Busy youth group demands ‘like for like’ deal if homes replace its base

Members of Chells Scout Group in Stevenage have raised a petition of 200 signatures to be submitted

Members of Chells Scout Group in Stevenage have raised a petition of 200 signatures to be submitted to the council because it has earmarked the site for 18 homes in its local plan - Credit: Archant

Members of a thriving Stevenage scout troop fear they will lose their headquarters if plans to build 18 homes on the site become a reality.

Members of Chells Scout Group in Stevenage have raised a petition of 200 signatures to be submitted

Members of Chells Scout Group in Stevenage have raised a petition of 200 signatures to be submitted to the council because it has earmarked the site for 18 homes in its local plan - Credit: Archant

The Chells group has more than 90 members, and its Drakes Drive base is buzzing every night of the week with cubs, brownies, scouts and beaver groups.

But in the draft Local Plan which sets aside sites for building homes and businesses up to 2031, Stevenage Borough Council has earmarked the site for housing.

Parents and friends of the unit fear they could lose the site, which includes a field – where scouts can camp, light fires and practice putting up tents – a car park and a scout hut.

Emily Barbet, whose 11-year-old son Aiden Stephenson is a member of the unit, said: “It would be an absolute travesty if we lost the hut.

“It is used five nights a week and usually both days at weekends.

“We’ve got a massive fenced off grass area and it’s completely safe for our children.

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“The council says it would ‘replace or justify the loss’, but this could mean we have to hire a hall in a community centre which just wouldn’t provide for our needs.

Emily’s father Neil Stephenson was a scout in his South African homeland and has helped encourage Aiden to get involved.

“Our hut gives us the chance to do proper scouting stuff such as archery and putting up tents,” said Emily.

“We’ve got a fire pit and we have great events like pancake night the other night, which was amazing.

“It gives them confidence and instils respect for their elders, and gives them so many life skills that they wouldn’t get if they weren’t scouts – especially because they live in a town.

“This is a growing town and we need new homes, but the council has to make sure if they do build here they provide us with something that’s as good as what we have already got.”

Scout leader Mike Crowley said it would be a ‘devastating loss’ but not a surprise to lose the hut, because housing plans for the site have been talked about for many years.

A borough council spokesman said: “We have policies to protect popular and well-used community facilities within the Local Plan.

“If and when this site comes forward for development, we will consider any necessary new facilities for the scouts.”

The scout group currently rents the hut from the council but has no formal lease agreement.