitution for the group. The press (The Star) covered the meeting, singling out a comment made by a member of the CLECT audience about legal avenues that could be open to us, but unfortunately reporting is as we will be taking legal steps to ensure the retention of Chrismas Lodge. The article can be found here, whilst we may not agree fully with the article, Hampshire county Council should ensure, and be seen to have correctly covered all aspects of the requirements in their disposal of Chrismas Lodge, which at the moment they do not seem to be doing.
6th June 2007 - A little while back we called a public meeting to discuss the announcement on the 15th of May by Ruth Kelly, Communities Minister, of the Labour Government publication - Making assets work: The Quirk Review - into community management and ownership of public assets, where Councils have to consider and support local groups who can show alternative uses for disused Council assets.
The meeting held at St. Michaels Church, Church Lane East, was very well attended by nearly 80 local residents, groups and councilors, where we outlined our proposals under the Quirk Review to set up a Community Trust (CLECT) for the community, run by the community. Our vision for Chrismas Lodge was outlined and opinions sought on possible uses, a couple of which we have to admit were not well received, the remainder, over 12, being thought of as good prospects for the site, with even more suggestions put forward from the audience. After the meeting 24 people came forward with offers of help with the Trust, so we are going to forge ahead with its formation. A final draft of the proposal will be available shortly, when it will be sent to HCC and RBC, and meetings requested between both Councils and members of the Trust.
During the meeting we were told by a local resident of work that had been going on all that day at Chrismas Lodge, and that a team of men were there clearing up and dropping off equipment and a large container. It turned out the work was HCC's usual grounds maintenance team who keep the Lodge tidy, but it also transpires that the "container" was housing for a security guard, with a generator.
May 2007 -
Time for another prediction - very soon HCC will declare that the building is "unsafe" and knock it down, redevelopment will then follow in short order. This site was an ideal opportunity for HCC to show their care for the local populace, if they have any. That opportunities time has now passed. Residents - increased traffic and congestion in your roads will be the outcome.
9th May 2007 - Hampshire Constabulary are seeking witnesses following this mindless act of arson.
"We are appealing to anyone who may be able to help us identify the youths, who were seen in the area at around 12.50pm on Saturday. The two youths are thought to have left the area through the Brickfields Nature Reserve. There are usually a lot of dog walkers in this area and it is likely that someone saw them."
Anyone with information is asked to contact PC Drumm at Farnborough police station on 0845 045 45 45 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. Mini-Com users can call 01962 875000.
Other archived documents
All of the documents below are available on the web although some of them can be difficult to find. They are a mixture of press reports and council meeting minutes and either link directly to the relevant site or have been saved as pdf files for you to download.
Very soon after this site was launched it was said that -
Notes from the Habitat Survey Report undertaken by RPS Oxford on the 29th September 2006 -