1. CARAVAN INCURSION ON THE QE2 ASHTEAD RECREATION GROUND

    David Hawksworth said, at the public meeting organized on Tuesday 14 August 2018, that he had been impressed at the speed MVDC Officers had moved, starting late on Wednesday evening, to get the Notice of Direction to Leave by the following afternoon served on the Thursday morning, perform required welfare checks, and book a slot for a Court hearing on the following Monday. It was, however, not necessary to go to the Court as the Police decided to use their powers to remove the group after the deadline had been missed; this was the only instance the Police have done this in the District when groups needed to be moved on so we were particularly grateful for that intervention. He was very disappointed that the Council had been let down by the contractors engaged to clean up the human waste in particular, and he had insisted that that matter be investigated. In addition he pointed out that he understood from the St Michael’s church clerk that the family of Michael Connors were distressed that the incursion had been linked to the coming funeral. Prior to this incursion, he had already authorised MVDC to initiate a programme of works to make its parks and open spaces more secure throughout the District, and that it was regrettable that this incident had occurred before new gates etc could be obtained and installed. As an interim measure concrete blocks had now been placed at the Barnett Wood Lane entrance, and a Council vehicle across the  Woodfield Lane entrance. As this was a widespread problem in Surrey this year, a meeting between district and borough representatives and the police had been planned for next month to see what more might be done. He urged residents to contact their Independent Councillors if they had further concerns or issues to raise, and that their contact details were  on the brochure being distributed to all Ashtead addresses this month.


  2. ASHTEAD INDEPENDENTS GIVEN CABINET PORTFOLIOS IN MOLE VALLEY DISTRICT COUNCIL

    The local government elections on 3rd May 2018 resulted in a hung Council in Mole Valley. The Conservatives secured 20 seats, the Liberal Democrats 14, and the Informal Independent Group seven. This meant that the Conservatives lacked one seat to gain an overall majority. There was a similar situation in the years 2012-2014 when Councillor Chris Townsend became Leader of a mixed Administration. Other Councillors who served at that time, both Independent and Conservative, remember that Administration as the best they had ever experienced.

    After the election in May, the Independents had intense discussions with both the Liberal Democrat and Conservative Groups, during which, it was made clear that the current Conservative Leader, who appoints the Cabinet Members, would not have to stand down at least until 2020.

    In 2012, the Conservatives were 11 short –  this year they were down by a single seat. Even so, after the election, the Conservatives lacked an overall majority, and compromise was essential to avoid a minority Administration, with its possible negative impact on effective decision-making. Through challenging and strong negotiation, the Informal Independent Group has achieved the following:

    1. Three of the seven portfolio-holding positions.
    2. Inclusion of the Informal Group Leader in a new “top Executive Team” (with the Leader and Deputy Leader).
    3. Recognition that all the Informal Independent Group members could continue to vote independently.

    The Ashtead Independents have now achieved the same number of port-folio holders in the new Administration as when the Conservatives were in a much weaker position in 2012-2014.

    The Annual Meeting of Mole Valley District Council yesterday evening (22 May 2018) formally appointed the three Ashtead Independent Councillors to the new Administration. While we will be working as a part of that new Administration (now referred to as a Cabinet rather than an Executive), this novel arrangement means that the Ashtead Independent Cabinet Members will have influence, yet all Independent Members retain their right to vote in the best interests of residents, and not on party political lines. Rather than be subsumed, the Independents will contribute to decision-making while retaining their unique status.

    The three portfolio positions have responsibilities to oversee work on the Local Plan (Cllr David Harper), Environment (Cllr Patricia Wiltshire), and Well-being (Cllr David Hawksworth) – all matters of great concern to Ashtead Residents. The precise responsibilities with the last two broad areas will be determined in consultation with the Chief Executive and Leader in the next few days.

    We had pointed out that the Local Plan was of such high importance that it needed the singular attention of a Cabinet Member. We were pleased, therefore, that this was not only accepted, but that an Independent was entrusted with the task. The Local Plan will, amongst other issues, consider the type, location, and numbers of dwellings to be built in the District as well as critically evaluate any need to build on the Green Belt or other greenfield sites.

    This is an opportunity for Ashtead Independents to have a major input into not only shaping the new Local Plan, but also formulating new initiatives in relation to environmental and well-being issues. All these are critically important to all of us in Ashtead and we find this an exciting opportunity to effect change for the good in Mole Valley, and Ashtead in particular.

    Next year’s election may bring further changes, and the Administration can be reorganised every year but, whatever the outcome in May 2019, our aim is to advance the interests of Ashtead residents. The Independents had a resounding success in Village Ward this year and we hope for a repeat success there next year when we will be fighting to take the last Conservative seat out of Ashtead. Such a result would continue to strengthen policies that put residents first and keep national politics out of local government.

    Although three of your six Ashtead Independent Councillors have new responsibilities, be assured that all of them will continue, where they are able, to act on any issues brought to their attention. Being a local Councillor is a demanding and time-consuming task, but we are all aware that were elected to serve you, and to represent Residents’ interests.

     

    Cllr David L Hawksworth CBE

    Leader, Informal Independent Group and Ashtead Independents

    Councillor, Ashtead Common Ward

    23 May 2018


  3. MVDC Local Elections 2018

    The Council has moved from Conservative control to “No Overall Control” –

    41 Seats:  Conservative 20. LibDem 14. Ashtead Independents 7.

    This situation represents a major and exciting opportunity for the Ashtead Independents to play a pivotal role in running Mole Valley at a crucial time in its history – when the new Local Plan to cover the years to 2035 has to be drafted and consulted on.  We are currently unsure of the scenario that will emerge from separate discussions initiated between ourselves and the Conservative and Liberal Democrat groups this week, but provided that the Conservatives do not go for a minority government, are confident that as a minimum   Independents can expect to fill some key portfolio positions in the new Executive (the Leader of which is to be elected at the Annual Council Meeting on 22 May).

     

    District Elections: May 2018 Results

    Elections were held in 14 District Council Wards on Thursday 3 May 2018. The results are set out below.

    Ashtead Common

    Candidate Party Votes
    BRIDGEN, Marion Reswinder Conservative 244
    GILCHRIST, Caroline Labour 117
    WILTSHIRE, Patricia Ashtead Independent 836 (Elected)
    McDONALD, Steve Green Party 31
    VYVYAN-ROBINSON, Keira Rowena Liberal Democrat 172
    Rejected ballot papers 4
    Turnout 43.3%

    Ashtead Park

    Candidate Party Votes
    GILCHRIST, Susan Labour 47
    KEUN, Hector Charles Liberal Democrat 70
    MCGRATH, Susan Green Party 49
    ST JOHN, Linda Bryett Conservative 391
    STANSFIELD, Garry Andrew Graham Ashtead Independent 875 (Elected)
    Rejected ballot papers 3
    Turnout 40.8%

    Ashtead Village

    Candidate Party Votes
    ANTONELLI, Rita Liberal Democrat 141
    BARFORD, Lucy Jane Green Party 59
    REILLY, Alan Victor Ashtead Independent 1232 (Elected)
    REYNOLDS, Fiona Conservative 413
    SCOTT, Clive George Labour 115
    Rejected ballot papers 3
    Turnout 41.9%

  4. Our recent Newsletter

    We have been pleased to receive a number of favourable comments on our recent Newsletter (March 2018 edition), and we have also received some interesting comments, particularly on the subject of parking in Ashtead.  Suggestions vary from the introduction of parking meters to the expansion of Zone 6 by Network Rail. We would be happy to continue to receive such ideas and we will consider and evaluate them in the coming months.  If any seem likely to gain wide support we will press for their introduction.

    One respondent felt that we should have included a piece about the state of our roads and the number of potholes, which have of course been increased and enlarged by recent weather conditions.  Despite this omission we, and especially our County Councillor, continue to press for the road maintenance programme to be accelerated and enhanced, but sadly the response is always that the budgetary constraints are tight. The County Council does however have a duty to maintain road safety so please continue to report any potholes you encounter through the SCC telephone hotline (0300 200 1003) or website (www.surreycc.gov.uk/contact-us).  Please note that you need to have precise details of the location, size of hole and condition when you make your report.

     

     


  5. Roadworks don’t work

    Your local Councillors are aware of, and suffering as you are with, the numerous roadworks currently being undertaken in Ashtead and have asked Surrey Highways to consider taking an overview of the current position before allowing any new works to begin, as we are already looking at sites that are due worked at, causing congestion for a scheduled 6 months and that’s before any overruns.

    Then Highways announced:

    FARM LANE (C56), ASHTEAD – TEMPORARY PROHIBITION OF TRAFFIC ORDER (NO.2) 2017

    Dear Sirs

    SURREY COUNTY COUNCIL PROPOSE TO MAKE the above mentioned Temporary Order under Section 14(1) of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, the effect of which will be to prohibit vehicles from entering or proceeding in that length of Farm Lane (C56), Ashtead that extends from its junction with Park Lane (D2628) to its junction with Paul’s Place (D2337). Vehicular traffic will be diverted via Farm Lane, Downs Lane, Headley Road, Wilmerhatch Lane, Loop Road, Woodcote Side, Dorking Road, Epsom Road and Farm Lane.

    This Temporary Traffic Order is required to enable Cascadia Water limited to carry out works to make a new sewer connection. These works are anticipated to be carried out within two weeks of the six month period of operation of the Temporary Order, which commences on 23rd October 2017. Advanced warning signs will be displayed and the temporary closure which is anticipated will be required for 24 hours each day, will only operate when the relevant traffic signs are displayed. Access for pedestrians will be maintained at all times; cyclists and equestrians will be required to dismount and follow the pedestrian walkway. Access will be maintained at all times to residences and businesses on the affected length of Farm Lane (C56) only, including access for emergency services to these properties.

     

    Though Surrey Highways has now responded to the initial request from the Ashtead Independent Councillors:

    Thank you for your emails and for this additional information regarding the impact of works in the locality which I have forwarded to our Road Closures and Streetworks Teams for their attention and to respond.

    It would seem that progress may being made.

    Further updates will be posted here.


  6. Surrey County Council Election 2017

     

    Voting Summary
    Details Number
    Seats 1
    Total votes 5082
    Electorate 11322
    Number of ballot papers issued 5094
    Number of ballot papers rejected 12
    Turnout 45%
    Share of the votes (%)
    Chris Townsend 54% Elected
    Chris Hunt 35% Not elected
    Sebastian George Bate 4% Not elected
    Susan Gilchrist 4% Not elected
    Tony Cooper 2% Not elected
    Results graph

    Well done, Chris!

     


  7. APMH Car Park

    As a result of concerns raised by residents regarding the issuing of additional car parking permits In Ashtead  we can report the following :

    Ashtead Independent Councillors Mary Cooper , Patricia Wiltshire  and Peter Stanyard  representing all three Wards met with MVDC Interim Head of Corporate services – Mr Paul Anderson .

    The purpose Of the meeting was to discuss the arrangement by MVDC to grant 60 Ashtead based car parking permits to Premium Credit.  40 permits have been granted for APMH car park usage with 20 in the Grove road car park, following  a reduction of 25 for Ashtead hospital staff.

    The permit period of cover is 13-3-17 to 31-3-18 .

    Premium Credit are sited at the Exxon site and will be bussed to site daily . The request is to accommodate an increased number of temporary contract staff, so is anticipated not to be a permanent arrangement .
    Permission to grant the permits was not discussed with local Ward Members as the permits do not constitute a contractual binding arrangement to Council, as they may be withdrawn at any time . However, it was acknowledged as a matter of courtesy in future local Members would be informed .

    Prior to the meeting Councillor Stanyard audited APMH car park and discovered only 9 parked cars displaying the permit pass – approximately 25% usage rate . However, we will be keeping a close eye on the usage figures over the next few weeks with MVDC staff additionally reviewing the sites at our request .

    As a result of the meeting the following actions have been agreed :

    1. Premium credit have been informed of our concerns and have been asked to preferentially use the long term park area at back of the APMH  to allow residents front end spaces .

    2. We will be requesting a strategy car parking review is undertaken in Ashtead particularly so we can understand the collective impact on car parking in the area prior to the opening of the new M&S store:   we will agree the scope of the review with MVDC .

    3. Discussion will be undertaken with M&S management to understand their expectation of car movement within the car parks .

    4. MVDC will monitor car parks over next few weeks to identify whether the arrangement is causing any major concerns, and should that be the case, we can withdraw permits .

    5. We will be asking Premium Credit to re-examine their on-site parking to see  if they  can make arrangements to  accommodate the extra staff on current site grounds .

    We will keep you informed of our progress .

    Should you find difficulty in locating a space at the car parks, could you please inform MVDC and copy your Ward Councillor – contact details  are located on the MVDC website http://www.molevalley.gov.uk/
    Ashtead Independent website  http://ashteadindependents.org/ 


  8. Ashtead Independents – Budget voting preferences

    Ashtead Independent Councillors are independent of other parties and of each other.  This puts a responsibility on your individual Councillor to THINK about what’s best for Ashtead or Mole Valley or their ward. Some Councillors that are subject to a party whip think this is a bad thing.  But all Lib Dems voted against the budget and all Conservative voted for – how many of them actually think?  Independent Councillors believe that politics should be taken out of managing Local Government but some current SCC candidates believe Councillors should blindly follow a hierarchy that can and does force Councillors to vote ‘out of touch’ with their ward.

    For instance, the current Chair of the Development Control Committee at Mole Valley will support a spatial strategy that causes development to be directed to Ashtead, because the majority Conservative administration is elected mainly from the countryside wards.

    Mole Valley District Council (MVDC) Conservatives (including the member for Ashtead) vote for subsidies for Dorking Halls to the tune of £100,000 per year. Over the last 10 years, they’ve had about £2M pounds of MVDC ratepayers’ money.  But there’s been no policy for spreading that support for the arts around the district (including Ashtead).  That’s particularly ‘out of touch’ with Ashtead.

     

    Here are some notes for the THINKING behind Independent Councillors voting on the budget.

    First, the current administration can hardly criticise those Ashtead Independent Councillors that supported their view, so we’ve no need to explain their position.  A well thought out budget was presented and the figures added up.  The administration had spent a long time preparing this budget, and if those Independent Councillors had no burning reason to object, it’s good to appreciate and recognise hard work.

    By the same token, if all the Ashtead Independents (AI’s) had voted against, it would not have defeated the Conservative majority, so there was no political opportunity missed.  We had discussed it before hand, and everyone made their own mind up.

    Cllr Hawksworth abstained from voting on the budget as the basis of various items was unclear or had not been justified in appropriate detail.  In addition to the major problem of reliance on future investment income, that may well not materialise, as pointed out by Cllr Harper, he was also especially concerned that there was no debate on whether elected Councillors should, or should not, accept the pay rise recommended by the Officers (even though that was requested by a Liberal Democrat Member).  Further, he objected to changes being made in the accompanying MVDC Corporate Strategy document which watered down the Council´s overall policy on development in the Green Belt.  He concludes that the Conservative Executive is set on pushing its own policies and wishes through without the courtesy of affording the full Council an opportunity to fully question and debate such important matters.  He would have voted against but was concerned that rejection at that Council meeting would have left insufficient time for a revised budget to be prepared and agreed before the Council Tax demands were due to be sent out.

    Cllr Harper voted against the budget and felt it was totally irresponsible to rely on a single, unguaranteed source of income, and to ignore other potential revenue stream altogether.

     

    They are relying on…

    The Conservatives budget is based upon the assumption they can borrow £50M at 0.5% fixed for 50 years from the Department of Communities and invest it in commercial property in the hope of getting a higher return.  They assume this will establish an income stream in the next 3 years that will cover the drop in new homes bonus.  Without this investment, the Council’s budget will not balance.  At last months council meeting he questioned their progress with this initiative and it was stated that, so far, no offers for investment had been accepted from any of the MVDC bids made.  They say they are ‘on-target’ but they would not answer the question ‘what is the possibility of this income source failing when there would be 100% certainty of raising revenue from rates?’ They did not answer this most pertinent question.  It seems that they will not acknowledge the feasibility of their investment strategy failing.  Furthermore, they have no contingency plan in place should they, indeed, fail to generate funds.

    By the way….  Cllr Harper thinks this is ‘State Aid’ in local government.  They ‘get around’ it by setting up a wholly owned private company.  The concept is that they loan that company money at (say) 2.9% and it covers its costs by getting 3% yield.  One Conservative Councillor outside Ashtead raised the question of creating an asset bubble – but being Conservative….. was ignored.  How is this fair compared to you and me wanting income for our pension?  They are competing with Trusts and Funds, such as Schroder etc, bidding up the cost of assets.

     

    They are ignoring…

    Cllr Harper asked at Executive how many homes MVDC need to build to retain the new homes bonus (currently £1M comes from this source per year).  In response Conservative Executive member for planning, Doug Irvine, said that, to retain the New Homes Bonus, the Conservative Government had set MVDC a target of 400 new homes each year.  Currently, Mole Valley District Council is building around 150 (less than 38% of the Government target).  By failing to meet the target, the Conservative MVDC Executive Committee is allowing this income to drop from its current level of around £1M to about £100K (out of a total income of around £10M).  Duncan Irvine stated that won’t be bribed but also confirms that these homes are critically needed for our (not so young) buyers and to meet Central Governments ‘Broken homes’ theme.  They won’t face up to the housing crisis in our community nor the difficult decision of where to build them (the Spatial Strategy).  The Conservative-run Executive Committee realises that the Government housing target cannot be accommodated by Ashtead, Bookham, Fetcham or Dorking (broadly Lib Dem for Dorking, Ashtead Independent and a minority of Conservatives).  It would appear that members of the Executive are doggedly avoiding building them in suitable places within their own electoral heartland (see Spatial Strategy – time for a change? paper).  To do so, might cause them to lose electoral seats and, thus, the small majority they have at Council.

    The consequence of not balancing the budget would be inevitable cuts in services – and greatest impact of this would be felt by the vulnerable, the poorer, and the less able rather than the more affluent and able bodied residents.  Cllr Harper was appalled to learn, in one instance, that a homeless family was re-housed outside MVDC (Horsham) because MVDC only has one family home within its borders.  The re-located family was asked to pay for transport to maintain their children’s’ attendance at their usual school.  To ensure maximum stability for them, Cllr Harper argued that MVDC should pay for a taxi to minimise disruption to the children’s daily routines.  The Conservative Executive agreed, so the request had a positive impact.  But these types of gesture will be impossible should the budget fall into deficit – the Conservative Executive will be forced to cut and minimise services rather than provide the support that some people desperately need.

     

    Cllr Pat Wiltshire joined Cllr Harper in voting against due to a collection of the reservations expressed above.

     

    TO BE CLEAR – The views of Councillors Harper, Hawksworth and Wiltshire are independent and do not represent the views of the Ashtead Independent group nor of Ashtead Residents’ Association.

     

     


  9. Mole Valley Spatial Strategy – time for a rethink?

    There’s a new Spatial Strategy in development now that forms a foundation for a new Local Plan, which will be guided by National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and South East Plans. It’s inevitable that more dwellings will be required and 90% of MVDC land is categorized Green Belt or Countryside. The result could be further intensification of construction within Ashtead if the current Spatial Strategy is maintained.

    Many Ashtead residents have accepted this as inevitable and a price worth paying to save the Green Belt. But already these planning applications have caused massive objections for reasons that include loss of gardens and green spaces (such as Parsons Mead) and concerns for local services such as schools, doctors, roads, drainage, water etc. The look, feel and not to mention the bio-diversity of Ashtead have been changing bit by bit.

    What are there alternatives? The Government- not to mention MVDC – is struggling with this. There are some articles written by the Economist for further reading such as ‘Hardly Groundbreaking’ and ‘The Green Belt Delusion’ from Feb 11-17th edition for their comments on the White Paper. But what’s your view?

    Through our own Ashtead Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP), we all see that the Green Belt has enormous benefits for us all, such as preventing urban sprawl and protecting wildlife and growing food. But this argument ignores the bio-diversity and wildlife of Ashtead gardens that are grossly under-valued compared to some of the species-poor arable fields in the countryside. And by constant in-fill, Ashtead experiences its own form of urbanisation. Its time for a re-think about the balance, and for Ashtead residents to explore all options and respond to consultation on the Spatial Strategy coming later this year.

    For information, here is a map of the district illustrating there is an area the size of Ashtead, Leatherhead, Bookham and Fetcham combined outside protected areas of Green Belt, areas of natural beauty and landscape value.
    Spatial_1

    Stations like Holmwood and Ockley close to the main A24 artery (down the line from Ashtead beyond Dorking) are part of the infrastructure laid down by far sighted planners decades ago, to spread the development around the district.

    Would a change to the Green Belt boundary within 1 mile of Holmwood Station (Beare Green current population 1,323 versus Ashtead 14,059) provide suitable sustainable development land?

    Spatial_2

    Ockley railway station is right on the southern border of the Green Belt. Land to the South of Coles Lane lies outside the Green Belt. Would appropriate development within 1 mile of this station be sensible?

    Do you think development could be considered for these or other areas – which are more or less equally suitable when compared with Ashtead? Or would you prefer that

    buildings in Ashtead increasingly become three or four floors, or intensify further on the ground?

    Spatial_3

    I’m not saying that these areas are suitable or not. But I want Ashtead residents to be cognisant of the fact that if the Spatial Strategy remains the same or similar as last time, then one result could be intensive construction in Ashtead if other alternatives are not found.

    Note:

    • Google images used under non-commercial licence and their terms and conditions.
    • These comments are by Councillor David Harper do not represent the views of MVDC nor of Ashtead Independent Group.

     

     


  10. A comment on the District Council Elections Results, 2016

    “We are delighted that all our four candidates retained the seats we fought at the recent District Council elections. We had the largest overall majority for many years and each of our candidates achieved very good personal majorities, particularly Mary Cooper in Village Ward which was especially targeted by the Conservatives after their win last year (the General Election year).

     

    The detailed results were as follows and profiles of your new Councillors appear elsewhere on this site”