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Residents slam Epsom Council's plans to rent out room at historic Ewell Court House
Angry residents have slammed Epsom council’s plan to rent out part of a listed building to the private sector - which they say will stop people getting married at the historic setting.
Members of the Ewell Court House Residents’ Association (RA) oppose the council’s proposal to rent out the top room of Ewell Court House, in Lakehurst Road, Ewell, for administrative use five days a week.
The house is a grade II listed building, which was completed in 1879, and is set in parkland next to a lake.
Epsom Council bought the house for £5,490 in 1935 - on the basis that it would "secure the property for the use and pleasure of the inhabitants for all time", according to Ewell Court House RA member Christine Sanderson.
She said the council’s proposal will deter people from using the house for weddings and the activities clubs which are currently held in the top room and slammed the move as a "money making decision only".
The 73-year-old said: "My fear is that when the company involved get their foot in the door, in time, the whole house will be turned into offices and the clubs and social events there will be lost forever.
"If this contract takes place there can’t be any more weddings in the same way, as the whole house is part of the wedding package which is essential for people who get married there.
"Ewell Court House has just been given a green flag for God’s sake.
"When will councillors learn that life is for living, enjoy and make the most of your surroundings and that money can be the ‘root of all evil’?"
But a council spokeswoman said the prospective hirer of the room is a charity "focused on assisting the community" and no decisions have yet been made.
She said: "The council is in negotiations to rent out one room only on the top floor which is currently empty for the majority of the time.
"The number of weddings that take place during the Monday to Friday period is relatively few and there is capacity in the unused space upstairs to offset the loss of this room.
"The other major tenants on site - the nursery and café - are both commercial operations, and Surrey County Council library have been in place for a substantial number of years.
"As there are 218 wedding venues within an 18 mile radius of Epsom, approximately 41 per cent of which are Grade I or II listed, it would not be financially viable to concentrate solely on the wedding market for Ewell Court House in the face of such heavy competition.
"The council does not intend to abandon the wedding market and believes there is space within Ewell Court House to both service our wedding clients whilst also providing the house with a steady income thereby reducing the pressure of limited funds."
Mrs Sanderson said Epsom Council proposed to sell Ewell Court House and develop flats in its place 10 years ago - a plan which was abandoned after the Ewell Court House Organisation (ECHO) was formed to campaign against the move.