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by Flora Windebank
The Big Society, evident in spirit during the Olympics, has spread to Merrow. Residents in Bushy Hill are being called upon to help with a refurbishment project at their local Community Centre.
The building is still in use but it has become run-down and a target for anti-social behaviour. An initiative to refurbish the Centre has been set up jointly by Surrey Police and the Bushy Hill Community Centre. It is scheduled to take place on the weekend of the 8/9 September. To celebrate the finished project, an event will be held at the Community Centre on Saturday 15th.
Work required includes re-painting inside and out as well as installing new windows and floors. Organisers are keen to get volunteer help from local residents. They are also hoping that local tradespeople, with specific expertise, will give up some of their time and skills to help the project keep costs down.
The funding the project has secured so far comes from many different sources. Some is money confiscated from criminals under ‘The Proceeds of Crime Act’ and local organisations have also been keen to help. The Eagle Radio Community Fund has pledged some money as has The Bushy Hill Steering Group Committee, who are continually fund raising.
Local businesses have also offered to provide materials such as windows and paint. SCC Cllr Graham Ellwood (Con Guildford East) is keen to support the project and has applied for a minimum of £1,000 from the Surrey County Council Allowance which will require committee approval before it is secured.
Speaking exclusively to The Guildford Dragon News, Cllr Ellwood said: “It’s a police initiative and they are doing a wonderful job. The object of the project is to make the Community Centre a more appealing place for people to go, and so strengthen the sense of community. The response from residents so far has not been as good as we would have hoped, but like all community projects it just needs a little time to get going.”
The views of the residents themselves are mixed as to how much a refurbishment would help. Local resident Mary Perry said that, ‘Although the Centre does do some good events, especially for children, I know they are desperate for more membership and a refurbishment would help that a lot, I think many people can find the outside of the building off-putting.”
Heidi Kane of Merrow Park said: “I’ve never been in there, and never really seen anyone go in or out, so I think a refurbishment would be fantastic! I would definitely help out… I think the local community would really appreciate a café there, or some toilets.”
But another local resident, who did not wish to be named, was not so positive. She said: “I have lived here all my life and feel that although there has been less anti-social behaviour this year, a refurbishment won’t really change the problems. In past years it has been very bad and there is only so much you can do to change people’s attitudes. I think what the community needs more are stricter rules on young people’s drinking and behaviour.’
Surrey Police are well aware of the issues however, and Charlie Mullard, PCSO for Bellfields, Slyfield, Merrow and Burpham was keen to stress how the refurbishments would give the centre more protection from criminal damage.
He said, “One of the ways in which we hope to prevent damage happening again, is installing new windows with toughened glass and grills to make them less easy to vandalise. However the most important way we hope to change anti-social behaviour through this project is by the young people’s involvement. If the kids work hard on the project, they will have more respect for the building, and might stop others who intend to damage it.”