Fringe Box



Letter: Let’s Steer Clear of Politicking Over the Future of the Lockwood Centre

Published on: 20 Apr, 2024
Updated on: 20 Apr, 2024

The Lockwood Centre in Slyfield

From: James Walsh

Labour borough councillor for Bellfields & Stoughton

In response to: Campaign Launched to Prevent Demolition of Community and Special Needs Resource

It’s a shame that Angela Richardson [MP] makes the following assertion: “Perhaps we might hear from the councillors who represent this area, but given the wall of silence for such a long time now, I won’t hold my breath,” without first speaking to Cllr Creese and myself.

Unlike some, we’re not interested in jumping on bandwagons and setting up “concerned politician” photo ops during an election year when seats are on the line. We note too Mrs Richardson’s general absence from Bellfields during the five years that she has been in post, except for a photo op at the allotments a while back.

For the record, we have met Mr Hills twice (including a follow-up meeting yesterday) to discuss his plans and the future of the centre – we simply choose not to issue a press release to The Dragon with accompanying photos whenever we carry out our work as councillors. [The press release was issued by the Lockwood Regeneration Consortium not Ms Richardson. Ed]

That unpleasantness aside, this requires people to come together and find a way forward; I have raised this several times with the leader of GBC during the past few months and I know that she and her colleagues have met with Mr Hills and have looked into this with officers. Further meetings are required and, ultimately, some form of compromise will be required from both sides to get the best possible outcome for everyone.

Like many councils, Guildford is in financial difficulties and must look at its investment portfolio as one part of the resolution. There is substantial value in the Lockwood Centre and the land on which it lies and this has to be, like it or not, a consideration for the council.

However, there is also immense value – some of it unquantifiable in terms of finances – in the work of organisations like the Lockwood Centre and this too has to be a consideration of equal weight. It is essential that creative organisations have the space they need to operate, develop and thrive, and social, financial and health benefits to local people will follow.

So what next?

One option may be for GBC and SCC to work with the Lockwood Regeneration Consortium to find an alternative venue within the borough and I understand that this is already underway. Another might be for the council to look at the site as a whole and investigate the possibility of reconfiguring the space to meet most of the the needs for both parties.

Whatever the way forward, let’s steer clear of election-year politicking and focus instead on getting the best possible results for all concerned.

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