The purpose of this post is to alert you to the plans to build on the much-loved Gurkha Square car-park and support the petition calling for a referendum of Hart residents before planning permission is granted.
Save Gurkha Square Petition
The petition can be found here.
Gurkha Square proposal
Fleet Town Council has made a controversial planning application to build a new facility on Gurkha Square car-park. This can be found here (or search for application 18/00147/OUT on https://publicaccess.hart.gov.uk/ ). This new facility is currently expected to cost around £9.9m to build.
This is to replace the aging Harlington centre that currently costs £178,300 to support each year. It is envisaged that this support cost will continue for the new centre. Additionally, Fleet residents will be asked to continue paying the £412,000 Harlington precept for 45 years to repay the loan. This assumes there is no escalation in building costs and no increase in interest rates. Hardly sensible assumptions.
At the time of writing, there have been 12 comments on the planning application and all of them are opposed to the proposal. One Hart resident has written:
When I found out about this and how little others living in Fleet knew about it I wanted to ensure that as Fleet residents you were made aware & could have a say in the future
Why is the Gurkha Square proposal a bad idea?
Regular readers will be aware that we are broadly in favour of redeveloping Fleet. So, we had to think long and hard about this proposal. We came down against it because:
- This removes much needed parking spaces from the town centre.
- Puts at risk the market and other community events.
- It is a poorly thought through proposal that isn’t part of a proper master plan for Fleet regeneration
- There is no plan to do anything with the vacant, decaying Harlington building or the rest of the underutilised complex.
- There is a risk that part of the Views will be concreted over to replace the lost parking spaces.
- Disrespects the Gurkha community by reducing the space dedicated to their support and sacrifice for the UK.
- This proposal has all the hallmarks of a doomed political vanity project.
Opaque financial arrangements for Gurkha Square transfer
The Gurkha Square car-park is currently owned by Hart District Council. In essence it belongs to all Hart residents. The financial arrangements related to the transfer of the car-park to Fleet Town Council are shrouded in mystery. They were discussed at Overview and Scrutiny Committee, but the key debate about finance was conducted in private.
We don’t think it appropriate that the transfer of assets between two public bodies should be conducted in secret. What we do know is that the Cabinet received advice that the value of the car-park is £575,000. Although it is unclear how this figure was determined. The site is approximately 0.3Ha and development land with planning permission is worth around £4m per hectare. One might expect prime development land in the town centre to be worth more. This would equate to a value of at least £1.2m, far in excess of the stated value.
However, we don’t know the basis on which HDC has agreed to transfer the asset. Some people fear they have agreed a much lower capital value, in exchange for a continuing income. But it seems odd they would rely upon an income from a facility that Fleet Town Council say will continue to lose £180,000 per annum. Moreover, the decaying Harlington Centre will revert to HDC, which looks like it will be a liability rather than an asset.
We think Hart residents should be consulted before ‘their’ asset is transferred to Fleet. Moreover, the financial arrangements should be transparent. Indeed, the deal as proposed may well be in breach of the Value for Money rules governing public bodies.
Please respond to the petition that can be found here.
Download the leaflet here: