Conservative councillor Christine Richardson has won a vote for Elmgrove Hall in her Walton Central ward to reopen if a community group can be found to run it.
At a meeting of the Full Council on 2 December 2020, Elmbridge's ruling Resident Association and Liberal Democrat coalition proposed to close Elmgrove as a public hall and 'explore the opportunity for a short term lease' ahead of a redevelopment of the site.
Cllr Richardson argued for an amendment to the motion in front of the council which would commit officers to engage actively with the Walton community to invite suggestions and ideas for enabling Elmgrove Hall to reopen as the Covid restrictions allow, and to include the option of the hall being retained as a community managed facility.
She said: "I can attest that there is a lot of feeling about this and lots of very upset people. A dance school which rented the hall for 20 years, six days a week has children who are absolutely distraught that they are not going to be allowed to return to the hall. The leader of the group put together a proposal for smaller classes and one-way system that was completely rejected. They can't find alternative venues at similar rates offered by the council and therefore the group faces being put out of business."
Earlier in the meeting, the coalition leader Cllr Stuart Selleck had put forward a revised proposal for Vine Hall in his East Molesey ward, which committed to exploring the prospect of a replacement hall as part of a housing redevelopment, and engaging the public in Molesey, but he refused to give a similar undertaking for Walton.
Cllr Richardson successfully persuaded three coalition councillors to back her argument, resulting in a tie when the votes were tallied. The Mayor used her casting vote to side with Cllr Richardson and ensure that Elmgrove can reopen if a community group comes forward to take it on, and there will be public engagement.
In respect to Vine Hall in Molesey, the RA/Lib Dem Cabinet had previously voted to close this rather than spend around £200,000 removing asbestos and upgrading the building. But after Molesey's Conservative councillor Steve Bax made the proposals public on social media, and a 1,700 signature petition was raised by residents, the Coalition produced a new form of words for the Full Council meeting. It promised that a new hall would be part of any redevelopment, the 2nd Molesey Scouts (who have a hut on the Vine Hall site) would not be made homeless, and residents would be 'actively engaged' over the terms of reopening.
Cllr Bax said: “Vine Hall is part of the beating heart of our Molesey community. It’s essential that we reopen the hall so that hirers are not be forced to go elsewhere, and that any
replacement hall is suitable and not of inferior size."
The council is also seeking to transfer management of King George's Hall in Esher back to trustees and exploring the possibility of the Riverhouse Barn to manage the Cecil Hepworth Playhouse, which could move from its current location.