Local Liberal Democrats believe that adult learning is a valuable and important service that cannot be allowed to disappear from Sunbury. Surrey CC have a track record of removing facilities from Spelthorne and neglecting the needs of residents. We shall be seeking to defend the site from inappropriate development and resisting any reduction in locally delivered adult learning opportunities. We asked Spelthorne Council a question about this in 2018 - you can find the question and answer below or see the minutes of the meeting.
The Adult Learning Centre in the Avenue in Sunbury is a well-used and important facility. It offers a wide range of courses that both provide valuable learning opportunities and are part of the local social glue.
As part of the Surrey County Council "service review" a number of buildings have been earmarked for potential redevelopment including libraries and youth centres as well as adult education facilities. A total of seven sites have been identified in the Spelthorne Local Plan as having potential for new housing.
The site is earmarked for 24 housing units in the Local Plan, but if this site is re-developed it is quite possible that more units would be built. The plan Allocations Document says "The site is considered suitable for redevelopment and could accommodate medium to high densities" and goes on to say that "flatted development could be provided on-site". There is also a comment that "the site could accommodate residential use or a care home". A development of this type would be completely out of character with the surrounding area.
This is the question asked by Liberal Democrat Activist Caroline Nichols in the council meeting on 19 July 2018:
"It is being mooted that Surrey's Adult Education Centre in Sunbury, the last of its type in the Borough, will be sacrificed in the bid to meet housing targets.
What is Spelthorne Borough Council's position on this proposal? Is Spelthorne Council aware that the centre provides an essential function as a source of relaxation, wellbeing and self-improvement for different social groups, including the increasing number of carers who are looking after young, disabled or elderly relatives for whom engagement in classes represents a valuable respite activity? What does Spelthorne Council see as its role in respect to users of the centre and will it be lobbying on their behalf for the centre's retention?"
Response from the Portfolio Holder for Community Wellbeing, Councillor M. Attewell:
"Thank you for your question Mrs Nichols. The site at Sunbury Adult Education Centre is included in the Council's Strategic Land Availability Assessment (SLAA). This is the document that identifies land in the urban area that could be developed for housing, employment or other uses. Surrey County Council identified this site, together with many other SCC sites in the borough, as part of their service review, and it was put forward to the Strategic Planning team at the Council as 'developable in the next 6-10 years'. However, the SLAA makes it clear that the site is only developable on the basis that the existing use is re-provided, either on-site as a mixed use scheme, or elsewhere nearby, as the loss of a social/community use would be contrary to planning policy. It should also be noted that the SLAA does not allocate sites for development nor does it grant planning permission. It is simply an evidence base of land availability that will be used to inform the preparation of our new Local Plan.
As a former Surrey County Councillor as well as a Spelthorne Borough Councillor, Mrs Nichols will understand that Spelthorne Borough Council has very little control over the use of this site, as well as understanding the difficult financial pressures imposed upon Surrey County Council by re-distribution of Local Government funding via the so-called 'Fairer Funding' formula."