Monthly Archives: June 2013

Will the birthplace of local democracy listen to public support for the Green Belt?


Campaign to Protect Rural England: Media Release

Contact: 020 7981 2819 or 07739 332 796 out of hours

For immediate release

Will the birthplace of local democracy listen to public support for the Green Belt?

The borough famous for the site where King John signed the Magna Carta has embraced the era of e-activism. Runnymede Borough Council’s first ever online petition [1] will close on Monday (1 July) and could help determine the future of Green Belt land next to the wildlife haven of Chobham Common in Surrey [2]. Almost 2,000 people – including CPRE President Andrew Motion – have signed the petition urging the council not to remove Green Belt protection from the land to allow a housing estate to be built on it.

CPRE Runnymede campaigners helped set up the petition and believe the proposed 1,500 homes will have a devastating effect on the protected species of the neighbouring nature reserve [3]. These fears were echoed by Sir Andrew Motion, who said:

‘Chobham Common is one of our finest areas of lowland heath [4] and home to some of the most endangered species in England, including the silent-flighted nightjar. If the land next to the Common is removed from the Green Belt, the risk of wrecking the nightjar’s habitat becomes very real.’

In March, Sir Andrew spoke out about the need to protect the nightingale stronghold of Lodge Hill in Kent. The former army base had been earmarked for 5,000 homes until a planning inspector reprieved the songbirds by rejecting the plans last week. [5]

CPRE Runnymede campaigners argue that the Chobham site’s rural Green Belt location makes it even more unsuitable for redevelopment. The attempt to remove the site from the Green Belt is part of a growing trend for housing proposals on these vital buffers against urban sprawl. [6]The borough’s plans also contradict a commitment given by Surrey County Council in March to do all in its power to protect the Green Belt. [7]

With signatures now approaching 2,000 – including those of historian John Julius Norwich, Kate Ashbrook of the Open Spaces Society and UKIP leader Nigel Farage – the petition will trigger a full council debate on the issue. Campaigners believe that saving this vital piece of Green Belt would be the perfect way to celebrate local democracy, just as the borough becomes the focus of global attention ahead of the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta in 2015.

Sir Andrew Motion speech to CPRE’s AGM on Thursday (27 June) concluded with a call ‘for a return to a planning system which is truly democratic’. [8] On signing the Runnymede petition last week he urged:

‘Decision-makers must listen to public opinion on the Green Belt and make sure that Chobham Common retains its rural setting, and is able to go on offering a lasting legacy of beauty, tranquillity and wildlife.’

Notes to Editors

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) fights for a better future for the English countryside. We work locally and nationally to protect, shape and enhance a beautiful, thriving countryside for everyone to value and enjoy. Our members are united in their love for England’s landscapes and rural communities, and stand up for the countryside, so it can continue to sustain, enchant and inspire future generations. Founded in 1926, President: Sir Andrew Motion, Patron: Her Majesty The Queen. http://www.cpre.org.uk

[1] http://petitions.runnymede.gov.uk/savethegreenbelt/

[2] A designated National Nature Reserve http://www.surreywildlifetrust.org/reserves/show/30

[3] These protected species include rare ground nesting birds like the Nightjar – currently on the RSPB’s ‘red list’ as an urgent priority for conservation, and the Silver-Studded Blue butterfly which is considered one of the most threatened ‘priority species’ in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. The Nightjar and Silver-Studded Blue will have their habitats devastated by the noise and pollution from the extra traffic the development will generate. The introduction of domestic cats and dogs into the area will also cause serious disruption to this finely balanced ecosystem.
[4] Sir David Attenborough recently introduced a report called The State of Nature which gave a stark warning of the fragility of our heathlands, stressing their importance to the species that add so much to the character of our countryside. http://www.rspb.org.uk/ourwork/science/stateofnature/index.aspx
[5] The planning inspector rejected the plans this week on the grounds that the social and economic benefits would not outweigh the harm to a site of national importance. As well as the nightingales, the site – recently designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest – supports six species of bat and rare insects like the shrill carder bee. The inspector also noted that despite being an ex-army site, most of Lodge Hill was not “previously developed” but rolling fields. This could have an impact on decisions in Runnymede, where the land in question is also a former defence site containing green spaces. Inspector’s letter: http://www.medway.gov.uk/pdf/Letter%20to%20Medway%20Council%2021%20June%202013.pdf
[6] In March, CPRE’s Countryside Promises, Planning Realities report found that the Green Belt has been targeted for 80,000 new homes as a result of the emphasis on ‘economic viability’ in the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework. http://www.cpre.org.uk/media-centre/latest-news-releases/item/3264-nppf-verdict-less-local-control-more-greenfield-development Sir Andrew Motion has said: ‘We are seeing Green Belt put under pressure when there are thousands of previously used urban sites that we should be much more sensible about using.’
[7] http://www.rbca.org.uk/news/conservative-surrey-county-council-confirms-strong-support-green-belt
[8] http://www.cpre.org.uk/magazine/opinion/item/3296-larkin-was-right-we-risk-destroying-england

How will Surrey County Council protect the Green Belt?


Surrey County Hall in the London Borough of Kingston, just outside Surrey.

Surrey County Hall in the London Borough of Kingston, just outside Surrey.

I just got back from today’s meeting of the Cabinet of Surrey County Council (SCC). County Hall is in the London Borough of Kingston and actually outside Surrey. Lots of people work there so it is a shame that it does not provide jobs within the county which pays for it. The peak occupancy of desks in the huge building is just 62.5%. It could save Council Tax payers’ money to move to a smaller building within Surrey, but I digress.

The reason I attended today was to watch the chairman of the Runnymede branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) ask a public question.

On 19 March 2013, SCC unanimously resolved to use its power to protect Surrey’s Green Belt. Well, Runnymede Borough Council’s draft Local Plan involves removing the entire 300-acre DERA site at Chobham Common from Green Belt status so that it can be built on with no restrictions. So if SCC is serious about using its power to protect the Green Belt, it would be interesting to see what they are prepared to do. Here is the question from the CPRE and its answer from drink-drive Councillor John Furey, the Cabinet Member for Transport, Highways (ironically) & Environment and one of council leader David Hodge’s cronies since he helped him seize power:

CPRE's question and answer

In the written answer Tory drink-drive Cllr Furey does not say that SCC will do anything. He tries to pass all responsibility to cash-strapped Runnymede Borough Council, who would gain financially by building on the Green Belt. Luckily, public questioners are allowed to ask a supplementary question. By pressing again for an answer, Andrew Telford extracted a committment from drink-drive Cllr Furey that SCC would comment further to RBC during the consultation. This shows that it is worthwhile questioning councillors, even convicted drink-drivers, to ensure that they do what they said they will.

A large group of concerned campaigners, including me, have been working on saving the Green Belt at Chobham Common. I expect further action on this in the near future.

 

What a tangled briar we weave


Community buildings are really important. Wherever you live, residents need some communal spaces for joint activities. Whether it’s keep-fit classes, dog training, brownies, scouts, football or cricket, without a facility for these activities nearby neighbourhoods would be unsustainable.

Plan of Briars Centre, Lightwater. Click to enlarge.

Plan of Briars Centre, Lightwater. Click to enlarge.

The Lightwater West ward of Windlesham Parish has a community building (and grounds) called the Briars Centre. Such facilities cost money to run and it is unreasonable to expect them to be totally self-funding. The money must be raised from somewhere: fundraising events, charges to users or local councils. Since local councils can be expected to provide at least some funding, it is reasonable that they scrutinise where the money goes and what happens to it.

Letter obtained under FOI Act. Click to enlarge.

Letter obtained under FOI Act. Click to enlarge.

I attended a meeting of Windlesham Parish Council last November when funding for the Briars Centre was considered.

Letter from SHBC to WPC. Click to enlarge.

Letter from SHBC to WPC. Click to enlarge.

I listened carefully to the discussion and took notes. Some factual claims were made which were strongly contested and there was vagueness in much of the debate. I reported my impartial account of the meeting on a sadly now defunct local blog and was immediately attacked for being negative.

Disappointingly, the Briars Centre was caught up in Tory Party propaganda because the chairman of its management committee decided to stand as the Conservative Party candidate against me in a parish by-election on 6 December 2012. I forced the election to happen by collecting signatures when a previous Tory councillor resigned for ‘personal reasons’.

Since the Parish Council did not have undisputed facts available to base their funding decision on, I submitted a Freedom of Information request to Surrey Heath Borough Council on 10 December 2012 to attempt to clear up the confusion. Authorities have to answer such requests in 20 working days. SHBC took 6 months and 4 days to answer mine. I don’t believe that the officers of SHBC are incompetent and they didn’t forget about it because I reminded them several times. I think this information was potentially embarrassing and by delaying it any allegation of electoral malpractice against anyone would fade into history.

I’ll provide links to the relevant material but the main point is that Windlesham Parish Council was misled on two points:

1. They were told the lease between SHBC (who own the property) and the Briars

An extract from the lease obtained under FOI. Click to enlarge.

An extract from the lease obtained under FOI. Click to enlarge.

Centre Community Association was about to expire. In reality the 7-year lease had 4 and a half years remaining. It expires on 12 April 2017. It was presented to WPC that SHBC was being intransigent by not agreeing to extend the lease at that point. In reality SHBC were being a very sympathetic landlord, giving a £13,000 reduction in annual to rent to just £300pa and spending thousands of pounds per year on the building themselves. Recently they have given a further grant of £11,353 to the management committee.

2. WPC was told that the tenants were in compliance with the maintenance requirements of the lease. Documents from SHBC show they were not.

Official Windlesham Parish Council minutes dispute SHBC's claim about tenant's obligations.

Official Windlesham Parish Council minutes dispute SHBC’s claim about tenant’s obligations.

Windlesham Parish Council spend public money and it seems the decisions on what to spend it on are based on hearsay and what people wish was true. Obviously it would have influenced the imminent by-election if this information had emerged earlier.

Community buildings cost money to build and maintain. I don’t think the Briars Centre is overly-subsidised. I don’t think it is badly-run (although I did have to report the graffiti and state of the play area myself to get it sorted). However, organisations which receive public money should apply for it truthfully. That clearly didn’t happen in this case and it influenced a local election in the process.

Surrey Heath doctors’ group AGM 20 June


I went along to the AGM of Surrey Heath Clinical Commissioning Group this evening. It was a very interesting evening and the two and a half hours passed very quickly.

CCGs are the new groups that GPs are required to form to commission health services for their patients. This means that they will decide which providers to refer people to. For example, SHCCG commissions Frimley Park Hospital to provide many services for them.

For me, this new system is controversial for two reasons. Firstly, when the NHS is being squeezed financially and having greater demands placed on it, it is not the right time for a major top-down reorganisation. Secondly, the ‘any willing provider’ clause in the new Health and Social Care Act worries me. It means that dodgy unethical companies can tender and be considered for contracts where they will replace the public NHS.

Anyway, we are where we are and within the new system patients and the public do have a voice so it was good to hear people using it tonight. I had my say too. Some important background is here.

There were about 40 people there and I recognised about a quarter of them. The CCG chairman, Sir Edward Crew, welcomed us. I know Sir Edward is a former police officer and was Chief Constable of Surrey Police. I had a chat with him afterwards. I also know he objected to the Watchetts garden-grabbing (like I did) and he nominated a UKIP candidate in the elections in May (I didn’t do that), but we didn’t discuss these subjects.

The Chief Officer, Dr Andy Brooks, the Director of Quality and Nursing, Alison Huggett, and the Director of Operations, Nicola Airey, gave presentations on the CCG’s vision, the local health profile and the commissioning cycle. Many of the officers seem to have changed since I attended last year’s meeting.

The CCG has an annual budget of £108million and provides many of the healthcare services for a population of 90,000. It is the second smallest CCG in England. £60.2million gets spent on ‘acute care’ i.e. Frimley Park Hospital. £12million goes on prescribed medicines. £2.8million is spent on ambulance services. Some of the budget is already out-sourced to private companies and it seems likely (to me) that they will feel it necessary to commission more private companies as the financial squeeze intensifies.

Surrey Heath is a wealthy area and life expectancy is around the highest in the country. However, there are geographical areas within it and groups of people where health outcomes, as they are called, are well below the rest. It was really good to see that the consensus of the meeting was that these areas and groups should be targeted and prioritised for support. Specifically, Old Dean, St Michaels and Ash Wharf wards and traveller and BAME communities were favoured for investment in preventative measures.

The Health and Social Care Act requires CCGs to involve patients so this was mentioned frequently during the presentations. The attendees were all engaged, informed and fluent. The feedback throughout from the audience was of a very high quality. If the CCG is really interested in public opinion then they have plenty to work with. However, we were a self-selecting group. I hate to say it but we were uniformly middle class and brought our own agendas with us. That is inevitable and probably led to the high quality of the contributions. It would have been nice to have ordinary members of the public there too.

After the presentations we split into 5 groups to answer questions about how the CCG should proceed. My table had to consider how we could encourage people to take more responsibility for their own health, particularly regarding smoking, drinking, obesity and fitness. We came up with lots of practical ideas. I was our group’s spokesperson at the end.

When each of the groups reported on their discussions, there was quite a lot in common. We favoured supporting disadvantaged groups in society and there was approval for joint commissioning by both health and social care authorities. I was pleased to hear about the CCG’s plans to support carers more.

Before the end there was a short question and answer session. My written question was first up:

Has the CCG considered the petition and request for changes to the constitution delivered to the Chief Officer on 11 Feb by members of 38 Degrees, the online campaigning community? This petition was signed by hundreds of your patients and calls for legally water-tight changes to your constitution to ensure propriety, transparency and that only ethical providers are used.

Dr Brooks read out the following answer:

Thank you for forwarding the document detailing those amendments 38 Degrees would wish to see made to the Surrey Heath Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) Constitution. As I am sure you and your fellow members locally are aware, the Constitution was a requirement of the Authorisation process for all CCGs. It came with extensive guidance from NHS England and we like our colleague CCGs elsewhere followed that guidance.

The CCG is currently looking at an annual work programme and I will ask that a review of the Constitution is built into this work programme. My initial thoughts would be that this  would sit most comfortably with some of the work we intend to carry out around our three year strategy. This is due to take place from October. I would like to propose therefore that  in the first instance I  and my Governing Body colleagues review the changes suggested by your organisation, with a view to a response report going to the Governing Body in the autumn.

This answer has good news and bad news. The good news is that the CCG is considering our request seriously. Since the request is reasonable and in accord with their vision, we can be optimistic. The bad news is that this is obviously not a priority for them since it has taken so long.

Overall, I found the meeting very useful. There will be many more of them and it’s really important that as many people as possible attend and tell the CCG how we want them to spend our money and look after our health. Yes, the Health and Social Care Act is designed to destroy the NHS as we know it but if we keep away from events like this we will be leaving the NHS to its fate.

CCG Leaflet p1

CCG Leaflet p2

 

Strange times for Bagshot Library


Tonight I attended a public meeting about the future of Bagshot Library. Here is the well-hidden announcement of the meeting. I saw a fleeting reference to a meeting about Bagshot Library in some Windlesham Parish Council (WPC) minutes weeks ago but my enquiries drew a blank until I googled it up eventually. This was the first thing I didn’t understand: why call a public meeting and not publicise it?

The background to this issue is important, so if you are not familiar with it please read this first.

The meeting was chaired by new county councillor Mike Goodman. Two senior Surrey County Council (SCC) officers were there: Peter Milton and Rose Wilson. In the audience were other officers from SCC and WPC. There were about 25-30 people there in total. I recognised about half of them. There were community activists from Bagshot, parish and borough councillors and some members of the public. So far so good, although I don’t know why my stalker, Tory councillor for Mytchett and Deepcut, Paul Deach was there. He plodded about the room pointing his pistol-shaped microphone in people’s faces. He does this sort of thing during council meetings too. I think having a dressed-down troll getting in everyone’s way does not help. I know he needs to make a living and the income he gets from his Tory propaganda website (which publishes abuse about me) is probably useful, but meetings should have a certain decorum.

The meeting started with a long introduction by Cllr Goodman. It was obvious that the audience contained people with different levels of awareness about the Community Partnered Library (CPL) scheme and varying degrees of support or opposition to it. A ten minute speech extolling the virtues of the CPL policy in a very one-sided way seemed to serve to wind up those opposed to it and confuse those with little knowledge of it. This, along with the first couple of answers from officers to written questions, appeared to be very defensive. I thought the general mood of the audience was ready to be persuaded, but in need of information and reassurance. The impression we got was that there was something to hide or that was going to be inflicted on us.

Peter Milton said, “Surrey County Council has made a decision.” referring to the CPL policy. Fair enough. I knew that, but did everyone? He said, “The objective is to keep Bagshot Library open.” OK, I’ll believe that for the time being, for the purposes of this discussion. I still didn’t know why we were having this meeting, however. Were they consulting us? Didn’t feel like it. Were they informing us? Not so far.

I asked if there was any way paid staff could be retained and whether they agreed that libraries need librarians. I hoped they would use this opportunity to explain the CPL model to the audience because I thought many didn’t understand how fundamental it is. Actually, I got an interesting answer I didn’t expect instead. It is possible for paid staff to be retained, Warlingham Library have done this by getting their parish council to fund it. Bagshot staff costs are about £12,000 pa so this could easily be done by Windlesham Parish Council.

The chair was keeping a very tight rein on questions and supplementary questions, which eventually proved counter-productive. The dam of discontent broke when representatives of the Friends of Bagshot Library took over the floor to make their case. They already have 45 volunteers on their books (who already help at the library) and SCC haven’t taken up their offer to take over the library. This was not adequately defended by the officers and the tension between the groups was obvious. It seems inevitable that this would blow up during the meeting and explained the previous defensiveness. So why were we there? Couldn’t they have discussed and negotiated between themselves? Even now, I don’t understand.

I then asked about how vulnerable groups will be catered for. This was the crux of the judicial review which SCC lost to SLAM. The answer was that SCC will provide initial and recurrent training to volunteers and some training would be ‘cascaded’. Of course, this expense would not be necessary if paid staff were retained.

Lightwater Library was mentioned too. It is on the second list of libraries to be targeted, along with nearby Frimley Green and Ash Libraries. I use both Bagshot and Lightwater Libraries. Lightwater’s building is much nicer and they have the same librarian, rather than a rotating one, and no self-service machine. The self-service machines are awful. They are more complicated and less intuitive than Airbuses. Someone asked about what happens when they break, the self-service machines not Airbuses. Good question.

So what was it all about? Have SCC decided to form a new steering group and cut the Friends of Bagshot Library out of the equation? Has a “decision been taken” to close Bagshot Library and this was intended to soften us up? Did they hope we would all sign up as volunteers there and then? Did they hope to persuade and inspire us about the future of the library? Perhaps they did. Perhaps they’re not used to persuading or inspiring people. To be fair, they don’t have to do it very much. This is a safe Tory area and they don’t need to try to talk people round to their point of view very often. Maybe that is why it wasn’t effective, I didn’t even realise I was being wooed.

Maybe I’m being too cynical. The stated aim was to find a way forward for Bagshot Library. I found one: since SCC have “taken a decision” to stop running the library, the parish council should take it over. The Friends of Bagshot Library should run it. WPC should provide funding for paid staff and recoup the money from SCC in lieu of the reduced training costs. The volunteers should work alongside paid staff and also fundraise to improve the building and offer more services. This would take leadership and commitment to achieve. People would have to be persuaded and inspired. If this plan is chosen, I will be fully available to provide any help I can to get it working.

Would I volunteer in a library without paid staff? No. I would never work for free so that a paid worker can be done out of their job. The CPL plan is ideological and I have my ideological limits too.

It was a strange evening and I’ll readily admit I’m not sure that my analysis is correct. If anyone has any other theories, particularly if you were there, please post them below.

 

Residents Defeat Garden-Grabbers. Yet Again.


Last week, residents in the Watchetts area of Camberley defeated opportunistMap garden-grabbers. The appeal by the developer against the rejection of their planning application was dismissed by the Planning Inspectorate. This is the third time, so far, that the same developer has attempted to get permission to build houses in the gardens of 30 and 32 Kingsley Avenue.

The local neighbours deserve huge credit for fending them off successfully. Over 400 residents have objected to the applications and they have researched and educated themselves about planning regulations. This effort has successfully overcome powerful financial and political interests. I was involved to a small extent in objecting to the previous application.

The developer is Mr Craig Killoran of Beaulieu Homes. His agent Mrs Rebecca Lord was extremely unprofessional by personally attacking the integrity of the residents. This leaves a very poor impression of a business prepared to act this way to achieve their opportunistic and destructive objective.

Even more disappointingly, one of the two £1million properties is owned by a Windlesham Tory borough and parish councillor, Cllr Liane Gibson. Cllr Gibson’s husband is also a senior Surrey Heath Tory so it seems she was selected for the Windlesham positions because it is a safe Tory ward (only so far!) despite living on the other side of Camberley.

Here is a section of Liane Gibson’s election leaflet from 2011:

Cllr Liane Gibson promised to help residents oppose garden-grabbing. Instead, she did the opposite.

Cllr Liane Gibson promised to help residents oppose garden-grabbing. Instead, she did the opposite.

When Liane Gibson stood for election in 2011, she pledged to help residents deal with garden-grabbing. Instead, she has done the opposite.

Windlesham Parish Council has struggled to represent local people properly. Perhaps having councillors from way outside the parish is part of the problem. I was concerned that by handing out parish councillor positions to reward loyalty, the local Conservative Party may have breached the rules on how close parish councillors have to live to the parish. I contacted the Electoral Commission to check if Cllr Gibson was ‘continuously qualified’ as all parish councillors have to be. They told me that if I believed a crime had been committed I should contact the police. I know Surrey Police are busy arresting other Tory councillors for drink-driving, shotgun offences and animal offences so I haven’t brought this to their attention yet.

Letter Michael Gove sent to me defending Cllr Gibson. Click to enlarge.

Letter Michael Gove sent to me defending Cllr Gibson. Click to enlarge.

Our MP, Michael Gove defended Liane Gibson two years ago by saying that she just wanted to move house. She still hasn’t. They seem to be hanging on to get the maximum price for their house once the planning permission is granted.

Garden-grabbing in low density residential areas causes unplanned changes to the character of towns. The wildlife such as badgers and newts endangered by this application would be a thing of the past. Cllr Gibson’s neighbours needed someone to help them fight this threat to their neighbourhood. Instead they discovered she was happy to pocket the money, despite pledging not to.

The Watchetts residents have won inspiring victories. This has brought neighbours closer together and hopefully will stand them in good stead to defeat any further threats to their area, however powerful the interests involved.

Update from Windlesham Society committee meeting 10 June


Last night was the bi-monthly meeting of the Windlesham Society committee. There were about 12 of us there, as usual. Lots of interesting topics were discussed in this open forum. Here are a few which particularly grabbed my attention:

Last Month’s Election

Since two of us were candidates in the election, it had been mentioned in passing at previous meetings. I congratulated Mike Goodman on being elected and wished him luck in his term in office.

Windlesham Fête

We had a stall at the Windlesham Fête. Despite its unfortunate positioning beside the Tory Party stand (!), we did have lots of people joining up as members or buying raffle tickets. We raised some money, but more importantly raised awareness and listened to people’s concerns. About 300 households have signed up as members so far.

My Planning Updates

I’m the Society’s planning officer and there were quite a few updates since the last meeting I attended (I missed the April one). We talked about some planning applications which had come before SHBC Planning Committee:

The Windlesham Vets application was strongly supported by many on the committee.

The ‘publicly accessible parkland’ application near Snows Ride was rejected. We didn’t really have a consensus about this one, nobody felt particularly strongly. I attended SHBC when this was being discussed with an open mind. By the end of the debate I felt it would be an asset to the village but many nearby residents were against it. Anyway, I’m not a councillor so it wasn’t my decision, but I would have voted in favour.

We talked about the Site Allocations exhibition in April. I think it showed that there is an appetite for events where people can meet council officials and ask questions. I approve of more openness (which is probably why I’m writing this!). It turns out many houses didn’t receive the leaflet promoting the exhibitions. I live in a relatively dense area of Windlesham so I received one but many of my fellow committee members live in, ahem, less dense areas, so missed out.

The DERA site is always a subject of great interest at these meetings. A reminder of the petition on the RBC website to stop it being removed from Green Belt will be sent out to members soon. The closing date is 1 July. If we get to 1,500 signatures, this should be debated at Runnymede Borough Council on 18 July. The committee has voted to allow me to speak at the public examination of the RBC Local Plan next January.

My article in the May 2012 Windlesham Magazine. Click to enlarge.

My article in the May 2012 Windlesham Magazine. Click to enlarge.

There was a general discussion about how local people could have a say in shaping their community. I wrote an article about this for the Windlesham Magazine in May 2012. It had been on the Society’s website but was removed to prevent it influencing the election. Oh well, c’est la guerre.

I like what the West End Village Society have been doing with their Village Design Statement, which could be the way ahead for us. Chobham Parish Council are working on a Neighbourhood Plan which, if achieved, would be a very powerful way for people to participate in planning. NPs have to be driven by a parish or town council if there is one. Windlesham Parish Council would struggle to achieve this, for a number of reasons. Also, there is a ‘strong presumption’ that the NP would cover the entire parish area, ie including Bagshot and Lightwater. I think this could make it unwieldy and even less likely to be achieved. In the meantime, I would like to make representations on individual planning applications on behalf of the Society but only if we are unanimous on whether to object to or support them.

M3 Managed Motorway

We are still trying to work out why the public exhibitions were postponed. It was suggested that the Highways Agency haven’t completed a survey of the surface of the road yet which could completely change the plan depending on its results. I’ve written to the senior project manager but haven’t had a reply yet.

Membership

There are now, or shortly will be, five locations in the village where people can join or donate to the Windlesham Society: Ashleigh Martin’s Hair Salon, Windlesham Village Vets, Hillview Newsagents, the Post Office and the Half Moon.

We talked about what the membership fee should be. At the moment, it’s just £1 per household. I like this because there is little admin involved in collecting it and everyone can afford it. However, there are certain costs to cover, such as insurance, so it might be necessary to raise funds. We will discuss this further next time.

The Society has its own website, facebook page and twitter.

Lightwater Doctors’ Phone Number

It’s pleasing that, at long last, the Surgery have published a 01276 phone number. As usual, they have shown how not to deal with the public. Milking every penny out of their patients calling to make appointments for as long as they can will not endear them to local people. Now they need to remove their two premium numbers so that people do not ring them by mistake.

There has been significant media interest in this issue, including from national outlets. I think we need to confirm that the 01276 number works properly as a matter of priority.

Other committee members have tried to join their ‘Patients Participation Group’ and have been refused. There is a real impression that this practice act only in their own interests. I’ve already re-registered with another practice and encourage everyone who can to do the same. The Windlesham Society was re-formed last year due to the threat that this practice poses to our village. I hope we can find a way to have access to GPs in Windlesham again, from another practice of course.

Field of Remembrance

I’m the Windlesham Society’s representative on the committee of the Field of Remembrance. I updated people on their fundraising efforts, including the ‘buy a brick’ campaign where people can pledge £75 to have a brick in the new pavilion with their name and message on it. (I wonder what message I should pick for mine, any suggestions?).

I think there will be a fireworks display on the Field this autumn, which would be a great new tradition to start.

Rumours and News

There was a rumour that the dairy in the centre of Windlesham has been sold and will be redeveloped. I think this is potentially good news and could bring another service or facility to the village centre. I anticipate that whatever is proposed will meet with some objections, however.

We talked about the Windlesham Arboretum and the recent changes which have been made there. Hopefully we will be able to communicate residents’ opinions about this to those in charge.

If you live in Windlesham, feel free to get in touch with any issues you would like me to raise at the next committee meeting. In the meantime, don’t forget to join the Windlesham Society while it’s still just £1 per household.

M3 Managed Motorway Public Exhibitions Postponed!


I reported the planned public exhibitions about the M3 Managed Motorway scheme here a couple of weeks ago. Then today I received this email:

Public Exhibitions Postponed

There must have been some serious re-thinking required to justify postponing the public exhibitions. I’ll try to find out what happened and report it here.

Sophia James

Labour Councillor for Katesgrove Ward

Cranleigh Labour Party

A voice for Cranleigh in tough times

Stanwell Voice

News and views from Robert Evans - Labour County Councillor for Stanwell Moor, Stanwell and part of North Ashford

The Camberley Eye

Community news and views about Camberley

Order Of Truth

When you know how the world works, you can do something about it.

huxley06

Smile! You’re at the best WordPress.com site ever

Red Reflections

Tracey Hill's blog: Labour candidate for the Hollingdean and Stanmer ward on Brighton and Hove City Council. All views her own. Tweets more often than blogs.

No More Page 3

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an irreverent look at UK politics

manyvoices Blog

A place for any & all who care about the future of British Policing.

An alternative view in Surrey Heath

This blog intends to be a left-leaning view from inside the Chamber,

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