Denise de Fraine (Residents Association Chairman – Elmbridge Village)
In 2007, three years after Retirement Villages bought Elmbridge; the community’s residents were presented with plans for replacing the old wooden communal buildings with a new development (now known as Elmbridge Manor).
Residents wished to have some input and to influence these plans so the then Chairman was asked by Retirement Villages to form a liaison group, the village Forum, which could liaise on our concerns and help with the future plans. From 17 residents who put themselves forward five were elected.
By 2010 two alternative plans had been put to us but things were still unresolved, with the local parish council turning down Retirement Villages’ planning application.
When I became Chairman that year the whole matter was still on going. There was opposition in the village and it was obvious that an agreement was required as the communal buildings were becoming even more dilapidated. One of the first things I did was call a general meeting of the residents to put to them how things stood and what the options were, to renovate / repair the buildings or rebuild completely.
Renovating would necessitate temporary closure of some facilities and therefore our activities. Plus we, the residents as leaseholders, would be liable for the costs that were estimated as £10,000 per household. Finally, renovating would not achieve modern, up to date standards.
The second option was to rebuild with additional flats sold to cover the cost. Over 90 per cent of the residents voted in favour of this.
As Chairman of the Residents Association I was asked to join the Forum and have since chaired the meetings, which always include both Retirement Villages and someone from the construction company. Eventually, after speaking at two council meetings on behalf of the residents’ chosen option, Retirement Villages got the go ahead.
It took a while to establish a good working relationship with Retirement Villages’ personnel but this was achieved once we, the Forum, realised that our views were being taken into account. We now have an extremely good relationship with the company, which has praised us for our contributions.
The current Elmbridge Manor building and its layout is very different from that first proposed. Doors are hinged so as not to open onto other exits. The stage now has access from both sides and is ten feet deep, rather than the six feet originally planned, to accommodate the grand piano.
The Green Room now has a back entrance for entertainers to bring in their equipment, rather than having to bring it through the whole building. The shop is bigger than first proposed and we insisted on retaining a meeting room.
The library is now sufficient for all our books with narrow shelving and we have also gained a lot of storage space. We have a larger number of toilets for the ladies, who number four to each man in the village. We have also been consulted about the interior design and colour scheme, tested various types of chairs and recommended to the designer that square tables are more adaptable than round ones.
Due to the structure of the village residents have been able to put forward their concerns via their Court Representative on the Residents Committee, which thereafter forwards them to the Forum. Minutes are circulated to residents together with those of the Residents Committee and a monthly newsletter.
I believe our efforts have been rewarded and we look forward to moving into the magnificent accommodation within the next week or two.