Fringe Box



Dragon Interview: New Ash Councillor Outlines The Challenges The Village Faces

Published on: 12 Jan, 2023
Updated on: 13 Jan, 2023

Richard Lucas

By David Reading

Long-time Ash Vale resident Richard Lucas has been co-opted on to Ash Parish Council following the resignation of Cllr Helen Gorham.

Cllr Gorham stepped down on November 29 just hours before a meeting was due to be held to decide if she should be disqualified for failing to attend over a six-month period. She had moved to Wiltshire in 2020 with her husband, also a parish councillor, but the couple controversially remained in post.

Because of the timing of her resignation – within six months of the May 2023 elections – there was no opportunity to hold a by-election and so the council advertised for a replacement.

Richard Lucas was the only candidate, and at the council’s meeting on January 9 he was co-opted.

The new parish councillor has no political affiliations. He has lived in Ash Vale for 26 years and is married with three children of his own plus a foster daughter, all of them in their twenties.

We put six questions to Cllr Lucas, who represents Ash Vale Ward, as a way of introducing him to the residents of the parish.

What was your career?

I retired from a full-time job about 18 months ago, when I was the managing director of an electronics design consultancy based in Southampton. All of my career has been in electronics and communications equipment, most of it with multinationals. I now work part-time as a business lecturer at Farnborough Tech.

My wife is still working – she is the financial controller for the Guide Dogs charity.

Could you provide a brief account of your present activities?

I am chairman 1st Ash Vale Scouts Group, a long involvement that started when my son became a Beaver many years ago.

I have also been actively involved with the Sunflower Café – a networking and support group for people from Ukraine. We ran this from the Scout Hut, obtaining support from local organisations such as St Mary’s Church and Guildford Borough Council’s community wellbeing team.

Although we still run some English language lessons, the main activity has tailed off as our guests have become settled and got jobs. I still spend time helping out with local Ukrainian friends.

I am also an active member of Ash Tennis Club, where I have occasionally played for the B team, and of the Basingstoke Canal Canoe Club, where I race in the bottom division in C2 Canadian canoes. I am a qualified canoe/kayak coach, and all of the Scout boats live in my back garden, backing on to the canal.

Do you have a background in politics? What role do you feel party politics plays, if any, in parish council matters?

I have no background in politics, and do not feel that party politics are particularly relevant to parish council matters. The issues are local. We also need to work with people from borough, county and national level whatever their political persuasion.

What do you consider to be the problems faced by people in Ash and Ash Vale?

The main local issues that I am aware of are:

  • Difficulty in getting GP appointments.
  • Issues relating to the pharmacy in Ash Wharf.
  • Disabled access to the railway station.
  • Anti-social youth behaviour.
  • Youth facilities. This covers both the inactivity of the Community Youth Centre and the dilapidated state of the Scout Hut.
  • Cost of living and warm hubs – particularly for elderly people living alone. While St Mary’s Church community café does a sterling job for a couple of sessions a week, more facilities are needed, and secular ones in particular. Closure of the Shawfield Day Centre is an issue here as well.
  • Access to the Army ranges, which was curtailed at the beginning of lockdown in 2020.

How do you feel the challenges faced by Ash can be addressed by the parish council?

I am new to the parish council and don’t pretend to know how we can solve all of the various problems. I do feel strongly that the community needs facilities and activities that bind it together, particularly for our younger and elder members.

If we let all of these decay – fencing off open land, closing day centres, closing community centres, letting the Scout Hut disintegrate – then our local area will just become a dead commuter zone with high levels of disaffected and antisocial behaviour and lots of misery.

On a more positive note, in the last year, I have witnessed several things that have really impressed me.

One was the local response to the Sunflower Café, which has been inspiring – things like our local tennis coach, Will Wheeler, organising special sessions for Ukrainian kids last summer to help them get some sense of normality after fleeing a war zone. There have been many more contributions.

I was also impressed by the responses to the Scout Hut rebuild proposal. I read every one of the 460 responses, and was truly gobsmacked by the depth of feeling and community spirit. This sort of community spirit is inspiring and worth fighting for.

Do you plan to stand at the May 2023 elections?

One of the reasons I put myself forward for co-option to the parish council is that it gives me an opportunity to see how the council works, and see if I can contribute meaningfully to our community via the council. I will then decide whether or not to stand for election in May. I will seek feedback from other members of the council.


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