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Community leader pledges to help rebuild fire-ravaged Ewell Court House
The chairman of the residents’ group which saved a historic mansion from development a decade ago has described this morning's massive fire as "a devastating blow".
But Don Scott, chairman of the Ewell Court House Organisation (ECHO), said he is confident that it can rise from the flames and once again become a thriving centre for the local community.
ECHO was formed at the end of 2003 to block Epsom Council’s plans to sell its leasehold in the house for residential development.
The group, which now has 300 members, developed a business plan to show how Ewell Court House, in Ewell Court Avenue, could be developed as a community facility - and it has been flourishing ever since.
Mr Scott said the Grade II-listed building is a vital lifeline for the largely elderly population in the surrounding area, providing a wide range of services.
He said: "It’s clearly devastating for the community and the council which have worked for the last 11 years to build it up as a venue.
"This year we started indoor bowls and a knitting group, we had plans for a film club and a tea dance and all those have now been put on hold.
"But ECHO has a very good relationship with Epsom and Ewell Council and I have no doubt that we will be involved in any future plans.
"We are always positive and I’m confident that we can restore it. It won’t be the same but I’m sure the community will support the venue."
Mr Scott, who was down at the house at 7am this morning, said the facilities at the house caters specifically to the area’s population.
He added: "Ewell Court is a fairly remote part of the borough. It has a very elderly population and the transport links are not wonderful so people want a local facility they can walk to.
"The team rooms are thriving because there’s nothing like it so those things need to be promoted and protected and they will.
"It is a tragedy but nobody died and we can get it back."
Epsom councillor Eber Kington, who represents Ewell Court, echoed Mr Scott’s words.
He said: "It’s devastating for the local community and those who have been building up the house as a community facility.
"Today starts the day that we go and rebuild that community centre. That means Epsom and Ewell Council, Surrey County Council, the library service and all other interested parties.
"But crucially, the residents and all those groups who are committed to seeing it survive.
"We have to work together to make sure what comes out of this is an even more vibrant centre than before."
Coun Kington said he has been in contact with the lead manager for Ewell Court library, which suffered severe water damage in the aftermath of the fire, who said it will look to provide people with access to books while the library is closed, but it’s "too early to make a judgement".
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