Friday, 22 May 2015

Ave atque Vale!

Dear Readers,
If you read the link below, you will see that Fulvius is no longer able to write "as an individual who is concerned about his town and its environs without the constraints of any organization or pressure group":
Fulvius' Last Comment.
This is, therefore, my last posting here. I shall be taking the Blog down in about a week's time.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Poors Allotments: My Challenge to the Council

Those who have read my postings on this blog and on Streetlife will not be surprised to know I was delighted to see the heading on page 7 of last Thursday's Leatherhead Adveriser: "Allotments campaigners win protection for site."
But as I read the article, I began to have misgivings. It talked about the campaign to get more protection, but it also later mentioned what would happen if MVDC decided to sell the land. So I thought I'd check out just what protection an Asset of Community Value has. Not as much as one would like: look here.
When one recalls how easily MVDC over-ruled the "protection" afforded by an Area of Great Landscape Value at Cherkley, alarm bells begin to ring.
In the recent long Streetlife conversation about Sir Paul Beresford and the Green Belt, Cllr Howard Jones wrote: "... I have thought the Poors Allotment scheme was dead in the water from my canvassing in BWL & Copthorne Road last year. It was not brought up when canvassing this year in the same area. I think the Residents also know it's dead in the water."
The following day, Popsie posted: "Perhaps if he had been in a recent briefing from MVDC officials regarding development on the allotment site he would have a different opinion. None of us who were at that briefing were left in any doubt that MVDC had not changed their plans to develop on the site but were just biding their time before pursuing their plans to sell the site for £21m."
Indeed, if the Poors Allotment scheme is "dead in the water" why is John Weller of the Leatherhead Poors Allotments Society quoted as saying: "... but the council has a few weeks to appeal and I'm sure they will"?
Later, in the Streetlife conversation, Cllr Jones posted: "I am stating on a public forum that I will oppose selling the allotments, I supported the ACV application which was decided by The Interim Head of Planning Policy. Which was a strange move if the officer led council was hellbent on selling them in conjunction with Merton College to make way for a housing development. In terms of Greenbelt it would come close to meaning that the only break between Lower Ashtead & North Leatherhead would be the M25."
I applaud his stating on a public forum that he will oppose selling the allotments. I agree also (and, indeed, have stated before) that developing the Green Belt plot currently owned by Merton College, Oxford, would mean effectively that the only break between Lower Ashtead and North Leatherhead would be the M25. The purpose of the Green Belt is to prevent urban spread and keep communities separate.
However, one remembers that in November last year, MVDC gave permission for a developer to build 76 private dwellings in the Green Belt (I know this was to help fund QEF's renovation project and I do not begrudge them the money; but at the time I expressed my opinion that it is a pity a charity has to raise funds in this way). What caused me concern is that one councillor was reported as saying this was a scrappy piece of Green Belt next to the motorway which could be put to better use. So this council has already set a precedent for allowing Green Belt next to a motorway to be developed for housing.
I challenge our new Conservative council, therefore, to say unequivocally that MVDC:
  • will not appeal against Poors allotments being designated an Asset of Community Value;
  • will not allow the Green Belt, currently owned by Merton College, next to the M25 to be developed for housing.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Why are candidates for local elections are not judged on local issues?

In the long Streetlife conversation "Green Belt under the protection of Sir Paul Beresford?", I wrote at one point "Anyway, don't worry ... this is a safe seat; I have no doubt that on the 8th May Sir Paul will still be your MP."
And of course I was correct. Indeed, Sir Paul increased his share of the vote by 3.1%; though it may be noted that the Green Party increased its share by 3.8%, and UKIP by 6.1%. However, in case we get too excited by this, let's remember that these increases (even Labour increased its share by 1.3%) are almost entirely due to the collapse in the Liberal Democrat vote which fell by 14.3%. Only UKIP increased its share significantly more than would have been expected just by the Lib. Dem. collapse (and, arguably, the Green Party's increase was marginally more than may have been expected).
While the national collapse in the Lib. Dem. vote made no difference to our parliamentary representation, it certainly did to our local representation!
During that same conversation, Hilary P wrote:
"We lost an excellent Labour local councilor for north Leatherhead, who did far more for anyone of any political allegiance than some of our local councilors who do not live in our area, simply because the Labour Government was out of favour."
To which I responded?
"I agree the loss of Cllr Heather Ward in North Leatherhead several years ago was regrettable; this was yet another piece of collateral damage of the Bush-Blair invasion of Iraq."
On that occasion we lost a long-standing, hard-working councillor for reasons that had nothing whatever to do with local politics.. Last Thursday North Leatherhead saw the loss of another long-standing, hard-working councillor. Bridget Lewis-Carr was not defeated on local issues, but fell victim to the backlash against the Liberal Democrat Party nationally. Other Lib. Dem. councillors fell for the same reason - even the Lib. Dem. leader, David Preedy, losing out to the Conservatives by only four votes.
I am not a Lib. Dem. supporter per se, and vote for the candidate, not the party, at local elections. But it does seem to me there is something wrong when candidates for local elections are not judged on local issues.
I do not, however, begrudge Santiago Mondejar his win in North Leatherhead not that of the other new Conservative councillors. It was disappointing to see Cllr Howard Jones still carrying on the smears of the "old guard's" attack on Cherkley Campaign. Let's hope Santi and the new Conservative councillors will shake up the old guard and bring about greater openness and transparency in the workings of MVDC.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

The Smear Campaign Continues

About two or three weeks ago, I was dismayed when I realized I had posted nothing since January, so I took the Blog down. However, those of you who follow Streetlife will know there is currently a long ongoing conversation titled "Green Belt under the protection of Sir Paul Beresford?" which began six days ago. The conversation has attracted very many responses and different parts of the Green Belt have come under consideration.
Three or four days back, Cllr Howard Jones, North Leatherhead Conservative, joined the conversation and, among other things, used it as another opportunity to smear the Cherkley Campaign. All the indications are that Longshot are not interested in continuing any such campaign and want to get on with constructing the golf course. It, therefore, seems odd to me that this Conservative councillor chooses not to be magnanimous in victory but to continue to smear Cherkley Campaign.
I refer to his posting of three days ago. His first paragraph is so inaccurate one hardly knows where to begin. So let us start with his "I refer to the member conduct complaint that was dismissed." This must refer to the complaints made to the Council about Cllr Rosemary Dickson who, in the view many people, had strongly supported the Longshot application and then was not only allowed to take part in the debate of the Development Control Meeting on 4th April 2012 but she actually took the lead in proposing to reject the Officers' Report which advised the Council to oppose the application. But this was nothing to do with Cherkley Campaign, nor could it have been for the simple reason that Cherkley Campaign did not exist at that time. The complaints were made by the Leatherhead Residents' Association and by certain named individuals. This is all quite clear in the report that the Standards Committee initiated on 30th April 2012.
To what extent the Report dismissed the complaints we cannot know since the Report has been kept under wraps and has not, as far as I am aware, even been referred back to the Standards Committee itself. Is the Report really so toxic that not even members of that Committee may see it? As Skylark pointed out on Streetlife, if the report completely clears Cllr Dickson, as she has claimed on several occasions, why cannot the Report be made public?
When Cllr Jones says "the fact that for some reason despite massive coverage of the Cherkley Campaign the Leatherhead Advertiser was constantly qualifying, apologising & clarifying", those of us who remember the edition of the Leatherhead Advertiser which came out after the Appeal Court ruling, with its four page wrapper whose first page looked just like the front page of the actual newspaper and gave all the appearance of massive endorsement of Longshot's development of the golf course and luxury hotel, must have pinched themselves and asked if he was being serious. The claim that the Cherkley Campaign is "clearly all over the editorial team of a small circulation local paper" is both ludicrous and completely false..
He then adds "[T]he fact that they pursued private legal actions against individuals who had the temerity to be on the other side of the argument." The Cherkley Campaign has not pursued a private legal action against any individual.
The only private legal action against an individual that I am aware of is that taken by, if I recall correctly, three of the people who had complained about the behaviour of Cllr Dickson; the action was taken because her statement issued after the Lingard Report was, in their opinion, libellous. But, once again, I repeat that this had nothing to do with the Cherkley Campaign; it was an action taken by private individuals.
Cllr Jones' second paragraph is surprising, especially in view that he is a barrister. Is it not reasonable that, if someone or some group has won a case in the courts, that person or group does not want the losing side to go to appeal? It is, apparently, quite legitimate for developers like Longshot and PR companies like Cratus Communications to lobby the Council, but it seems individuals and pressure groups are wrong to do so. That is surely a blatant example double standards.
I, with many others, was in the Council Chamber when the debate took place to decide whether the Council would appeal or not. There was no demonstration and no interruption from members of the public. There was no name calling, no insulting the other side, and certainly no indication that any councillor felt anyone had tried to limit their freedom of speech. The various councillors made their points in a civilized manner, unlike the conversation currently taking place on Streetlife.
In his third paragraph, Cllr Jones say:
1. he doesn't like people who play the man as well as the ball - obviously no fan of American football, then. But, more seriously, the Cherkley Campaign did not play the man (or woman); it played the ball and to the best of my knowledge, played it according to the rules.
2. he does not like people trying to limit their opponents freedom to criticize. Neither, Cllr Jones, do I! But it is a travesty to claim that Cherkley Campaign tried to limit the freedom speech of elected councillors. How could it have done?
3. he is "not a fan of people who were clearly all over the editorial team of a small circulation local paper." This accusation is quite false and I have drawn it to the attention of the editor of that newspaper.
I urge you, dear readers, to read carefully (and more than once) Bette Noir's posting to the Streetlife conversation. She explains with great clarity the many reasons for unquiet over the whole Cherkley business. She has also posted today a a corrective to Cllr Jones' posting; do please read it.
Finally, may I say that it affords me no pleasure whatever to be criticizing an elected councillor in this way? But, as Bette Noir, says, Cherkley Campaign and anyone else who dared to question the Council over this matter have, in the past, been denigrated by some (not all) of our councillors and our MP. It seems Cllr Jones is determined to continue to denigrate us in the same way. This seems to me very surprising behaviour with elections just four days away!

Friday, 30 January 2015

Time to cut out waste in the body politic!

Oh dear, it is almost the end of January and I haven't posted this year until now. So rather belatedly I wish you "A Happy New year!"

Politics is much in the news at the moment and will continue to be until the elections in May. We have heard much over the years from our politicians about making savings (i.e. making cuts) by cutting out waste in the National Health, Education, Police Force, Armed Forces, local government services etc., etc. Some of these have been so trimmed down over the years that there is no more "fat" to cut away without causing a deterioration in service. What we almost never hear are politicians urging the cutting out waste among themselves.

Do we really need 650 MPs in the House of Commons (11 of them representing Surrey)? Are the 845 members of the House of Lords good value for money? Do we need that number? But I will confine myself here to thinking about Surrey.

The Local Government Act 1972 swept aside previous forms of local government in England and Wales and replaced them with a two-tier system of counties (metropolitan and non-metropolitan) and districts. I was living in Wales at the time and well remember confusion as the county borough, where I lived, was transmogrified into a district in a newly created county. I recall also the arguments over where different responsibilities lay. Doubtless there are those here who recall the disappearance of the Leatherhead Urban District Council and its absorption into the Mole Valley District of the County of Surrey.

Do we really need two tiers of local government? Any attempt to get a comprehensive and coherent parking policy for Leatherhead (something I have advocated for the past two decades) is frustrated by having Surrey CC responsible for on-street parking and Mole Valley for public car parks? Is that sensible?

The 1973 Local Government (Scotland) Act similarly set up a two-tier system in Scotland of regions and districts. It is noteworthy, in my opinion, that both Wales and Scotland abolished their two-tier systems in the 1990s: Scotland replacing it by 32 unitary authorities in 1994, and Wales replacing it by 22 unitary authorities in 1996. What about England? Metropolitan counties were abolished in 1986 and during the 1990s some counties and districts were replaced by unitary authorities. But the greater part of England still has the two-tier system; Surrey is one such area.

Our County is divided into eleven districts: they are:

1 Spelthorne
2 Runnymede
3 Surrey Heath
4 Woking
5 Elmbridge
6 Guildford
7 Waverley
8 Mole Valley
9 Epsom and Ewell
10 Reigate and Banstead
11 Tandridge.
Of these all, except Mole Valley and Trandridge, have Borough status.

Do we really need eleven different sets of council officers all doing parallel jobs? Between them these districts support 492 district councillors, all no doubt drawing their allowances. Do we really need that number? Is this good value for money for the people of Surrey? On top of this, of course, we have the upper tier of Surrey County Council with all its paid officers and its 81 councillors. I know some SCC councils are also district councillors, but very many are not. We have well in excess of 500 councillors in Surrey? Are they and our 11 MPs good value for money?

In my view the two-tier system is not only inefficient, it is downright wasteful. The sooner England follows Scotland and Wales and we have unitary authorities throught Great Britain the better.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

My Christmas Wishes

I am sorry for lack of posting recently. My last posting was not exactly pleasant and it took awhile to recover from the news therein; also, of course, things do become increasingly busier at this time of the year as we prepare for Christmas and family gatherings. As it is the season of goodwill, I will not dwell on unpleasant aspects of the past year, but look ahead and, in true fairy tale tradition, make three wishes.

My First Wish
Eric Pickles has made clear protection of the Green Belt must be paramount when councils are making local plans and that it is a legitimate constraint on development. As a result the MVDC has withdrawn its current plans for Housing and Travellers Sites. I agree with Justice Haddon-Cave that our councillors (or at least a majority) have merely paid lip service to the Green Belt. My wish is that they do more than that in 2015. Let us hope they show they really understand why the Green Belt is there: i.e. to keep land permanently open in order to prevent urban sprawl.

My Second Wish
Now that the Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership has promoted "Transform Leatherhead", my wish is that this time there it will result in real, positive and beneficial change to our town centre. Let us hope that when the Masterplan Partner is appointed next February, s/he is a person of real vision and backbone. Let us hope also that the Reference Group is really independent and scrutinizes the Masterplan at all stages.

My Third Wish
This wish must be that not only does the Leatherhead Community Hospital remain open but that Leach Ward is re-instated with its fifteen beds restored and that the friendly and helpful environment which characterized this ward is restored. Let us hope also that whatever government emerges after next year's general election, it will make recruitment and retention of full time nurses a priority.

Merry Christmas to us all!

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Cherkley Campaign Receives a Double Whammy

To those who have been supporting Cherkley Campaign Ltd (CCL), there are, I regret to say, two pieces of bad news.
Firstly, the Supreme Court has not allowed CCL's appeal to the Supreme Court as it deemed not to raise any arguable point of law which is of "public interest." I give below statements issued by the Chairman of CCL and by Andy smith, Director, CPRE Surrey:


Obviously we are extremely disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision. The Supreme Court has said that the appeal is not of ‘general public importance’.  We had hoped to restore the original robust judgment of Mr Justice Haddon-Cave that Mole Valley Council’s grant of planning permission to Longshot was contrary to planning policy, and that it was irrational and unlawful.

Cherkley Campaign has at all times acted in accordance with best-quality legal advice; but the courts go their own way, and are free to disagree with one another.

We are very grateful to all our supporters. We continue to believe that the majority of the area’s residents are unhappy with this commercial development of a beautiful landscape, and we continue to think that the natural landscape was worth fighting for.


Having objected to the Cherkley development, we are dismayed by the Supreme Court’s decision not to allow Cherkley Campaign’s appeal, especially as the first legal judgment in the Cherkley case - that by Mr Justice Haddon-Cave in the Judicial Review last year - was so overwhelmingly against Mole Valley Council and Longshot, and was a systematic endorsement and justification of Cherkley Campaign and CPRE's arguments.

It is a tragedy that the environmental and planning process issues which this case raises will not be aired before the Supreme Court after the conflicting judgments in the courts below.  It is becoming clear to us that, due to the Government's 'planning reforms', the whole planning system has been subverted to advance a political agenda, which is to push economic growth at any cost and to give carte blanche to developers at the expense of the environment. The consequences of this latest judgment will be felt for many years to come and will greatly increase the risk to countryside and green spaces throughout England.

Secondly, although the judge in the Court of Appeal this morning appeared to be sympathetic to the argument that MVDC had acted illegally in relation to the environmental assessment of the planning of the golf course, he refused CCL's application on technical grounds. I give below the statement issued by CCL concerning the Landscape & Ecological Management Plan (LEMP):

CCL Press Release on LEMP case

The Court of Appeal heard this morning CCL’s application to challenge the legality of Mole Valley District Council’s decision that the planning permission conditions for Longshot’s golf course development to proceed had been satisfied.

Cherkley Campaign is disappointed by the CA's decision to refuse to allow this challenge to continue. Lord Justice Aikens appeared sympathetic to the arguability of CCL’s basic case that the Council had acted illegally in relation to environmental assessment of the planning of the golf course; but the application was refused on technical grounds.

This was a double blow for CCL, as the Supreme Court has recently refused permission for CCL to appeal the decision of the Court of Appeal (overturning the High Court’s robust judgment in CCL’s favour) in the challenge to the lawfulness of the grant of the planning permission itself.

At the Court of Appeal this morning, CCL had to break the news of the Supreme Court’s decision, which CCL had only found out about yesterday by chance, to the court as well as to a stunned MVDC and Longshot.

Kristina Kenworthy of CCL, who was in court said, 'We feel vindicated in having brought this further case because Lord Justice Aikens did appear to consider the merits of the case arguable. But we are disappointed that legal technicalities have apparently stopped the Courts from allowing a challenge to protect, in the public interest, forty acres of pristine chalk grassland in a designated Area of Great Landscape Value, part of which is also in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, to proceed.’


It is very frustrating that arguable points of law cannot be resolved in the courts for technical reasons. I am sure those who have supported the Campaign feel as gutted as I do. If, as a last gesture of support, you would like to make a donation towards our costs via the MyDonate website click here. I know it would be very much appreciated by Surrey CPRE and the directors of Cherkley Campaign Ltd.

Thank you