A New Harlington, You Decide.
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Here are some pieces regarding the positive aspects of building A New Harlington.

Why I’m voting YES in the
Parish Poll and the consultation.
  Presentation to the Public Meeting by
Tracy Grimshaw.
Why every vote matters.   The alternative to building on Gurkha Square.

Presentation to the Public Meeting by
Tracy Grimshaw.

Good evening.  I live in Byron Close, near Oakley Park, with my husband and two children. I am not speaking on behalf of Fleet Town Council, I am simply speaking as a parent who has brought their children up in Fleet and who wants future families to have the same experiences that we’ve had.

I grew up in a local town and moved to Fleet 17 years ago when my eldest child was 6 months old. I have loved bringing our children up here, and the Harlington has featured as a constant during that time. I used to bring my eldest to TumbleTots in this hall, a great way to get to know other parents when you are new to an area. We would visit the library afterwards and then stop at the café. I have friends whose children attend Len Tyler’s music classes, running 5 days a week and providing a valuable day time focus for our young families. Other people attend daytime talks run by the University of the 3rd Age. These daytime events bring our community together and bring people into our town centre, benefiting our local retailers. I feel that people often forget how many people use this facility during the day, and for many it’s the hub of their community.

As my children grew older, we went to many of the pantomimes here that were produced by the local theatre company. The appeal of these shows was that they were affordable to young families, they were cheaper than pantomimes at the big theatres in local towns, and had a lovely community feel. They were an ideal way to introduce young children to the theatre, and for young families to be able to afford to have that experience. 

Since Fleet Town Council took over the Harlington 8 years ago, I’ve seen the events here go from strength to strength. Over recent years, I’ve come here with friends to many of the comedy nights and seen lots of bands, with many nights sold out. The surrounding pubs and restaurants in our high street benefit from these events, as many people have a drink or meal before shows. Again, I’d emphasise the affordability of these shows – the cost of living is so high these days, that to be able to walk to this centre, and see a show for under £15, is fantastic value.

Since joining Fleet Rock Choir 7 years ago, I am here practicing every Wednesday evening, along with over 100 other members of our community. The Harlington is used by around 70 other clubs and societies, and all of them rely on this place to be able to hold and run affordable events. Fleet Film club and the Jazz club have attracted new people here.

Over the years, I have seen how the building has aged. I still remember the struggle of using the baby changing unit in the parent toilet along with a pushchair and desperate toddler, and I can’t imagine that experience is any more pleasant now that it was then. I can tell you that at choir every week, it’s pot luck as to whether you’ll have hot air blown over you during the heatwave, or cold air blasting out in the middle of winter.

I’m sure that if many of us had a magic wand, we would love to wave it and for a new building to appear magically in place of the current old one. But sadly we have to make some tough decisions. I really feel that refurbishing the current building would not be the best for our community; it would require all those clubs and societies to find alternative homes whilst refurbishment takes place, and families to miss out on theatre events and shows. And all that cost and upheaval just so it will hobble on a few more years.

Instead we have the chance to build a facility that many more young families can use over future years, and to build their own happy memories of Fleet community events.

I understand that Gurkha Square will lose some parking spaces, but remember that this used to be a garden, which is why the war memorial was placed there. And Fleet will still have over 1000 parking spaces across the town centre.  I think it will be a fitting tribute to turn Gurkha Square back into more of a community area, with a community centre that integrates with events that are run in the square. I have attended the Remembrance Day parade over many years, with my husband and son in the Scouting movement, and I have been a marshal on the day too. We can still keep this important event and others that take place on the square.

The new building will face onto the road, it won’t be hidden behind other buildings, and crucially it is in the centre of town. It will continue to have a synergy with the library, with library users being able to pop into the centre for a coffee or their club, as they do now. Having worked with the Buses in Fleet group to try and keep public transport links in the Fleet area, I know that the main bus routes run straight past the front of Gurkha Square, ensuring that the new centre is accessible to everyone – I’ve spoken to many residents who rely on the bus to get into Fleet as they do not have their own transport.

Having attended the planning meeting last Wednesday, I can see how much work has already been done by the planners, and any other location would have to start over again with this whole process. And the key point is that we have the opportunity now to build a centre that we can be proud of, that the whole community can use, and crucially the old building can continue to be used whilst the new one is being built. At a cost to the average band D household of just £39 per year, I feel this is a valuable way to invest in the future of Fleet families.

Fleet Town Council have provided information to the public about this development at their AGMs and have run a specific consultation asking the community for their opinions. This current consultation provides another opportunity for us to have our say. However you wish to vote, please make sure that you’ve had your say, it is easy to vote, simply complete the postal card and post back.
I know that everyone in this room wants the best for Fleet, and this is just my viewpoint, but I believe we have a fantastic opportunity to build a new Harlington in Gurkha Square and leave a great legacy for the future of our families and the whole of Fleet community.

Thank you for listening (reading).