1. Green Lane Crossing

    The issue concerning the Green Lane Crossing over the railway has been around for a number of years now with Network Rail suggesting closing the crossing apparently due to safety concerns. I, Cllr. Chris Townsend, have had many meetings with Network Rail, Surrey Rights of Way, the ARA and local MV councillors (Cllrs. David Hawksworth and Pat Wiltshire) on this over the past few years. We have challenged Network Rail on their views on the risk factors should the crossing be closed and its impact on residents having to walk a considerable distance to get across the railway at either the bridge at the bottom of the Woodfield or actually the level crossing at the station itself. We felt there are dangers/risks in both those alternatives and had become aware that the matter had appeared to be closed.

    However it now appears that the whole situation is coming to the SCC/MVDC Local Committee in the summer of this year. We, the ARA and various residents, have substantial evidence that there is a Right of Way across the railway in Green Lane and we will provide that at the meeting. We are all totally committed to keeping that crossing open and will work with all parties to ensure we get a sensible and practical solution.

     

    Cllrs. Townsend, Hawksworth and Wiltshire


  2. Ashtead Pond

    Ashtead Pond Maintenance Agreed – Work to start in July

    Councillor Pat Wiltshire (Common Ward) has had a very productive meeting with Alex Bagnell (Head of Parks MVDC) today and he agrees with her that the pond is now a terrible mess.

    Pat has asked for the bank by Barnett Wood Lane to be dug out and all the rampant sedges, willow, and reed-mace to be removed (along with the bindweed and brambles etc). Then she has asked for a suitable base material and to re-seed the bank with a robust grass mix. Then it can be cut regularly and we should have a nice, green, grassy bank leading down to the pond.

    They are going to bring in a digger and then make sure that the bank has regular maintenance. Pat says of course, what is suggested is not the truly natural pond-side vegetation but she thinks it would be far better for everyone. At least we will be able to appreciate the pond and the ducks. She has also asked him to remove the netting from the end of the pond where people like to feed the ducks, and to make it more people/duck friendly. She also hopes to improve the vista for people sitting on the benches.

    Well done Pat for stepping up to get something done!


  3. GREENING THE DISTRICT – TREES AND HEDGES FOR ENVIRONMENTAL AND HUMAN HEALTH

    The Council revises its Council Strategy every five years and, amongst other things, in 2019 we were successful in getting the inclusion of “Protect and enhance the natural and built environment, and ensure our areas of natural beauty and wildlife are well looked-after”. Previous to that, the importance of the natural environment and wildlife had not featured. We also secured the first-ever permanent appointment of a dedicated Tree and Countryside Officer within Mole Valley District Council.

    Later, the Council declared a Climate Change Emergency, but it was only in June 2020 that the new Administration issued its Climate Change Strategy. They mentioned Surrey Council’s (SCC) aim to plant 1.2 million trees by 2030 but, apart from that, only described a potential project of “Facilitating tree planting schemes in the District, through direct MVDC activities and supporting community initiatives”.  Aiming to get action, at the Council Meeting in February 2021, we motioned that there should be plans to plant trees wherever possible on MCDC-owned land. Our Motion was not accepted, but March saw the announcement that “work started this month” to seek opportunities to plant on Council-owned land.

    Global warming led to announcements of a Climate Change Emergency at global, national, and local levels. As far back as 1988, the United Nation formed the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to make global assessments; the next assessment is due in 2022. Along with other greenhouse gases, high carbon dioxide levels correlated with global warming. Nearly all plants are important because they take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and release oxygen.

    Surrey has more trees than any other county in England (24% land cover) but it also has precious open habitats such as chalk grassland, heathland, wetland, and old field edges – with species that are important nationally and internationally. This means that great care must be taken in choosing sites for tree planting; we should consider parts of parks, recreation areas, around playing fields, and along roads. MVDC owns many sites where, as well as taking carbon from the air, trees and hedges could obscure unattractive buildings, prevent unauthorised encroachment, and mitigate noise and air pollution.

    We have been urging the planting of native species for several years, and now this is an almost routine condition placed on developers where trees and hedges are removed. Native species must have high priority because they support our native species of small mammal, fungi (including lichens), and invertebrates; many can only thrive in association with specific native plants. Hedges also trap carbon but are also marvellous reservoirs for diverse wildlife, even in the absence of trees. The older the hedge the more species-rich it will be. Some on the Downs to the south of Ashtead date from the Bronze Age, and others in Ashtead Village are remnants of ancient field boundaries going back to the Middle Ages. The importance of hedges is recognized in separate legislation from that relating to tree protection and at last, we are now seeing their importance also recognized when planning decisions are being made.

    Ashtead is lucky to have kept many Victorian and Edwardian properties with large gardens, often with mature trees and old hedges. They are so precious for keeping high species richness; they provide corridors for the movement of increasingly endangered animals such as frogs, hedgehogs, and badgers, from garden to garden. We will continue to argue for their protection in the planning process, and for Tree Protection Orders (TPOs) to be issued more proactively in the years ahead. This should prevent trees being felled by developers before planning applications are even submitted.

    There is still much to be done, but we are pleased that, after our years of agitating, at last some progress is being made towards appropriate tree planting in the District and, hopefully, MVDC will set a good example by planting on Council-owned land. This needs to be an ongoing process which will provide a legacy for future generations of which we can be proud.

     

    Cllr David L Hawksworth CBE

    Cllr Patricia Wiltshire (Vice Chairman)


  4. HOW MANY NEW HOMES CAN WE TAKE IN ASHTEAD?

    Local planning authorities must have an approved Local Plan to direct how many homes are to built and where. In the absence of a current Plan, or if there is a short-fall in the associated five-year supply figures, Planning Inspectors weight these when ruling on appeals against planning decisions. The absence of a current MVDC Local was key to Inspectors’ approving the development of new blocks of flats in Woodfield Lane in Ashtead, and on the former Royal Oak site in Leatherhead.

    A draft new Local Plan, Future Mole Valley 2018-2033, was released by the Liberal Democrat Cabinet last month. This plans for 449 new homes to be provided every year over this period. That figure is based on a Government formula required to be adopted nationally and based on a ratio of mean earnings and mean house prices in a district. The theory is that increased building reduces house prices, and so makes homes more affordable. A lower figure, 319 homes per year, had come from a Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) in 2016. Your Independent Councillors challenged that figure, as a result of which the consultants involved made clear that this was just a starting point for discussion. It seemed difficult to justify even that number with almost no homeless and modest numbers needing social housing in the district. I went on record as suggesting a figure of around 1000 over the next Local Plan period would better reflect actual local “need”.

    The new draft aims to distribute new development throughout the district, and figures based on percentages of the current population have been used to justify the proposals. I consider that philosophy fundamentally flawed, as it implies that densely populated areas will always become forever increasingly dense. The National Census figures reveal that the population of Ashtead increased by 175 % between 1851 and 1901, 423.8 % between 1901 and 1951, and another 36.9 % between 1961 and 2001; from 2001 to date it is has increased by another 24 % to about 16,750. Ashtead is therefore 69.9 % larger (three times the size) than in 1951 – and the draft proposes a 9% increase in the number of households on top the 2011 Census figures suggesting Ashtead will have around 18,000 residents by 2033 – a rise of 33.4 % (a third more) since 2001.

    This pattern of growth is unsustainable, detrimental to our quality of life, lacks the necessary supporting infrastructure, and means the loss of Green Belt designated specifically to restrict such expansions. Further, it will not address our real need for social housing while social rents continue be a percentage of the market rate. Your Independent Councillors continue to challenge the demand being placed on the district by Government, and currently await a response from the Prime Minister’s Office.

    In the meantime, I feel we should press the Liberal Democrat Cabinet to change its strategy and direct much of the demanded new development into the southern parts of the District, including greenfield outside the Green Belt.

     

    Cllr David L Hawksworth CBE

    Leader, Ashtead Independents


  5. Alley Action – A new initiative of the Ashtead Independent Councillors

    The concept of Alley Action was prompted by comments made at the Ashtead Residents’ Association 2019 AGM by Chris Townsend (Ashtead Independent County Councillor). He  explained that due to the reduction in levels of  government support to local Councils, if anything was going to be done to improve the state of the network of alleyways in Ashtead this would need to be addressed by volunteers. The alleyways are a particularly appreciated feature of the Village in providing key car-free routes between roads and are much used by school-children as well as adults, but are liable to become affected by overgrowing vegetation as well as deposition of unsightly litter.

    Ashtead Independent Village Ward Councillor Alan Reilly took this very much to heart and being desirous to give something back to society, launched Alley Action with an appeal for volunteers. The number of volunteers gradually grew, and working parties were initiated at 10 am on the first Saturday of each month and last around two hours. The number able to turn out on a particular Saturday varies, but is now generally around twelve. Work has now been carried out on several different alleys in Village and Common Wards, and Alley Action is very keen to increase the number of volunteers and to be alerted to alleys in need of particular attention.

    All bags of rubbish and garden debris collected are piled at the road end of each alley section and are collected by 9 am, generally on the following Monday morning by Mole Valley District Council.

    Chris Townsend was able to fund some high-visibility vests and distinctive baseball caps for use by the volunteers and also some advisory boards to explain what was going on from his Ashtead allowance.

    Work was suspended last Spring due to the current pandemic, but now I am pleased to advise that after a 14 month break, Alley Action will re-commence on Saturday 1 May at 10 am when more work will be done on the alley that runs from Agates Lane to Northfields by the A24; Councillors Chris Hunt and Alan Reilly will both be there!

    All [ADULTS ONLY, OR ALSO CHILDREN IF SUPERVISED?] are welcome to come and help, and we particularly need more volunteers from Park and Common Wards. If you wish to help, just turn up with your favourite secateurs, brushes, shovels, or other tools! If you bring any power tool it must only be used by you. Alley Action is not insured and volunteers all work at their own risk.

    Contact Councillor Alan Reilly on 01372 802489 or councillor.reilly@molevalley.gov.uk if you have any questions, and he will inform all those on his list of the sites to be visited on the next Alley Action Saturday.


  6. MORE CHANCES TO MEET AND QUESTION YOUR ASHTEAD INDEPENDENT CANDIDATES

    The four Ashtead Independent candidates standing on 6 May will be available for questioning in two further webinar sessions: Chris Townsend (County Council), Mary Cooper (Village Ward), David Harper (Park Ward) and David Hawksworth (Common Ward). These will be the last chances to meet them all virtually before you have to cast your votes!

     

    Thursday 29 April at 20.00

    Please click the link below to join the webinar:
    https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88087715233

    Tuesday 4 May at 20.00

    Please click the link below to join the webinar:
    https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89899653378


  7. Universal Youth Services – Ashtead Youth Club

    Following Surrey CC’s decision last year to stop providing Universal Youth Services across Surrey, I (Cllr. Chris Townsend), have been pursuing an approach to picking up that facility in Ashtead. With Mary Cooper (MVDC Cllr. for Ashtead Village ward), a SCC youth worker, a couple of interested parents and a representative from the Rotary Club, we have formed a charity – Friends of Ashtead Youth Club to potentially take over the running of the facility for Ashtead young people.

    SCC have agreed to maintain responsibility for the maintenance of the building and pay all energy costs, heating, power and lighting etc., whilst we become responsible for the Youth service. This opportunity allows us to have other organisations to use the facility (eg Kidsclub etc.) who will then fund us rather than SCC, enabling us to use such funds to enhance the Youth Service we wish to provide.

    The charity is talking to a couple of potential Youth providers to take on the responsibility, under our auspices, for the young people of Ashtead. We are currently working through the Service Level Agreement with SCC and expect to agree over the next few months. Initially we would be looking at being open for Youth work one night a week (2 sessions – one for younger children and the other for older/teenagers). As we progress, we hope to add other evenings and ultimately get back to the number of sessions we have had in the past.

    It is obviously to some extent early days in all the current negotiations, but we are confident we can take over the facility and the provision of services for Ashtead young people.

    Anyone interested in joining us in this venture, please contact either myself (chris.townsend@surreycc.gov.uk) or Mary Cooper (councillor.cooper@molevalley.gov.uk).


  8. May 2021 MVDC & Surrey County Council Elections

    In these different times we now have different ways of having an election:   the leaflets are published on a website (rater than delivered) and the hustings are now “webinars” (a Zoom-type meeting).  The Ashtead Independent Councillors standing for re-election are shown below with their respective election leaflet:

     

    Chris Townsend (County Council)

             Chris Townsend 2021 election leaflet     

    Mary Cooper (Village Ward)

            Mary Cooper 2021 election leaflet

    David Harper (Park Ward)

           David Harper 2021 election leaflet

    David Hawksworth (Common Ward)

           David Hawksworth 2021 election leaflet


  9. Blanche Douglass

    Blanche Douglass

    From a longstanding fellow Councillor:

    Blanche Douglass was an Independent Mole Valley District Councillor for the Ashtead Common ward for 25 years retiring in 2004. She was Chairman of the Council for 1999/2000 and enjoyed immensely her time as Chairman at the turn of the century. I remember her Chairman’s dinner being held in the Ashtead Peace Memorial Hall – she was a long-standing Ashtead resident and was very proud to say so – a wonderful supporter of all things Ashtead. She was currently President of the Ashtead Residents Association in which she was actively involved.

    Blanche was seen as a powerful, determined and formidable Councillor for Ashtead in her time on Mole Valley District Council and served on many of the committees of the time with distinction. Her straight-talking was always her strength and she was well respected by all councillors and officers alike.
    Blanche will be sorely missed by all who knew her – Ashtead has lost a valuable asset !!

     


  10. Changing the direction of the local plan – David Harper; Councillor Ashtead Park Ward.

    Changing the direction of the local plan  – A letter from David Harper, Councillor Ashtead Park Ward.

     

    Dear fellow residents,

    This letter starts with what I feel the Draft Local Plan misses completely, and which if challenged by sufficient numbers, may make a difference. After that, I write answers to some of the questions residents have been asking me which may be of general interest.

     

    Can the Spatial Strategy be changed?

    In my opinion there are grounds for challenging the Spatial Strategy and I’ve written to the Cabinet member for Planning Policy, asking if the Gatwick expansion is a material consideration. Gatwick announced this expansion after our spatial strategy was formulated. It’s clear more housing is needed close to Gatwick due to its expansion plans. It’s the central economic growth point in our area. The National Planning Policy Framework requires Local Plans to support National Infrastructure- which Gatwick is. Therefore, I would argue that the Spatial Strategy is out of date, and more housing is required closer to Gatwick. What’s the point of building houses in the North, when they are going to commute to Gatwick?

     

    Background to ‘Spatial Strategy’

    The Spatial Strategy was developed in 2017 following a consultation with residents. Ashtead Independents strongly objected to the interpretation of the consultation for following reasons:-

    • A large number of people voted for a new settlement but these votes were just discarded
    • The Ashtead Residents’ Association (ARA) view was recorded as one vote like any individual. Responses were received from IP addresses outside the district but these views were given equal weight to ARA!
    • We argued the conclusions did not reflect the majority view of the district and were mis-interpreted.

     

    The spatial strategy was determined by the then Conservative Administration.

    • Urban Extensions and
    • Substantial Expansion of one or more rural village.

    So whether Urban Extension sites are in Ermyn Way or Barnett Wood Lane or anywhere around the North, under this spatial strategy there are going to be Urban Extensions. The offered lands were reviewed along the following lines:

    1. Eliminate lands that were not contiguous with the Urban Area.
    2. Measure the lands ‘performance’ on the 5 reasons why Green Belt boundary exists.
      1. To check the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas
      2. To prevent neighbouring towns from merging into one another
      3. To assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment
      4. To preserve the setting and special character of historic towns
      5. To assist in urban regeneration, by encouraging the recycling of derelict and other urban land.

    And then eliminate the highest performing lands.

    1. Those sites with the lower performance against these measures were then checked for sustainability (there are 17 measures of sustainability used by all districts and boroughs in Surrey).

    These are some issues for our area (you may know of others).

    • The NHS doesn’t plan for 15 months let alone 15 years, but GP services seems much more about recruiting Doctors, than land allocation for size of facility.
    • The Ermyn Way field has noise and pollution issues.
    • Surrey Highways have invested very little emotional capital into commuter patterns for schools and offices in the immediate area, and alternative modes of transport. They have done nothing about it since the last century.
    • The congestion at Grange Road lights is severe at around 20-30 minutes wait time.
    • The construction of the cycle lane required more time allocated to pedestrians at the lights- thereby causing more vehicle congestion.
    • Surrey Highways can’t use yellow box or other congestion control measures, because they can’t use CCTV for enforcement (unlike London). This power rests with the Police and there is no current coordination. The efficiency of roads is not being optimised.
    • For structural reasons, and on the basis of recent evidence, I have very little faith in Surrey Highways actually improving conditions for commuters (personal opinion).

     

    Why use the Green Belt?

    To avoid densification of the urban areas such as Ashtead, which would see 4 or 5 or more floors of construction to avoid using green field sites. The proposed use of Green Belt amounts to 1% of all Green Belt land.

     

    Why aren’t we using Brown Field land?

    In my time as Cabinet Member for Planning Policy, I vigorously pursued making the most of Brown Field sites. Increases in brown field numbers arose from:-

    • Retaining Dorking Station in the plan.
    • Getting Leatherhead station ready to accept cars from Bull Hill into a double stacked car park and thereby freeing up capacity for more dwellings on Bull Hill.
    • Increasing density of housing on Aviva site in Dorking
    • Increasing density of housing on Exxon House site in Ashtead
    • Other questions that need answering are:-
      • Can low rise offices in Leatherhead be moved into the new Bull Hill offices and redevelop the low rise office at slightly increased height (as is prevalent at the offices in the area) for housing- which are near station/work/shops?
      • What height is necessary over Leatherhead station to make dwellings viable?
      • At the Holmwoods in Dorking, there are already 2 high-rise apartments tucked into the hills around Dorking. Increasing the number of high rise there has never been discussed or explored.

     

    If Exxon House is redeveloped, why should Ermyn Way field be developed- its not fair?

    This is an emotional argument rather than a planning argument. The arguments that carry weight at inspection or a judicial review are planning arguments arising from a spatial strategy.

     

    Conclusion

    At this stage, questioning the spatial strategy or arguing reasonably for more Brown Field construction are the planning arguments to reduce development here.

    Residents expect administrations to pursue all possible options to max out the Brown Field options, and I don’t see the Lib Dems or the Conservatives having the vision or the persistence to see these options through. I look forward to your continued support working for Ashtead to use more Brown Field sites and look into the balance of the spatial strategy.

    These are all my personal opinions and do not necessarily represent the views of all Ashtead Independents Councillors. If you’d like to discuss in any greater depth, please initially write to Councillor.Harper@molevalley.gov.uk