Fringe Box



Fears Over Council’s Plan To Sell Off Historic Gunpowder Mills Lodge House

Published on: 13 Mar, 2016
Updated on: 14 Mar, 2016

Members of the community in Chilworth have raised fears that a building linked to its historic gunpower mills is to be sold by its owners Guildford Borough Council.


Pictured in front of West Lodge are some of those who are concered about the building’s future: From left: Anne Denmark (Chilworth2gether), David Thomson (Shalford parish councillor, Chilworth ward), Andrew Norris (Chilworth Gunpowder Mills Group), Kathy Wells (Chilworth2gether), David Bunting (former chairman of St Martha’s Parish Council), Maggie Scott, Mary Phillips (Shalford parish councillor, Chilworth ward).

The single-storey Grade II listed building is West Lodge. It is in Blacksmiths Lane, at the entrance to the council-owned Chilworth Gunpowder Mills, the greater part of which is a Scheduled Monument.

Concerned local residents, that include members of St Martha’s and Shalford Parish Councils, community group Chilworth2gether and the Chilworth Gunpowder Mills Group, are calling on the council to think again.

They point to the fact that in 2012 the council adopted a conservation managment plan (CMP) for the gunpowder mills site that included: “The West Lodge will be converted into a community facility, for possible use by the parish council and a small education centre for school parties and occasional displays or exhibitions.”

And they add that the council has now “chosen to regard it as a core operational asset (investment property) needing to show some form of financial return if retained”.

The community fears that instead of the building (that has stood empty for some time) being converted as noted in the CMP for use by the community, if sold it may be demolished and a new home built on the site.

Local resident Maggie Scott said: “There must be a third way and it must be possible to find a resolution without irreversibly losing one of the county’s heritage buildings.

“A value needs to be given to West Lodge’s historical value and its utility in supporting the gunpowder mills site, rather than only considering its disposal value.”

As noted on the Chilworth2gether website: “West Lodge is within the historic middle works part of the gunpowder mills site, all owned by GBC. It is the only building to have remained in near continuous use since the gunpowder works closed in 1920. The greater area of this site is a Scheduled Monument, which is the same level of protection afforded to sites such as Stonehenge. West Lodge was not included in the scheduling only due to it having then been used as a residence.”

The council’s 2012 CMP does state that as the building does not actually fall into the scheduled area “…. it is therefore vulnerable to disposal by the council and being sold on the open market”. But adds: “This would lose a structure, which is a considerable asset to the gunpowder mills site, particularly as it is the only surviving works building in the GBC-owned part of the site to have any real potential for resume, without major alterations. The property would be very vulnerable to requests to de-list for demolition and redevelopment, or for inappropriate extension/alteration.”

It is understood that members of St Martha’s Parish Council and the Chilworth Gunpowder Mills Group have spoken with Guildford Borough Council over the matter and are now waiting for a formal answer.

Guildford Borough Council’s deputy leader and lead councillor for finance, asset management and governance, Cllr Nigel Manning said: “Despite delays in this process beyond our control, we have been looking at the options for the long-term future of West Lodge.

“We fully appreciate the significance of the small front section of the building that used to be the gatehouse for the mills. The remainder of the building is in a state of disrepair and is likely to deteriorate further unless there is a significant capital investment and a financially sustainable use for the coming years.

“We try to balance the needs of the community with our aim of providing more efficient services, and plan to sell the building to offer the best chance of a sustainable long-term future for the gatehouse.

“We recognise the aspirations of Chillworth2gether and the parish council to use the building as a visitor centre, and we have given the groups three months to put together proposals to buy the building.”

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Responses to Fears Over Council’s Plan To Sell Off Historic Gunpowder Mills Lodge House

  1. Andrew Miller Reply

    May 31, 2016 at 11:40 am

    As long as the old factory has been cleaned properly there is no worry about the left gunpowder.

  2. Michael Case Reply

    October 3, 2016 at 4:27 pm

    Whatever happened to the house? Did they make it into a tourist spot?

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