Chilworth2gether urges GBC at Council meeting not to sell off West Lodge

GBC, with Councillor Illman who represents West Chilworth being the lead Councillor making this decision, intends to apply to the Secretary of State to sell off West Lodge, the only building that remains intact at the entrance to the Gunpowder Mills site on Blacksmith Lane.

West Lodge is an integral part of the Gunpowder Mills Story. St Martha Parish Council, assisted by representatives from the Gunpowder Mills Group and Chilworth2gether have tried to find ways to retain the building in GBC ownership for future generations, and have consistently counselled against the sale of the building.

Here is the contribution made by Chilworth2gether to the full Council which met on Tuesday April –

“My name Maggie Scott, active member of Chilworth2gether, and member of St Martha Parish Council West lodge Working Group.

I attended the recent executive meeting at which regrettably, the executive recommended West Lodge be referred to the Secretary of State for the removal of covenants. These have never been revealed, but I surmise that they relate to the building having protections as part of our community’s open space.

So, my first question to Councillors is, at a time of major housing development, why aren’t Councillors seeking to preserve and enhance the open spaces we have to enjoy?
The whole of West Lodge is an important integral part of the historic Gunpowder Mills story –
Is it not counter-intuitive to sell off the only building providing shelter, electricity, drinking water and a toilet for the Gunpowder Mills Site, a scheduled monument categorised as Community Open Space?

At the Executive, a perfectly reasonable and obvious proposal was put forward by Councillor Reeves that GBC should create a separate Heritage Asset List. Councillors may not be aware of this sensible suggestion until it has been mentioned by Gavin tonight {Gavin Morgan, the previous speaker), because, surprisingly, it has not been minuted.

Were West Lodge to be included in such a list, it would immediately open up a path for the Council to enter a dialogue with the Parish Council as to how the building might be used and maintained in the future, within a different framework than Commercial viability, something a Historic Heritage asset is unlikely ever to be.

St Martha Parish Council has formally requested such a dialogue with the Council, but the Council to date has not responded to the Parish Council.

Surely a more creative way forward can be found by this Council than stripping the Borough of its Heritage little by little, including selling off this little building. These Heritage buildings have a different kind of value for the Borough, measured in different ways than a one-off cash in the bank transaction.

Once it’s gone, it’s gone, and we are all the poorer.

GBC has lots of alternative options other than selling it off. Councillors please consider forming a separate Heritage Asset list, and take a more creative approach to the future of heritage in the borough, including West Lodge. Thank you.

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