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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Sale of West Lodge goes to Secretary of State

Representatives from St Martha Parish Council and Chilworth2gether attended an Executive meeting of GBC on Tuesday February 20 when the future of West Lodge was on the agenda.

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Selling West Lodge on the open market has always been Guildford Borough Concil’s Asset Department’s preferred route, and unfortunately the combined forces of St Martha Parish Council, the Chilworth Gunpowder Group and Chilworth2gether, in a Working Group formed by the Parish Council, have been unable to come up with a suitable proposal that will meet GBC’s demands for full commercial viability.

Residents in the west of the village will be interested to note that it was their elected Borough Councillor, Councillor Illman, who led the GBC’s recommendation that West Lodge should be sold. Describing the Grade 2 listed building “a bungalow”, and failing to mention the scheduled status of the Gunpowder Mills, Councillor Illman recommended the sale of West Lodge should be presented to the Secretary of State. It transpires that there are covenants applying to West Lodge at the moment that would inhibit its sale, and these need to be removed.

Our other local Councillor, Councillor Billington, also argued that residential use would be the best option for West Lodge, relying on its listed status to protect it from unsuitable development.

Both St Martha Parish Council and Gavin Morgan spoke from the Gallery.
St Martha Parish Council confirmed their regret that restraints placed on the Council by GBC meant that they were unable to come up with a community based solution to secure the future of West Lodge, warning that “once it’s gone, it’s gone” and that the most intact and usable building on the Gunpowder Mills site would be lost for ever.

Gavin Morgan sees West Lodge as another example of GBC seeking to rid itself of many of its cultural and Heritage assets, like the Guildford Museum and the Electric Theatre. He is supportive of further action to find an alternative use, and continues to challenge the Asset Department on its policy.

The St Martha Parish Council working Party will continue to monitor the situation and is likely to make representations to the Secretary of State. It will be closely watching for planning applications, should the sale go through, to ensure that the constraints applied to the Council’s proposal are applied to others consistently.

The two roomed Lodge is valued by GBC at £185,00 with a further £100,00 minimum spend needed to bring it up to basic residential standard. It is Grade 2 listed and subject to other restraints.

Chilworth Gunpowder Mills picture Gallery

Gunpowder Mills front page – illustrated with photograph of The Swing Bridge
swing bridge p2

aerial photograph of Gunpowder Mills site from the air – copyright Andrew Norris
air photo from north 2009

The Millstones
millstones at incorporating mills buildings 20-22

The Incorporating Mills
incorporating mills 1885 building 52

West Lodge building – used by workers to report for duty and leave any inflammable material
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Incorporating Mills building
incorporating mills 1860s buildings 20-22 p2

Expense Magazine building
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Incorporating Mills 1885
incorporating mills 1885 building 52

Gunpowder Mills map and historic information to download

Chilworth Gunpowder Mills Is a scheduled ancient monument. Enhance your visit to the Gunpowder Mills in their magic woodland set by downloading the following information and guided trail. See also a set of images showing the historic remains, shown under Gunpowder Mills Picture Gallery.

Thanks to Andrew Norris, Chilworth Gunpowder Group for the images, and to Glenys Crocker for permission to download the map.
walk leaflet 2010 rev2b page 1
walk leaflet 2010 rev2b page 2