Chrismas Lodge Environmental Community Trust
Chrismas Lodge Care Home, Evelyn Avenue Aldershot

News


The B.E.S.T Report cannot control and does not necessarily agree with the content of external sites.
Older archived news articles are here

 

 5th November 2012 - Aldershot TownTalk - "Christmas Lodge Sale Approved", article here, pdf copy here.

 5th November 2012 - Aldershot News - "Campaigners "disappointed" by sale of nursing home site", article here, pdf copy here.

 25th October 2012 - HCC meeting - "Former Chrismas Lodge Older Persons Home - Outcome of Marketing".
Item 1C on the agenda for the meeting, the decision over the sale of Chrismas Lodge has been classified by HCC as "Confidential", their list of reasons is here.  The draft copy of the Executive Decision Record gives approval for the sale to the preferred purchaser as set out in the report.".  That aforementioned report, needless to say, is unavailable.

  1. The salient details of the decision are :-
  2. That approval be given to the sale of the former Chrismas Lodge Older Persons Home to the preferred purchaser as set out in the report.
  3. That the Director of Culture, Communities and Business Services (Strategic Manager – Assets and Development) be authorised to settle the detailed terms and conditions, including adjustment to the price as indicated in the report.

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  The report (available here) is currently unpublished and a member of the Society has been censured.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.


7th August 2012 - Aldershot News - "Pressure group opposes sale of old nursing home", article here, pdf copy here.

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.
H.C.C's marketing details for Chrismas Lodge can be found on the web at - www3.hants.gov.uk/estates.

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.

  • June 2012 sale particulars. Freehold Development site for sale with potential for residential development (subject to planning).  Site of former Chrismas Lodge Older Persons Home, approximately 0.6 ha. (1.5 acres).  Located in a popular residential area of Aldershot, next to Brickfields Park.
  • June 2012 Development brief for the site suggesting up to 13 two storey dwellings of an "inward" looking development to ensure new housing is located as far as possible from the bank within Brickfields Park.  Two Grade A (1 & 3) on the Amenity Tree Survey are to be retained as a focal point to the entrance, creating a sense of ‘arrival’ for residents and visitors.  No mention is made of another even larger Grade A (No.43) tree on the northern Boundary and it's retention. (document comes with free spelling mistakes !).
  • April 2009 aerial photo of the site
  • April 2008 drawing with boundaries of the site to show the Chrismas Lodge site boundary (red), Hampshire County Council's land ownership and sale boundary (blue), the area currently used as part of Brickfields Park to be transferred to Rushmoor Borough Council (purple hatched).
  • October 2006 Habitat survey.  The report mentions "possible" bat roosts on site "albeit on the site boundaries".  No mention is made of bats roosting in the Chrismas Lodge buildings, which had been confirmed by a local licensed bat handler.  The lodge buildings were then demolished on "Health and Safety" grounds, it is an illegal act to destroy a bat roost.
  • August 2006 Ground Conditions Assessment Report.  Report of various bore holes and test pits dug on the Chrismas Lodge site to determine the site sub-structure, also contains site photographs.  All sorts of environmental information for the area within 2000M of the site can be found in this document.  Interesting if complicated reading for all residents.
  • August 2004 Estates letter with the extents of public highways bordering Chrismas Lodge.
  • April 2008 Land Registry entry HP701397 with site map and applicable covenants.  Deeds from 1937/8 are referred to but not the 1957 deed transferring the site to the Borough of Aldershot, or the 1974 deed with transference to Hampshire County Council.
  • May 2006 Land Registry letter with public rights of way information relating the Chrismas Lodge site.
  • May 2006 letter form NTL observing that development on the site could affect their local infrastructure.
  • April 2008 site survey drawing with boundary markers, survey points, trees (diameter, hight and spread), Northing's and Easting's.
  • May 2006 Southern Gas Network document with location of local gas mains and pressures.
  • May 2006 Scottish and Southern Energy document with location of the substation and it's feed.  This map shows the location of the Evelyn Avenue into the Brickworks as mentioned on deed to the property but missing on any of the H.C.C. documentation.
  • May 2006 Thames Water document showing surface water drainage, public and private foul sewers.
  • October 2006 Existing amenity vegetation survey.  List of trees on site, their condition, projected lifespan, photographs of various trees and site views.
  • April 2010 update to the October 2006 Amenity vegetation survey.  It lists some of the trees on site, their condition and remedial work.

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
HCC meeting approving sale of Chrismas Lodge, "The marketing period resulted in a number of offers and a preferred purchaser identified."

26th June 2008  -  "County is ahead of game" - ( The Star letters page
Letter from Councillor Felicity Hindson, Executive Member for Adult Social Care, Hampshire County Council in reply to Liberal Councillor Adrian Collett's letter of 12th June 2008.

26th June 2008  -  "Do your homework" - ( The Star letters page
Yet another letter from Councillor Eric Neal this time in reply to Liberal Councillor Adrian Collett's letter of 12th June 2008.

19th June 2008  -  "Local people have been ignored" - ( The Star letters page
Letter from Councillor Mike Roberts regarding HCC ignoring local views about Chrismas Lodge.

13th June 2008  -  "Son slams council for demolishing care home" - (not available online, copy here
In an Aldershot News lead article the son of Joan & Sidney Chrismas speaks out against Hampshire County Council for demolishing Chrismas Lodge and their treatment of the memory of Joan Chrismas CBE who was a Hampshire County Councillor for 16 years, the leader of Social Services for six years and an Alderman of Hampshire.

12th June 2008  -  "We want action not apologist" - ( The Star letters page
Liberal Councillor Adrian Collett writes to the Star in reply to Cllr Eric Neal's letter of 6/6/2008.

6th June 2008  -  "Urban myth" about lodge" - ( The Star letters page
Hampshire Councillor Eric Neal writes to the Star citing Chrismas Lodge in an effort to score points against the Liberal Democrats.
Having read the article we feel it needs some clarification, here is our reply.
We wrote to The Star newspaper but they chose not to publish our letter - why ?

6th June 2008  -  "We had better idea about site" - (The Star letters page
Councillor Mike Roberts writes to the Star, pointing out the Labour groups suggestion for the Chrismas Lodge site.

6th June 2008  -  "No Evidence Building Was Donated to People" - (not available online) 
Aldershot News coverage of Cllr Eric Neal's "Urban myth" letter, it has a few anomalies and needs some clarification, here is our reply.
We wrote to The Star newspaper but they chose not to publish our letter - why ?

15th May 2008  -  "Questions over derelict site's future" - News article about the sale of Chrismas Lodge. (News report).
The site of former care home Chrismas Lodge has officially been put up for sale but the council has promised part of the neighbouring nature park will be safe.  The Aldershot home was closed in 2006 after Hampshire County Council deemed it "no longer fit for purpose" and residents were moved to Ticehurst.  Cllr Ken Thornber, leader of the council, has promised that when the site is sold that piece of land will be safe. Believe that if you will.

9th May 2008  -  "Proposed disposal of Chrismas Lodge" - HCC letter to residents.
Hampshire County Council have written to local residents announcing the "proposed" disposal of Chrismas Lodge - does that mean they might not actually dispose of the land, we doubt it!, so why not just say "Sale", another example of HCC double speak.

The letter we have been shown (to a local resident), says -
"As local residents I am sure that you are already aware that Hampshire County Council own the former older persons home Chrismas Lodge at the end of Evelyn Avenue.  The site has been surplus to the County Councils's requirements for some time now and there is a need for the County Council to market and sell the site to provide a much needed capital receipt for the Adult Services re-investment programme within the County.  It is crucial that the County Council are able to generate funding from the sale of surplus assets to facilitate the improvement of retained older persons facilities within the community."

  • "The site has been surplus to the County Councils's requirements for some time now" - only two and a half years!.
  • "... to market and sell the site" - so it is actually a sale, not just a proposal.
  • "... to provide a much needed capital receipt for the Adult Services re-investment" - there's that much used phrase again !
  • "It is crucial that the County Council are able to generate funding ..." - but now two an a half years later the property market has collapsed, how much have HCC lost by their inaction.
  • "... from the sale of surplus assets to ..." - so it is a surplus asset, is that an admission that they could have sold the site as detailed in 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.  We listed fourteen uses for the Chrismas Lodge site, made proposals to HCC and RBC, met with HCC and were dismissed out of hand, now the have the cheek to announce the "sale of surplus assets".

The letter continues -
"I am writing to inform you of our intention to market the site for sale from 12 May 2008.  In the light of the ongoing issues associated with the Surrey Heath Special Protection Area it has been decided that the site will be marketed with the new owner of the site being responsible for discussing the submission of a new planning application for the redevelopment of the site with Rushmoor Borough Council.  As part of the planning application you will of course, have the opportunity to put forward any comment on the planning proposals submitted to the Borough Council.

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.

Marketing - Copy of the HCC Marketing press release.
Particulars - HCC Freehold property for sale particulars.
Planning - HCC Planning overview.

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)
In this follow up report by the Aldershot News about the Chrismas Lodge situation, residents are still in the dark about Hampshire County Council and their intentions.  Residents canvassed expressed a desire to see the site used for a retirement complex and yes, this we have to agree that this would be a very good utilisation of the area.  However we have to point out that this is still only speculation and can only in the long term result in more uncertainty and further rumors about the site and Brickfields Country Park.

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)".


Chrismas Lodge is no more !
February 2008, the dirty deed is done
Chrismas Lodge is no more ! Chrismas Lodge is no more ! Chrismas Lodge is no more ! Chrismas Lodge is no more !

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)
Our long standing fears that antisocial behaviour and drug-taking could increase in Brickfields Park if land owned by Hampshire County Council is developed have not been allayed.  Following enquiries made by the Aldershot News with Hampshire County Council last week their statement (below) does nothing to reassure anybody that the land under dispute will remain in the park.

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.


Removal of Health and Safety barriers at Chrismas Lodge, click for a larger image
Demolition work continues at Chrismas Lodge, click for a larger image
Demolition digger at Chrismas Lodge, click for a larger image

7th January 2008  -  No home for Lodge Bats
Despite assurances by Hampshire County Council (see article here 10th December) there is still NO evidence of the promised Bat boxes supposedly agreed with Natural England at the beginning of December.

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.


Interferance with Bat roost at Chrismas Lodge, click for a larger image

10th December 2007  -  "Chrismas Lodge bats promised new home". (Aldershot News report)
Glaring discrepancies in a Hampshire County Council spokeswoman's statements give further grave concern for the Bats resident in Chrismas Lodge, meanwhile demolition of the buildings continues apace at a cost of £120,032.

  1. "... the work was being done in full agreement with English Nature and no bat licence was needed."
  2. "One of the requirements for obtaining the bat licence was to put up alternative roosting boxes where the bats can fly once they leave the building."
  3. "The licensed bat worker will attend the site this week to make sure there are no bats left in the building"
  4. "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."

  • (1-2) A licence is not needed or is it?, but now they have one, so perhaps they did need one after all.
  • (2) A licence is not needed to put up bat boxes, but if you do and bats do occupy them, you then need a license to inspect and maintain those boxes.  They did not need a licence to put up the boxes, if they have put them up.
  • (2-3) If the licensed worker (note that bat workers are licensed so why did HCC get a license?) is inspecting to make sure the Bats have already left, why the need to put up boxes for the Bats "once they leave the building."
  • (4) Currently there appear to be NO bat boxes anywhere on the Chrismas Lodge site.  The gable ends of both buildings have had tiles removed to presumably make egress for the bats easier, conversely it could also make it easier for them to get back in! - unless that is what the taped up parts are for.  Work on the buildings has not "cease(d) on site", but has and is continuing, a large demolition machine is now on site.

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/).


Demolition starts at Chrismas Lodge, click for a larger image
Demolition of Chrismas Lodge, click for a larger image
Demolition of Chrismas Lodge, click for a larger image

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.

  • A couple of questions :-
  • Have they completed their "management and monitoring" ? works with regard to the "discovery of a colony of bats" in Chrismas Lodge (article below) and what are they doing to protect them ?.
  • Have Natural England been involved in this "management and monitoring" ?, we doubt it.

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.

  • Remember it now :-
  • "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"

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".
We remain to be convinced at just how committed HCC are to retaining the disputed border for Brickfields Park especially as they will - "pursue options that will enable" - not exactly reassuring, "we will not sell the land" or "the land will become part of the park", would be more convincing.  There is nothing to stop HCC handing over the disputed border NOW, come on HCC put your money where your mouth is - give back that border and entrance to the park now.  Just how long does it take to get an application in ?, Chrismas Lodge has been empty for two years now, commercial developers would have had this dealt with eighteen months ago !.

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!.

----- Original Message -----
From: Eric Neal
To: Johanna Lance
Cc: Bosworth, Cheryl
Sent: Tuesday, August 07, 200712:15 PM
Subject: Chrismas Lodge
To: Johanna Lance Vice Chair CLECT (Chrismas Lodge Environmental Community Trust)
Dear Johanna
I have read the article in today's Aldershot Mail concerning Christmas Lodge.  The front page article does not give me a lot of information on what CLECT intentions are? Does CLECT wish to purchase the Christmas Lodge site? Could you also tell me who is the chair of CLECT?
Regards
Cllr Eric Neal
HCC Aldershot East
Chair Hart & Rushmoor HAT.
.................................................
Cc. Cheryl Boswoth
Hart & Rushmoor HAT Co-coordinator.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
No virus found in this incoming message.
Checked by AVG Free Edition.
Version: 7.5.476 / Virus Database: 269.11.4/936 - Release Date: 8/4/2007 14:42

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.

The alternative uses for Chrismas Lodge as presented to the meeting can be viewed here.

Keep an eye out in the local press and this website for further updates.

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.
Chrismas Lodge now has on site round the clock security ! - at last !.

However the old saying about - "shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted" - comes to mind, its a pity this was not thought of before the arson attack.  But it does make you wonder "why now", the damage is already done, why protect Chrismas Lodge now ?, or do HCC now have "other plans" for the site - watch this space.  After all, RBC have recently decided to abandon the Thames Heathland Special Protection Area constraints, in favour of recommendations by the South East Regional Assembly.  This will undoubtedly be not liked by Natural England (English Nature).  A planning application for Chrismas Lodge may appear very soon !


May 2007 -
Saturday 5th May and our fears came to fruition, Chrismas Lodge went up in smoke.  We predicted back in January that this would happen, one could even be very cynical and suggest that's even what the owners were waiting for, the "locals" to do their work for them.

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.

First attempt at the garage door Second attempt was more successful ! Rear view Rear view

9th May 2007 - Hampshire Constabulary are seeking witnesses following this mindless act of arson.
(Their website used to have full press release but it has now been removed)

"Officers are appealing for information following an arson at a property in Aldershot on Saturday, May 5.  Police were made aware of the fire at Chrismas Lodge, Evelyn Avenue, Aldershot, by Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service at around 1.20pm.  Officers have descriptions of two teenage boys they would like to speak to in connection with this incident.

  • The first youth is described as:
  • Aged 16 to 17
  • Normal to slim build
  • Wearing grey hooded top
  • The second youth is described as:
  • Aged 16 to 17
  • Normal to slim build
  • Wearing a dark navy blue hooded top

"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.


 
Archived articles
The B.E.S.T Report cannot control and does not necessarily agree with the content of external sites
 
26th June 2008   "County is ahead of game" Star letters - pdf
26th June 2008   "Do your homework" Star letters - pdf
19th June 2008   "Local people have been ignored" Star letters - pdf
13th June 2008   "Son slams council for demolishing care home" Copy article - pdf
12th June 2008   "We want action not apologist" - Adrian Collett Star letters - pdf
6th June 2008   "Urban myth" about Lodge" - Eric Neal Star letters - pdf
    "We had better idea for site" - Mike Roberts Star letters - pdf
15th May 2008   "Questions over derelict site's future" - News report News report - pdf
9th May 2008   "Proposed disposal of Chrismas Lodge" HCC letter
8th May 2008   "Marketing begins for sale of Chrismas Lodge site" no longer available see - pdf
22nd April 2008   "Lodge should be retirement complex" Aldershot News - pdf
15th January 2008   "Fears over park drug-taking if land is developed" Aldershot News - pdf
10th December 2007   "Lodge bats promised new home" Aldershot News - pdf
30th October 2007   "Demolish home or arsonists could strike again" Aldershot News - pdf
7th August 2007   Christmas Lodge plea - "give us a say" Aldershot News - pdf
    Also - we receive our first communication from HCC, an email from County Councilor Eric Neal - asking us what our intentions for the site are - bit late Eric ! Copy email - pdf
31st July 2007   "Lodge will be razed in weeks" Aldershot News - pdf
25th July 2007   HCC letter - "We are going to demolish Chrismas lodge" article
12th June 2007   "14 reasons to save Chrismas Lodge" Aldershot News - pdf
7th June 2007   "Let us have home to use" The Star - pdf
5th June 2007   Borough to defy E.U. rules designed to protect birds Aldershot News - pdf
25th May 2007   New hope to utilise lodge for the community Aldershot News - pdf
18th May 2007   Bats may prevent old home rebuild Aldershot News - pdf
15th May 2007   Arson attack at Chrismas Lodge - Police seek suspects Aldershot News - pdf
    The Labour Government announces initiative to create
"a new era of civic pride"
BBC - pdf
1st February 2007   The B.E.S.T Report makes local press Aldershot News - pdf
1st February 2007   Last ditch bid to stop new homes The Star - pdf
22nd June 2006   Fears that park may be lost Aldershot News - pdf
8th June 2006   Petition opposes closure of home Surrey & Hants News - pdf
 

Other archived documents
The B.E.S.T Report cannot control and does not necessarily agree with the content of external sites

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.

  1. Brickfields Park news page - August 2006
    "This ongoing problem has gone very quiet in the last few weeks, which only serves to alarm us.  We have had reassurances from our local councilors, Rushmoor and Hampshire that they have our "best" interests at heart, but if you hear of anything please keep us up to date."

  2. Council minutes - July 2006
    "Cllr. Mrs. Bedford said that the Council was aware of the concerns that had been expressed by the Friends of Brickfields Park regarding the right of access along Croft Road should the land at Chrismas Lodge be sold.  It was understood that the right of access could not be withdrawn without the Council's permission.  If the land were to be sold, negotiations would take place to secure the continued access along Croft Road.  Members would be kept advised of the situation."

    Unfortunately this is quite a big misunderstanding of the access problem.  It is not envisaged that Croft Lane will suffer at all from this proposed development, the access under dispute is the entrance - from - Croft Lane - into - Brickfields Park, land that is currently owned by Hampshire County Council, not Croft Lane itself.

  3. Tories abandon the old - Liberal Democrats, June 2006
    "Conservatives are making severe cuts to care services for old and vulnerable people here in Hampshire.  There were angry scenes at recent County Council meetings as Liberal Democrats fought to stop them.  But the Conservatives who run Hampshire ignored the pleas and pressed on with the cuts.  Five older people's homes are set to close, including Chrismas Lodge in Aldershot."

  4. Brickfields Park news page - June 2006
    ".... we had a chance conversation with a local resident which prompted us to enquire about the closure of Chrismas Lodge, the boundaries and their affect on the park.  We have now heard to the effect that should Chrismas Lodge be sold, the new owners (obviously a developer) would lay claim to the land as marked in the deeds, not as actually present on the land.  This will mean that Brickfields Park will loose a strip of land along the Chrismas Lodge boundary some 10m wide, across the Western boundary up to the Highfield Gardens / Croft Lane path.  We will loose the entrance to the park which is within this area "

  5. Brickfields Park news page - May 2006 "Chrismas Lodge Closes - There is currently a campaign to have the now defunct Chrismas Lodge home at the top of the park (in Evelyn avenue) amalgamated into Brickfields Park and to use it as a Study Centre, Local Community Centre, Wildlife hospital Etc.  Currently being headed by the Aldershot Civic Society, the campaign is in the early stages and needs support now.  Chrismas Lodge was quietly closed at Christmas and will probably be sold off for development as it is owned by Hampshire C.C. (not Rushmoor), residents of Evelyn Avenue have already been approached to sell land, so the site could gain more access or get even bigger.  More housing on this site would not be appropriate for the area and increase congestion in Jubilee and Coronation Roads."

  6. Reprovision of Elderly Persons Homes - HCC meeting, 31st January 2006.
    "All existing facilities will need to be assessed in terms of their community benefit as part of the planning application process arising out of any re-provision/disposal decisions.  A development brief for each site will be prepared, probably outlining proposals for residential redevelopment, which will form part of the representation to the Local Planning Authorities in support of the proposed disposal of any surplus site.

  7. Reprovision of Elderly Persons Homes - HCC meeting, 31st January 2006.
    "Following the management decision to move the residents from Chrismas Lodge to Ticehurst, this has led to there being no residents at Chrismas Lodge with whom to consult on a formal basis as to its future and therefore that the property is brought forward for disposal.  Resources be requested to allow 100% of the capital receipts resulting from land sales to be retained by Adult Services to fund the fire safety and other requirements of other core stock residential homes."

  8. Reprovision of Elderly Persons Homes - January 2006
    "A care management plan was agreed in May 2005 to move the residents and staff to the newly refurbished Ticehurst Home (which is less than one mile away), to enable a detailed asset management inspection of the building to be undertaken.  The building has been de-registered, and in operational and care management terms, it would not be appropriate to move the service users and staff back from Ticehurst as they have now integrated into the service delivered from the joint Nursing and Residential Home, even if it were economical to refurbish Chrismas Lodge."

  9. Conversion of staff accommodation (costs) - Council report - September 1988
    "Chrismas Lodge is a 36 place home for elderly mentally infirm people and the following improvements are proposed to bring the premises up to current standards.  Remodel some of the existing ground floor toilet accommodation to provide two additional WC's and improved access to the toilets for the less ambulant residents."

  10. Conversion of staff accommodation (proposal)- Council report - February 1987
    "In keeping with the Committee's policy of converting unused staff accommodation for residents it is proposed to convert the vacant ground floor staff flat at Chrismas Lodge Home for the Elderly, Aldershot, to provide two additional resident bed spaces, with associated toilet facilities.  The numbers accommodated in the Home will therefore be increased from 36 to 38.  The marginal additional revenue costs arising from the scheme will be offset by income accruing from residents occupying the new accommodation."

Very soon after this site was launched it was said that -

  • "it (the site) contains a great deal of misinformation ... from the Lib/Dems."
  • "No mention of the £10M spent on an HCC care home ... now 3 times bigger with nearly 70 residents."
  • ".... have moved into a world of publishing conspiracy theories and misinformation."
So in reply -
  1. No information on this site has been taken directly from the Liberal Democrats or any other political party, indeed we say we cannot control and do not necessarily agree with the content of external sites linked.
  2. No mention would be made of the £10M spent on a replacement home, this site is a campaign against the redevelopment of the Chrismas Lodge site, not to eulogize HCC over their spending on other sites.  Chrismas Lodge home has been closed, the merits of that decision are not for this campaign.
  3. There is no conspiracy theory or misinformation presented, all the information given is freely available and in the public domain, it may take some digging to get at, but it is there.  However, one point does need correction, Chrismas Lodge had space for 36 residents, the new facility has "nearly 70", not even twice the size let alone three times.  Misinformation, a case of "Pot calling the kettle black" ! we think.  reference
  4. The aim of this website is to ensure the continued use of the Chrismas Lodge site for the local community in a way that supports that community and wildlife of Brickfields Park by ensuring all avenues of consultation are explored and examined.  Discussion of this website and its aims are open to all and any comment is invited and welcomed, please use this form to contact us.

Notes from the Habitat Survey Report undertaken by RPS Oxford on the 29th September 2006 -

  1. Summary, paragraph 0.6 - "Potentially suitable bat roosting habitat was identified on site, albeit on the site boundaries.  One large mature Oak tree is present within the grounds.  This tree could provide a bat roost with suitable dead wood with cracks and holes.  Another large mature Oak tree has potential as a summer roost site due to its dense Ivy cladding.  If bats are present in the area but not roosting on the site, they may potentially forage or commute over the site from adjacent or nearby areas."
    Notice the "potentially, could, may, if", a survey carried out on one afternoon in late September is hardly likely to find bats or much else for that matter.  Such surveys need to be carried out over many visits and at differing times to even start to find out the habitat potential of such a site.  Remember that this report is a Habitat survey, NO species survey has ever been undertaken on Chrismas Lodge, unless Hampshire know different !, if they do, then let them say so and publish it.

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