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GURKHA SQUARE DECLARED AN ASSET OF COMMUNITY VALUE…

…BUT COUNCIL STILL REFUSES TO GIVE UP REDEVELOPMENT PLANS

ASSET OF COMMUNITY VALUE BID

Below: Wikipedia’s definition of an Asset of Community Value

Only 21 signatures were needed to back the Asset bid and we were blown away by the support, with 121 signing up to help save the square. The signatories also stated their strong belief in the community area, all giving their individual reasons why they believed Gurkha Square, the only open area on the High Street, should be allowed to continue to host local events long into the future, free from development.

Below: Just some of the comments from local residents on the ACV bid.

Gurkha Square represents a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Whether historic, emotional, social or simply visual, it offers something unique to each individual and adds value to the town. Fleet has long since lost its roots as a small village but even as it expands, the desire and nostalgia for community values doesn’t diminish, in fact it becomes all the more important as it is the last remaining social hub in town. Without Gurkha Square, the high street reverts into a long and uninviting wind tunnel that doesn’t lend itself to local events or gatherings. I truly believe the importance of this area is severely underestimated but as local opinion has already proved, it would be sadly and sorely missed if it were lost. This is why I hope it can be recognised for its value to the local community and registered as an Asset of Community Value.”

I have lived in fleet my entire life. Through that time both myself and the rest of the immediate community have been subjected to the dire lack of things to do in Fleet. Gurkha Square is both the physical and metaphorical centre of everything community driven in Fleet, be that Christmas events, Stalls, the Farmers Market, Parades etc it’s simply the epitome of community here. Losing Gurkha Square means losing our only chance to come together as a local people and be proud of what we’ve worked towards, spending invaluable time creating memories and opportunities with each other. Through everything, Gurkha Square has stood the test of time and remained as our open frontier for all things community driven in Fleet, it is an invaluable asset to everyone and should remain that way for generations to come. The value of the memories and times together that can be made there fully outweigh the value of something as trivial as another storefront or house, something Fleet could, quite frankly, do without.”

Gurkha Square provides a myriad of services for the community, much needed parking spaces at that particular end of fleet road especially useful for people who would have difficulty walking from other parking areas, it’s the home of the much loved market, it’s used as a focal point for many of fleet’ s events and adds a bit of character to what is rapidly becoming a very generic high street. The war memorial is an important feature of the town that really doesn’t need to be moved again. Its placement now is excellent for the Remembrance Sunday Wreath laying, providing space for people paying their respects. All in all it’s an amenity that Fleet cannot afford to lose.”

“Fleet seems to be going backwards and pushing people away whereas other towns are trying to make their communities nicer for those who live there. Gurkha Square means so much to so many people and almost every event that Fleet holds, Gurkha Square is the place to go! We find ourselves as a family there more than anywhere in Fleet due to visiting the Library, Harlington events, Child’s classes, the Market and not forgetting the ever so popular Christmas Festivities and Remembrance day. Fleet will be a very sad place indeed if we lost Gurkha square.”

Gurkha Square, represents a space that both reflects the diverse culture in Fleet and surround areas as well as honouring the historical association the town has with the Brigade of Gurkhas. Having had the privilege to serve with the Ghurka Rifles in Afghanistan I am utterly convinced of the importance in maintaining this space as a reflection of their part in the town. As society has grown to understand the importance of welfare, this space offers the perfect opportunity to create a reflective and peaceful space. We forget our history at our peril and the loss of this space for potential profit would be bereft of moral competence and a tragedy for the town.”

“Gurkha Square is a well loved and appreciated  communal space in Fleet that serves as a great space for many varied events in Fleet also it is a part of Fleet Street history and character . It should be preserved at all costs.  There is more urgent action needed in other areas in the community that needs addressing. Leave the Gurkha Square alone please.”

The ACV bid was submitted in early November and we were promised a reply by the end of December 2019. With one day of December left we can tell you that we have now received a response.

Below: Acknowledgement of ACV Bid by Fleet Town Council.

THE RESULTS ARE IN

This should really be a drumroll moment, as I’m very pleased to say that despite some strong objections from one or two Councillors on Fleet Town Council,  the bid has now been passed and Gurkha Square has been declared an Asset of Community Value!

At this point I’d just like to thank everyone who helped with the bid and took the time to offer their details and comments to explain just why Gurkha Square is so important to the people of Fleet. Also big thanks to Ruth Hill who helped with gathering info and submitting the bid for us. You’re all amazing!

So onwards…here is the letter that was received, acknowledging the successful bid.

Below: Letter acknowledging successful ACV bid for Gurkha Square

The Asset of Community Value listings for the Hart area were last updated on 19/11/19, so do not yet include Gurkha Square but hopefully we will see it listed there soon!

SO IS IT FINALLY SAFE?

However, as much as it would be great to leave it there and celebrate the success of the bid, sadly that cannot be. It is understood that even with the huge amount of objections to building on Gurkha Square, the council(s) are still allowing and even planning for, the possibility to progress plans to redevelop the site in the future. This has been made emphatically clear with Fleet Town Council’s discussions on the subject from their meeting on 4th December 2019, where it is stated that Gurkha Square is still not protected from redevelopment and that “the Neighbourhood Plan promotes the co-ordinated development of the civic quarter”. The civic quarter of course, includes Gurkha Square. It is also stated that the proposing group will be denied first refusal on any future land sale.

It is interesting to note the last couple of lines from the text, where Fleet Town Council state they “would not consider the sale of land unless an alternative publicly acceptable piece of land had been found to move the War Memorial to and it was part of an overall development plan”. With the memorial having been moved before and the Fleet Neighbourhood Plan forming part of an ‘overall development plan’, let’s hope those words weren’t designed to specifically and carefully describe plans that are already in the pipeline

Below: Comments made before the approval of the ACV bid, diluting its effect so it does not interfere with future redevelopment plans.

The Neighbourhood Plan Referendum was held on 7th October 2019 and included a policy that we believed would be devastating to the future of Gurkha Square, which allowed redevelopment of the area despite many many public objections including a petition, a social media campaign and a parish poll…all showing the strength of feeling against building on the square.

Below: The death knell for Gurkha Square? We believe so…let’s hope we are wrong. Policy 1 of the Fleet Neighbourhood Plan, which clearly allows the redevelopment of the civic quarter including Gurkha Square.

The fight to save Gurkha Square in Fleet from development has been a long one. From the plans to build a new Harlington on it, to the redevelopment options included in the 2019 Fleet Neighbourhood Plan it seemed as though Hart District Council and Fleet Town Council would push ahead with their own agenda no matter what…or at least make sure all options were covered in the event that they chose to do so.

Earlier this year, our ‘Save Gurkha Square’ and ‘For Fleets Sake’ groups, came together with the support of local Councillors and residents, to propose that Gurkha Square be declared an Asset of Community Value. This would be a way of demonstrating the importance of the area to the town and its residents, while offering it a degree of protection to safeguard its future.

It is important to note that on the run up to the referendum for the Neighbourhood plan, there was a lot of confusion, a lot of faff and frankly some interestingly worded misdirection floating around. To summarise, Fleet Town Council insisted they had no plans to build on Gurkha Square and inferred it would be good for Fleet to go ahead and vote for the full Neighbourhood Plan. As it turned out, many were so confused by the plans they didn’t bother to vote at all and with carefully chosen words of reassurance from our local council, others voted for it…and it was passed.

For those who don’t remember the vote, had no interest in it, or simply missed it, the basic issue was that although Fleet Town Council promised they had no plans to build on Gurkha Square, it meant little, as Fleet Town Council don’t own it. Hart District Council who actually own the land, have made no such promise…despite being asked to do so.

Below: Fleet Town Council make a point of denying They will build on Gurkha Square in this Neighbourhood Plan FAQ…but the owners (Hart District Council) give no such reassurances.

So there we have it. What one hand giveth, the other taketh away…allegedly/possibly/maybe…but the question has to be asked, if the meaning behind the comments from Fleet Town Council were genuine and not ‘cleverly’ worded to give them a get-out clause, thereby allowing Hart District Council to go ahead and develop the land while pleading innocence themselves, then why bring the Neighbourhood Plan up in a discussion about the ACV bid where it states Gurkha Square is not protected from development? Does their ‘reassurance’ now mean nothing?…We’ll let you decide that one for yourselves.

In the meantime we thank Fleet Town Council/Hart District Council for passing the Asset of Community Value bid and hope that, along with the residents of Fleet, you help us protect a much loved community area from future development.

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1 Comment
  1. Polendulgence 2 months ago

    Great comprehensive write up, thank you.

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