Third Orpington Scouts evicted from hall despite support from Kate Middleton
PUBLISHED: 09:43 09 July 2013 | UPDATED: 09:43 09 July 2013
The Third Orpington Scout Group has lost an eight-month battle to remain at its current hall despite the support of the Duchess of Cambridge.
The group held a ceremony on Saturday to bid farewell to its current hall at St Olave’s Grammar School, in advance of tomorrow’s official departure.
Scout leader Alex Birks-Agnew wrote to Kate Middleton at the end of last year, when negotiations with the school, on Goddington Lane, began to break down.
When it became clear last month that these had failed, Scout Shannon Pearson, aged nine, followed up with her own letter to the heavily pregnant Duchess.
Both letters received similar responses, stating she was “extremely sorry” to hear about the situation and sending her best wishes, but declining to become personally involved.
Shannon also worte to, and received consolatory replies from, Stephen Fry, Lorraine Kelly, the Queen and Prime Minister David Cameron. The latter referred her concerns to Schools Minister David Laws, but the intention he expressed to look into the matter has not altered the decision.
Shannon said: “I was very excited when these people wrote back to me, but sad that it didn’t work. The Scout hut means everything to me; it’s a special place.”
Mr Birks-Agnew said: “Shannon’s so sweet; the letters she’s written are amazing. [She] has been a fantastic ambassador for the Scouts and it is clear how much of an impact this eviction will have on the young people of Orpington.”
A new, more accessible, venue has been found, but £80,000 would need to be raised in the next year for these plans to come to fruition.
The Scouts have been based at St Olave’s since 1966.
Mr Birks-Agnew said: “The fear is [that the school] will sell the land to property developers for financial gain.
“An independent survey recently valued the land at £20,000. An offer of £35,000 was turned down by the school as being 3,000 per cent below any figure they would consider.
“The scout hut was built and paid for by the group; it has never been an asset of St Olave’s.”
No one at the school was available to comment.
Saturday’s ceremony was attended by MP Jo Johnson. He said: “It’s disappointing the group was not able to stay, but a new base has been found where the Scouts can continue to make such a positive impact on the community.”