Bookham’s New Youth and Community Centre: Will it finally be built?

Days since planning permission was granted:

days since planning permission was originally granted on 12th May 2021.

Residents across the Bookhams have been asking the Bookham Youth & Community Association (BYCA) and Bookhams Residents’ Association (BRA) if the planned new Youth and Community Centre is ever going to be built?

David Cox, Chairman of Bookham Youth & Community Association and Simon Edge, Chairman BRA report.

A very reasonable question considering it is 12 years since Surrey County Council (SCC) agreed to build a new Bookham Youth Centre; four years since the old Centre closed; and over 1,000 days since planning permission was originally granted on 12th May 2021.

The BYCA, and the BRA have joined forces to try and break through the unacceptable delays in getting the new Centre built. 

We have finally received assurances that the project to build the new Centre is ‘on the move’.  Both SCC and Mole Valley District Council (MVDC) have confirmed their full support to seeing the new Centre built.  This communication is to share that positive news with residents.

The Current State of Play

The BYCA and BRA lobbied SCC’s Leader to organise a “round table” meeting between his senior Councillors and Officers with their counterparts at MVDC.  The meeting was held on 23rd February 2024.  Attendees included the Leaders of SCC and MVDC, senior Councillors and Officers of each Council, our local County Councillor, and two District Councillors representing Bookham Wards.  Local community representatives from the BRA and BYCA attended having consulted with Bookham’s lead Youth Workers who are employed by the Leatherhead Youth Project.

Everyone at the meeting committed to building the new Centre next to the Bookham Colts changing facility at the Lower Road Recreation Ground. Heads of terms were reviewed at the meeting and were agreed.Both the Leaders of SCC and MVDC gave their clear backing to SCC building the new Centre and cleared the way for their Senior Councillors and Officers to get on with the project. 

There is still some way to go, but the following actions were agreed to make progress:

Joint Statement by SCC, MVDC, BYCA and BRA dated 10th May:

Delivering the new Centre

Work on the project has resumed.

Computer generated image provided by Surrey CC. This is for indicative purposes only and not the final design

Project management

The various community stakeholders have agreed SCC’s layout plans for the new single-story Centre at Lower Rd Rec. but these are yet to be shared with MVDC as the land owner and local planning authority SCC has said it will apply to MVDC for planning permission not later than November this year. The BYCA and BRA  think that is too slow and are asking SCC to accelerate that process. However, if all proceeds smoothly, and planning permission is granted without delay, the building works can then be planned and subsequently delivered.

MVDC’s Leader suggested that a joint project management group should be set up to oversee the project. The BYCA and BRA think that is a good idea and want SCC to do so.

Funding is in place

SCC’s Budget contains funding of up to £2.5m to build the new Centre. SCC’s Leader has unequivocally stated that that funding is not dependant on whatever happens to the former Youth Centre site (opposite the Anchor Pub – there will be more about the former Centre in our next communication).

The Lease

The Heads of Terms for the Lease are confirmed and agreed between SCC and MVDC. The SCC sub lease to BYCA will be based upon the lease held at the old centre.

Planning application

Due to the delays, the previously granted outline planning approval MO/2020/2103 has run out of time. SCC will submit a new planning application which will need to go through the usual MVDC planning process. We have been told that the previously granted outline planning approval remains on the planning history of the site, which will be taken into account. That is helpful, but that earlier decision cannot be taken for granted as renewable.

We will look to our local MVDC Councillors and our SCC Councillor, for their continued active support for the project, and will also call on residents for their support to help the application succeed.

What happens now?

The BYCA and BRA have had to keep pushing to generate progress to build the new Centre. It is disappointing that so much precious volunteer time has been spent doing that – time that would otherwise have been directed towards our young people.

The failure to deliver the new Youth Centre is a failure to deliver for Bookhams’ young people. That failure has been going on for far too long and is simply not acceptable. 

The BYCA and BRA will continue to lobby our Councillors and our Councils. We will use all social and other media available to us to keep the building of the new Centre in the public eye. The BYCA and BRA will continue to do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, to get the new Centre built.

We want to be in a position to be able to celebrate our Councils working together to deliver this much needed facility for the Bookham community. However, we will also hold our Councils to account for progress, until the new Centre is built, by continuing a regular dialogue with SCC which is leading the project and MVDC which is the land owner and planning authority.  The BRA and BYCA will publish quarterly updates to keep Bookham residents informed of progress, or the lack of it, as the project proceeds.


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