New Forest East



Southern Daily Echo – 29 June 2023

By Chris Yandell, New Forest Chief Reporter

A Hampshire MP has hit out at plans to axe an activities centre used by hundreds of Girl Guides and other youngsters. Girlguiding UK intends to sell Foxlease in Clay Hill, Lyndhurst, and four other facilities across the UK, claiming it would cost more than £20m to carry out the necessary improvements. But Julian Lewis, Conservative MP for New Forest East, has launched a scathing attack on the plans. He said:

"The proposed closure of Foxlease and other centres is a huge step backwards for a much-loved organisation which has already spent far too much money on its London offices.

"The Charity Commission would do well to investigate the fitness and competence of the people responsible for these mistakes."

Girlguiding UK has responded by issuing a statement that makes no reference to the issues raised by Sir Julian. It said:

"For over 100 years, Girlguiding has changed as the lives of girls change. Girlguiding’s board of trustees regularly reviews strategy, risk and resources, in order to focus on the organisation’s core mission for all girls and to ensure it is financially sustainable for the future. Following a comprehensive review, the board of trustees have made the recommendation to sell the five activity centres."

But supporters of Foxlease are determined to save the 65-acre centre, which celebrated its centenary last year. They are planning to form a Community Interest Company (CIC) in the hope of buying Foxlease and enabling Girl Guides, Rainbows and other local groups to continue using the site. People have taken to social media to voice their support. One person posted:

"I am sad at the prospect that Girlguiding will cease to own Foxlease. However, it is wonderful to hear that there is a plan B to protect it for the future use of Girl Guides and other young people for future generations."

Foxlease is a Georgian mansion house that was gifted to the Girl Guide movement in 1922. Girlguiding UK says Foxlease and the other centres due to close on December 31 2023 need upgrades totalling £20m, but are used by only ten per cent of its members. Earlier this month campaigners fighting plans to sell the five centres travelled to London for a weekend of action that included a 12-hour vigil and campfire songs in St James Park. An online petition against the proposed closures has been signed by more than 32,000 people.