Matters of Moment, December 1983

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Brooklands — Another sad setback

A further blow has been struck at the hope of preserving part of Brooklands Track. The hopes of the Brooklands Society (and of Brooklands Track Ltd, the company formed to promote a museum there) have been sadly threatened by the latest developments relating to the Gallaher Group’s agreement over a planning application made to Elmbridge Council. The Council had granted Gallaher’s permission to erect a business complex on the Members’ Hill in return for a 99-year lease, at a peppercorn rent, of that part of the site they did not require, Gallaher’s to provide an access road, and to renovate the historic Paddock Clubhouse at a cost of £245,000. Elmbridge Council, not the Brooklands Society, wanted this land for the purpose of building thereon a Heritage Museum, with which the Brooklands Society would have been associated.

The snag is that Gallaher’s now say they have made a mistake, and need another 20,000 sq ft of this area, on which to put up their office buildings and erect multi-deck parking facilities. They also propose to demolish 250 yards of the Members’ banking, as Bass-Charrington destroyed the historic “flying-village” sheds on the By-fleet side some time ago. It is also understood that Gallaher’s have withdrawn earlier permission for a circuit round the Members’ Hill area, on which club events could have been staged at week-ends. When the Brooklands Society first spoke of the “40 acres” (later 35 acres) we sounded a note of caution, in case the new owners decided to expand their activities — sadly, this seems to be just what will happen…

If the historic banking no longer forms a backdrop, and if tall buildings are put up, a Brooklands-orientated museum will have no point, and the appeal to motor clubs of driving tests in the area will be greatly diminished. It is too early to know the final outcome. But this change of heart by the Gallaher Group is a very sad blow to one of Britain’s truly important historic heirlooms, at a time when many other old buildings, properties, and engineering artefacts are being enthusiastically restored and preserved.

In reporting this error, an astonishing one for a “blue-chip” company to make, you may think, a local paper emphasised the concern felt by the Brooklands Society, some of whose members have toiled hard to return parts of the Brooklands’ bankings to their former glory. It commented that the Society’s Treasurer, Ken Day, preferred not to enlarge on “the emotive issue,” as it had reached a very delicate stage, and it said Peter Roddis, Chairman of Brooklands Track Ltd, was not available for comment.

However, a few days before the vital planning meeting Mr Brian Dinsley, Chairman of the Brooklands Society, did ask members to voice their feelings to Councillor H. Cohen, Chairman of the Elmbridge Borough Council’s Planning Committee.

Nothing, it appears was resolved at this meeting, except that Gallahers were adamant over destruction to the banking, the one part as it happens on which the Council has not imposed a preservation order. Gallahers’ excuse is that, to them, the banking is unacceptable architecturally which adds insult to injury. Rumour also implies that for security reasons Gallahers may demand no public access and then where would we be? Further planning meetings are due to take place later in November but after we have closed for press. If there is any good news emanating from them, this will be published in January.

So another blow has been delivered to those keen to stop further changes at this place so redolent of motoring and aviation history. We suggest that everyone who cares should take immediate steps to suggest to Gallaher’s, in a way they might understand, that Brooklands must be spared further mutilation. Otherwise all hope will have gone this time. — W.B.

We wish our readers a happy Christmas and new year

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