Local resident Ian Strutt tells us what the Epsom Wells Community Centre means to him.
I have a very, very, soft spot for the Wells Social Centre. I met my new partner there at dance classes almost 20 years ago after my life in Carshalton Beeches had fallen apart.
How did I end up at the Wells? I was guided to this truly wonderful social centre via the famous Rykers biker cafe and a new-found biker friend from Coulsdon. So, for a social centre the mis-named Residents’ Association (RA) council could not be bothered to put up a road sign to from the A24, its fantastic reputation was certainly well spread.
I felt welcomed, but it was quite obvious that not much money had been spent on the centre lately by the RA. No wonder!
As time moved on, RA council leaders had a trick up their sleeves. They wanted a “capital receipt” of £1.2 million from selling the land on which this second, modern, spacious Wells centre was built.
The doors were closed. Then, the man who was supposed to ensure the centre‘s financial viability, was posted to keep protesting Wells residents from entering.
There were no takers from home builders as the sloping land also has a single and narrow road entry over an old railway bridge. Never mind the trio of leak-prone and ancient high pressure gas pipelines running underneath the bridge’s road. Or even the nearby pipeline pumping jet fuel to Ministry of Defence air bases all around the country.
Some five years on, the RA council’s planning committee turned down its own planning application 10-2, to build a ‘cruise liner’ block of 23 flats totally out of character with Wells Estate architecture.
Having wasted £175,000 outsourcing this design, planners over Zoom castigated virtually every feature – lack of access for fire engines; no lifts for families; little play area for kids; parking problems; balconies enabling occupants to spy into the bedrooms and gardens of surrounding homes.
One planner admitted that the proposed flats and nearby homes would “have a relationship.”
The list of design faults was long – and the planners’ no-go decision was a real, but surprising, ‘smack in the eye’ for council leader Eber Kington.
So, what was the obvious thing for Kington & Co. to do? Abandon the whole project, or throw another £25,000+ on the hopeless task of designing away all of its worst features pointed out by their own planners? Of course, this belligerent council chose to throw yet more good money after bad…
Meanwhile, the Wells Social Centre has remained shut except for occasional openings for specific events.
The RA’s cynical suggestion that the old folks from the Wells just trip down to the Longmead centre fell apart as the promised transport failed to arrive and the Longmead was oversubscribed anyway.
Is it the fact that the RA has been the local council in Epsom and Ewell since around 1935 that breeds its special brand of arrogance and detachment?