Failure upon Failure Characterises The Demise Of The Centre – The Residents Have A Solution – Actively Support Them And You Will Have A Wonderful Centre And A Stronger Community
Since being elected in 2017 I have been fighting to ‘Save The Wells’.
This has led to trying to gather and sort through reems of paper resulting from using the Freedom Of Information Act to get all available data re the Wells Centre from Epsom & Ewell Borough Council. I also arranged public meetings with the residents where I heard a completely different story about the sorry way the centre was run and how, in no way, did their experiences before or after the closure match up with what was being reported from the Council.
The proposal is to destroy the centre, build a totally inappropriate development of flats (none Social) and a token, and wholly unworkable, community mini-space. This development is totally at odds with major commitments made by the Borough in late 2019 and early 2021 regarding design policy, environmental strategies and health and wellbeing commitments, making these commitments just window dressing.
I have initiated protests and surveys, as have the residents of The Wells, and the RA Councillors responses to these (in the form of comments in their Newsletters and press releases) were, at best, misleading.
From all my research, I am utterly convinced that the centre could be a financially viable, exciting and vital asset to the community. The residents themselves have performed due diligence and have come up with a well constructed business plan which, sadly, the Epsom & Ewell Borough Council have not reached out to discuss.
I raised this at the recent Budget Full Council of the Borough to which there was no response.
Why do I believe that the financial failure of the Centre is due to poor RA policy and poor management?
Why do I think they have failed to see the potential?
Why do I believe their proposals are wholly inappropriate and unlikely to fill the Council’s Coffers?
Well, the bullet points below give you an idea.
These bullet points can all be fleshed out and back up by my research…
1. Failure to manage the site and to develop a workable remit
2. Failure to deliver a product that was fit for purpose and failure to listen to those using the site. Failure to reach out to those who were not using the centre as to what they needed
3. Failure to enter into strategic financial partnerships and refusal to give the residents a chance to run the place for year to prove viability, even though the place was costing money to keep closed.
4. This is a large multi-purpose centre that had possibilities with business, third sector service providers, the health centre and indeed running profitable activities where they got the full ticket price not just one hourly room hire charge from outside event organisers.
5. This large centre could serve a wide area and yet they did not explore the needs of that wider area.
6. They ran a task group which had such poor terms of reference that the data was flawed from the start and at no stage did they do a deep dive into management failures or seek to explore best practice from well functioning centres across the UK.
7. They have showed poor management, a total lack of business acumen, and an absence of vision and entrepreneurship.
8. We have an ageing population, young families moving into the area, above average mental health issues and a lot of third sector service providers for groups needing support, especially now.
9. Social prescription is clearly the way forward and often it is the lack of offerings and venues that means there is a great shortage of possibilities for service provision and The Wells would be ideal for this.
10. Agile working is a reality and given the vast proportion of Epsom residents that formerly commuted, there is now a great need for working hub spaces. They may need to get away from home noise for important Zoom meetings or just need a change of space for their mental health. The Wells’ configuration could provide this. Also, these commuters are now free to partake in activities that were formally barred to them due to travel times.
11. The Wells residents have come up with a business plan and are applying for grant funding, but sadly the RA controlled Council has not reached out to them to explore serious options that could save the centre for the community and work for the Council in the long term. They are looking at short term expedience instead of long-term benefits to tax payers.
12. The Council does not have a workable design policy and years on we are still waiting for a Local Plan, so are constantly fighting inappropriate developments as Epsom & Ewell have been left as sitting ducks to any developer that comes along. However, this is the Council’s land and the Council’s plans and they could not be more inappropriate on every level. They should be demonstrating best practice and this should be a ‘poster child’ for other developers, but sadly that could not be further from the truth.
13. They laud that they are offering a brand new community centre which could not be more misleading. What they are offering is an unworkable mini-space that is doomed to failure and it would not surprise me if ultimately it ended up as garages that the Council could rent out.
If you wish to discuss this with me further you can call me on 01372 801880 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org