Dr Ben Spencer, member of Parliament for Runnymede and Weybridge, is today delighted to be able to confirm that DEFRA have given the go-ahead in principle to lease land at the Holme Farm site in Woodham to the Holme Farm Community Workshops and Gardens project.

This fantastic initiative, led tirelessly by local residents Ronnie and Christine Kendall, will provide real benefits in tackling isolation, improving mental wellbeing, protecting the local environment and provide a focal point for local activities and services, becoming a true support hub within the community. Mr Kendall has been working with local ward councillors Scott Lewis and Tom Gracey, and Dr Ben Spencer MP to make his vision for a community hub at the former Animal and Plant Health Agency satellite site a reality.

The biggest issue the project has faced is access to land, with previous efforts to secure lease for the unused land and buildings in Woodham proving unsuccessful. Thanks to the continued work of Mr Kendall, local councillors and a large team of volunteers in securing pledges of support and potential funding from multiple sources, and the ongoing support of Surrey County Council and Runnymede Borough Council among many others, the campaign for the community hub continued to gather recognition for the enormous benefits it could bring to the area. As part of the campaign, Dr Ben Spencer MP met with DEFRA minister Rebecca Pow and DEFRA officials, who recognised the potential for real community impact at the site and agreed to consider a revised business case for the project.

Confirming the decision in principle to lease the land, Rebecca Pow MP, Minister at DEFRA, today said: 

I am delighted to announce that Defra has agreed in principle to lease land to the Holme Farm Community Workshops and Gardens Project at the Holme Farm site in Woodham.  Spending time in the natural environment can reduce stress, fatigue, anxiety and depression, boost immune systems and it provides the opportunity for valuable physical activity. The proposed project will enable all these things which align absolutely with this government’s £5.77m commitment to green social prescribing projects to prevent and tackle mental ill health. The centre will be able to contribute towards the local green social prescribing offer. Local MP, Dr Ben Spencer, should be praised for championing this worthwhile project and I look forward to seeing it progress.

As part of the ongoing work at the site, DEFRA will gather data on the community and environmental impact the project has to inform future decisions on the benefit such community-led projects can have. The business case presented by the team includes proposals for a workshop, garden allotment, sensory garden, apiary, biodiversity and rewilding projects, arts and crafts, a café, and holistic therapy and exercise classes for the local community. The enthusiastic project team includes an ecologist who will ensure the site works in harmony with the local environment and wildlife.

Dr Ben Spencer MP said:

We did it! Holme Farm Community Workshops and Gardens is going to be built! I am so delighted that DEFRA have recognised the vision and hard work of Ronnie and Christine Kendall and their ever-growing team of volunteers and supporters. Approval for lease of the land and buildings is the green light for the project that we have all been working together for many months to secure, but this is just the beginning of this exciting project. There is much more to be done over the coming months and years to deliver the community impact and benefits that we know this site can have not just for residents of Woodham, but across the Runnymede and Weybridge constituency. Today is a day of celebration for Ronnie and his incredible team, and thanks must go to Rebecca Pow MP and officials at DEFRA who recognised the opportunity within this project and worked with myself to give another chance to make Ronnie’s vision a reality.

Ronnie Kendall, founder of the Holme Farm Community Workshops and Gardens project, said:

This is amazing news to receive today! Five years of hard work have led to this moment and I am overjoyed to receive confirmation from DEFRA that they have agreed in principal to lease the land to the Holme Farm Community Workshops and Gardens. The project will benefit people across Runnymede and Weybridge and further beyond in Surrey. I have to thank Runnymede Borough Council and Surrey County Council, Dr Ben Spencer MP, the minister Rebecca Pow MP and the officials at DEFRA for all their generosity and support, and, most importantly, the hundreds of volunteers who have helped and supported us over the years – too many to name. A project that hopes to deliver this kind of impact in the local community could never be achieved alone.

Cllr Scott Lewis, Surrey County Councillor for Woodham and New Haw and borough councillor for Woodham and Row Town, said:

I am immensely proud that DEFRA have supported Ronnie and Christine’s vision for the Holme Farm Community Workshops and Gardens project. Everyone associated with the project have played a part to get this agreement in place. This is a going to be a huge benefit to everyone, not just to the local area of Row Town, Woodham & New Haw but to the whole of Runnymede and Surrey. I want to also commend our MP, Dr Ben Spencer who has worked closely with us all to help get this vision realised.

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