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Fresh start in brilliant sunshine

September 19, 2009: So at last Bookham has its brand new scouting centre.  The modest-looking building next to Eastwick school is a triumph.  After a ceremony opened by Radio Gold DJ and local resident John Osborne (right) on Saturday, scouts now have a large assembly hall, lavishly equipped kitchens, a meeting room and plenty of space to store the tents and masses of other equipment modern scouting needs. 

 

But as Geoff Tranter, the current first Bookham explorer leader and chairman of the Bookham scout centre committee, put it, it's been "a long journey."  Bookham scouts t ook over the scout hut in Lower Road in 1914, he told a large crowd of scouts, parents and local people, "and it was old then." 

 

The Lower Road premises comprised two halls on a site surrounded by roads. The "old hall" was nearly 100 years old and the "new hall" was constructed in the 1960s. Neither provided the facilities required by modern scouting. 

 

There was no outside space available for activities and there were no toilets: "Access from dropping off and collecting children was limited and caused congestion at the beginning and end of each meeting (of which there are between one and three each afternoon/evening)," says the Bookham Scouting Centre website. The construction of the medical centre behind the site, may have been welcome for village residents, but it further increased traffic in the vicinity.

 

Church gift

The 1st and 3rd Bookham Scouts leased the old scout hut from the freeholder, the Diocese of Guildford and the parish of St Nicholas Church. The sale of the freehold, completed in January 2008 after negotiations which involved different sets of lawyers from Bookham scouts, the scout association, St Nicholas and the Diocese of Guildford, yielded £140,000 for the scouts out of the total sale value of £400,000.

Not everyone in scouting circles is convinced that giving the scouts a third of the sale value was as generous to an organisation that had been paying rent for over 90 years as it might have been. But appeals to the local community raised another £30,000, to which gift aid added another £10,000. Local associations and sponsorship by local businesses raised more, and Mole Valley and Surrey councils and grant making bodies brought the total to just under £400,000. The building itself cost £330,000.

Award of merit

"The whole of the Bookham community has been terrific in getting all this together," said Geoff Tranter, who can take much of the credit for driving the project to a successful conclusion. 

 

But Tranter gives the credit to Matt Davis, describing him as the centre's the project's designer, architect, quantity surveyor, health and safety guru, and master of planning and building regulations, and even built and designed the Bookham scouts' website. 

 

The Scout Association has made Davis an award of merit, said its county commissioner Richard Shortman, for outstanding service to scouting.  The award was signed by the chief scout, former Blue Peter presented Peter Duncan, who was there to make it. 

 

"Keep the spirit going," says Duncan

Opening the new centre, Duncan said the day represented everything that was good about scouting: "It's about trust and honesty," he said, and all those who engaged in scouting did it because they wanted to be involved in the community.  "Eventually that spirit permeates into the wider community and today is an example of that, all the people who had contributed to this building, to this spirit, to this atmosphere.  Keep the spirit going in Bookham, because what you've done here is very special and I congratulate you all."

 

He released balloons in colours representing the local scout groups and unveiled a plaque.  

The pictures:

The scout hut on Lower Road, (right) sited on what became an island surrounded by busy school and medical-centre traffic, was already old when the scouts first moved in there in 1914. 

 

Top right: Radio Gold DJ John Osborne stands before the new scouting centre to begin the opening ceremony, which took place as Bookham celebrated 100 years of scouting. 

 

 Second from top: Explorer Scout leader and project committee chairman Geoff Tranter (left), looks on as Surrey county commissioner Richard Shortman explains the role Matt Davis, third left, played in the project.  His efforts have been recognised in an award made by former chief scout Peter Duncan, right. 

 

 Third from top: Peter Duncan, former chief scout and ex Blue Peter presenter, lunges to cut the tape. 

 

Fourth from top: Peter Duncan teases the crowd before unveiling the plaque commemorating the Centre's opening. 

 

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