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BEECHHOLME IS TO CLOSE. This familiar Banstead landmark in Firtree-road was built as long ago as 1880, and now, the owners, Wandsworth Borough Council, have decided that the children of Beechholme should be housed within the perimeter of their own borough.
There are nearly 300 children there at present and all of them come from homes in London. In fact, Beechholme has the care of youngsters from five other London Boroughs as well as Wandsworth - from Chelsea Kensington. Camden, Westminster and Hammersmith.
The actual closure of the home may not be completed until as far ahead as five years from now.
Deputy Superintendent at Beechholme. Mr C. Dicker, told our reporter that the children's commitee of Wandsworth Council have been reviewing the residential accommodation with an eye to the future.
They agreed that the accommodation at Beechholme was "Uneconomic and decided that in the fullness of time that it should not continue. They also decided that the children should ideally be provided for in their own Borough. This is a long term policy," he said.
"Not all of us agree with this decision of course, but from one point of view. I suppose the children from Wandsworth are being taken out of their environment by coming to Banstead, although the change might be good for their health."
Mr Dicker went on to say that the transfer of the children had got to be done with "Great thought". Wandsworth had got 20 new purpose-built places within the perimeter of their Borough to take care of these children. "This is all a bit disappointing for us in many ways". said Mr Dicker. "We have all had the opportunity to move from Beechholme from time to time, the staff that is, but, we have been happy here so we haven't always taken up our opportunities." It would be a big change for all the staff. However, the Wandsworth Council Children's Officer, had been very good to all of them. He had said that their positions would be reviewed sympathetically.
"We are not desperate though. I think the decision to close Beechholme is probably the right one. This place would need a great. deal of money poured into it to make it just right and up to date. Although we should hate gloom and despondency to be cast about as a result of this report. I think it is inevitable that the bulldozers will eventually come to Beechholme".
Mr E. S. Higgins children's officer at Wandsworth pointed out that the former London County Council had. as long ago as 1959, decided that Beechholme should be replaced. "This Borough" he said, "has been drawing up a blueprint for the future concerning all their children's homes. The concept behind the plan we have produced is to have the children's homes as close to the community they serve as possible. The council has decided to close Beechholme as and when accommodation can be made available for the children. Between this decision and the time of closure there must remain an enormous question mark. I have arranged to see all the staff at Beechholme. I shall tell them as much as I can. There are a lot of questions no-one can answer at the moment."
Beechholme stands on several acres of land, very valuable land at that. What of its future? Will Wandsworth Council offer it for sale to Banstead Council? So far this has not happened.