England at Twickenham or Playing with Politics – 27 Nov 16

photo-26-11-2016-14-25-20My favourite sport at school was rugby. “All sports are teamwork, but rugby particularly is about teamwork and I think teamwork is the essence of this.” Gordon Brown PM. I agree with him and after a busy two weeks of Local politics on Saturday I went to watch England v Argentina. We won with 14 men to make it 13 in a row  in a battering and physical performance.

photo-26-11-2016-14-29-58I took my daughter Rachel to her first match, she is at University in Twickenham, and it was a bit of a shame that the action always seemed to be at the other end and even an England supporter like me could hardly claim it was an exciting free flowing performance. I gave up trying to explain the continued scrum resets towards at the end of the first half and used to play “Hooker” in our school matches. (Glad now my Mum made me wear a scrum cap although I thought I was a bit of a cissy at the time). The match, to be honest, was a bit of a slug between the forwards so not very pretty.

It feels a bit like that at Tandridge looking back over the last two weeks I have attended four out of six of our Local Plan “drop in sessions” on our Sites consultation with different issues, very much location related. A general acceptance that house building is required to try and stop the every rising house prices and affordability gap but always good reasons not to do it in a particular area.

At a session of English District Leaders, Gavin Barwell, Minister for Housing & Planning has asked District Leaders in our Communities to make the moral case for building the homes we need. Well I am trying! He stated that building more homes is his number one priority. There will be a comprehensive white paper next month on building and planning. He made clear that Districts that ducked the tough decisions to build houses, to meet need, would find that the government would step in.

On Monday went to Crowhurst Parish Council Meeting to discuss the Local Plan and faced some hostile questioning. Clearly issues around lack of high speed broadband in our rural communities. Discussion centred on Local Plan with concerns about lack of infrastructure and green belt protection but some acceptance that we need to build affordable housing and to arrest the rising affordability gap by increasing supply.

Tuesday at Caterham for their “drop in session”, not surprisingly I discussed the flooding issues with residents.

On Wednesday evening we held one of our regular meetings between Parish Councils TDC Chief Executive, Louise Round and myself.

To set the scene we shared some of the graphs that Gavin Barwell, Minister for Housing & Planning presented to District Leaders last week covering the affordability gap between average earnings and average house prices.

One stark statistic is that 55% of thirty year olds were homeowners in 1990. That figure today has fallen nearly in half to 30%. This is due to the fact that house prices compared to average earnings has doubled in England from below 4 to nearly 8 today. Tandridge is 14!

We had a really good Q&A session on the local plan and merits of Parish Councils preparing their own neighbourhood plans. I was warmly thanked for answering their questions openly. The fact is this process is crying out for genuine open minded debate.

We had a Council meeting the previous Thursday and have posted my speech and also attended a Surrey Leaders meeting this Thursday trying to catch up on the Autumn statement on route to the venue at Epsom & Ewell. We discussed our waste management strategy, joint working and Three Southern Counties (3SC) devolution which seems to be running out of steam.

The sticking point for 3SC is the Government insistence on a Local Mayor but personally I am much more interested in the increased infrastructure investment this model could bring to Surrey & Sussex. A £6b shortfall has been identified and we could lever in additional funding if we form a top tier joint authority.

Finally up to Caterham Valley for the by-election result with the seat retained by the Lib Dem which was a disappointment for our Local Candidate Paul Shipway and his hardworking team.

Friday morning attended formal Local Committee of County Councillors which we will be joining in December to brief on the Local Plan and Community Infrastructure. I stayed on for update on Highways forecast spending budget which faces a significant cut back compared to previous years.

 

 

Still time to comment on Local Plan: Sites Consultation -25 November 16

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There are still over four weeks left for residents to comment on the Local Plan: Sites Consultation, which gives residents an opportunity to comment on sites being assessed as part of the creation of a new Local Plan. The eight week Sites Consultation started on Friday 4 November and will end on Friday 30 December.

Each site has been through a landscape, ecology and other assessments to look at whether it could be developed or not.

As a result sites have been identified which:

  • Could be realistically developed.
  • Cannot be recommended for development
  • Need more investigation before a decision can be made either way.

The Sites Consultation will include evidence which can be used to protect the Green Belt in the long term. It will:

  • Not allocate any land for development.
  • Not change the boundary of the Green Belt.

 

Drop in sessions

 There are still two drop in sessions left where planning staff will be available to talk about the consultation. These sessions are open to residents from across the district. They are not area specific.

 

Tuesday 29 November Warlingham Church Hall, 339 Limpsfield Road, Warlingham CR6 9HA 2pm -7.30pm
Wednesday 30 November Bletchingley Community Centre, 78 & 78A High Street RH 4PA 2pm -7.30pm

The Sites Consultation documents can be viewed on www.tandridge.gov.uk/localplan. Anyone can make comments by:

  • Registering online and making your comments using the consultation portal http://consult.tandridge.gov.uk/portal/.
  • By e-mail to localplan@tandridge.gov.uk.
  • By post to Planning Policy, Council Offices, 8 Station Road East, Oxted RH8 0BT

Councillor Peter Bond, Chairman of the Planning Policy Committee, said: “Thank you to everyone who has come along to one of the drop in sessions – we have talked to over a thousand people at these. We have also received a large number of comments, but there are still over four week’s left for people to have their say about the sites included in this consultation. Please take this opportunity to tell us what you think and help shape and influence the place you live, work or visit.”

 

Boulthurst Way Open Space – 22.11.16

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Why is Boulthurst Way included in the Local Plan process?

In July 2015 we identified Boulthurst Way open space had potential for development, as long as the value of the open space to the community was taken into account, together with the impact on existing infrastructure.

In October 2016, the Council’s Resources Committee, on behalf of the Council in its capacity as landowner, looked at which council owned assets should be included in the Local Plan process for consideration as part of the Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment (HELAA). Inclusion in the Local Plan process does not automatically mean the site will be developed.

Why has Boulthurst Way been selected as a site suitable for development?

We were already reviewing the site as part of an asset review to identify sites owned by the Council which have the potential to support the delivery of affordable housing, as well as make a significant contribution to the Council’s income.

Reduced government funding means we need to review our services and how they are currently delivered, as well as be innovative in finding new ways to reduce costs and generate income.

The inclusion in the Local Plan process does not mean that the sites included will be developed.

Is the plan to develop the whole open space?

No. Councillors at the Resources Committee only agreed to include the Boulthurst Way (Hurst Green) Open Space in the HEELA consultation on the condition that any future proposals would take place on only part of the land and include retention of both the playground and a significant amount of open space.

What is the “appropriation” notice in the press about?

As this piece of land is currently classified as open space, by law the Council needs to change its use to allow development.

Appropriation just means we will transfer responsibility for the land within the Council, from one department to another. Anyone who wishes to object or make representations must respond to the Council’s solicitor, Clive Moore, (cmoore@tandridge.gov.uk) by 25 November.

What plans are being drawn up?

We are currently looking at a number of options to see how the site could be developed. This involves carrying out surveys of the site to help decide which parts are suitable for development.

Whatever option we end up with, our aim is to preserve as much open space as possible, while also providing options that look at affordable housing, a discounted private rented model aimed at local people and market housing, together with keeping the play area.

As land owner we are keen to retain control over the site and are looking to balance its contribution to the community, alongside the additional housing that it could provide.

Any final plan will need to be agreed by a future Resources Committee.

Will residents be consulted about the scheme?

Yes. The Council will consult widely about any proposals before a final decision is made.

We know residents are concerned about the site and once we have plans which outline the different options we are considering, we will consult with the local community.

Once we have considered the findings of the consultation, we will submit the planning application. Whatever decisions are made, we will work hard to ensure any development brings additional benefits to the community, including more affordable housing for local people.

 

Speech to Council – Housing Need – 17 Nov 16

tan-046-copyLast Thursday I met with residents of Boulthurst Way following our decision to put an open site forward in the Local Plan. I didn’t consult with megaphone diplomacy on Social Media. I went and spoke to them.

I was asked if the 9,400 OAN was for Oxted? I was glad to correct a misconception that it was for Tandridge and over twenty years.

I pointed out that this annual need represented 1.3% of our current housing stock. The Surrey District average is 1.2%, Sevenoaks 1.3% and Croydon 1.4%. So contrary to the claims; our OAN target is not flawed and very much in line with our neighbouring authorities.

There is a huge moral dilemma for us all. We all value our Green Belt and openness but we also need to provide houses for our residents.

Our Council Housing stock stands at 2,068 dwellings plus 15 rooms at our hostel. We have 1,186 households on our waiting list with 204 of those high priority.

So far this year we have housed 62 households from our list. No – not households from Croydon; they all live in Tandridge.

Let me just give you one example of a family on our waiting list.

A couple and two young children came to us this year after their private landlord asked them to leave as he intended to sell the property. Both adults work in the south of the district, where their children attend local schools.

They face a wait of approximately two years in a unit of temporary accommodation before we can rehouse them.

I posed this question: “Would you want to live in our temporary accommodation sharing bathrooms with other households?”

But it’s not just Council Houses we need to build.

I was impressed with the Woking model of how they build houses for key workers such as teachers and health care professions retaining the house as an asset.

I want to give you two staggering statistics:

  1. The average house price in Tandridge is now 14 times our average income which compares to a ratio of 6 twenty years ago. No one but the super-rich can afford to buy in our District today.
  2. Twenty years ago, 13,100 or 17% of our population were over 65 years old. Today it is 17,400 or 20% of our population and in twenty years it is forecast at 27,200 or 27%.

We are living longer and this is the prime driver for housing need and for the pressure on our health centres.

At many of the larger houses in Tandridge you will find three or more cars in the drive that is because increasingly our households have more than two adults as our children cannot afford to buy or rent in the District.

To buy an average house with a Mortgage you have to earn 3.5 times the average Tandridge salary. This is why doctors and teachers yet alone nurses and teaching assistants cannot afford to live here.

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Last year we took an historic decision to build council houses for the first time in twenty five years. We have built eight so far, with a further ten under construction and twelve planned which is not enough.

The truth is we need more homes for local people, starter homes, more affordable homes and yes Council Houses and smaller private occupied two & three bedroom homes in our District to meet the needs of our residents.

We will remember them 13 Nov 16

On Monday I spoke with Louise Round about Boulthurst Way and the Redhill Aerodrome article in the Surrey Mirror.

Our consultation sets out the reasons why we currently do not believe Redhill Aerodrome is a good location for a new village, but it will be really important that we listen to views and respond to those. We do need to look at, and very carefully consider, where new housing can be put and the best way of ensuring that new housing is supported by appropriate infrastructure.

The Government has issued a prospectus for new towns and villages and they certainly view it as one of the ways of dealing with the housing crisis whilst securing infrastructure. This Council needs to give careful consideration to all the options available to deliver the housing required whilst ensuring we support an environment in which people wish to live and work as well as visit.

On Tuesday I attended Oxted Parish Council (OPC) meeting as Parish Councillor. Discussions centred around pubs and the event was well attended by members of the public.

There was a presentation from the developers of the Haycutter which is currently closed. They are proposing a significant extension to the existing building to cater for 148 covers (restaurant seats) with 73 parking spaces. It was suggested that this scale of development would be the only way to ensure the future viability of this public house. As this property is in the Green Belt there is a considerable hurdle to overcome as special circumstances would have to be proved at the Planning meeting. The local residents I spoke to seemed supportive of the proposed scheme.

Then followed a request from members of the public for the George Inn in Old Oxted to be classified as a Community building to help safeguard its current use. It was agreed that OPC would apply to Tandridge for this classification.

I stayed up until 2.30am but called it a night when it looked like Trump would win Florida. To quote Shakespeare, “I am amazed and know what not to say.”

On Wednesday my daughter Catherine had a spat on the Oxted Facebook page with OLRG, sticking up for her Dad. This was her last posting.

I’m not a child, I’m a 28 year old, mother of 2 with a degree, and a key worker for the National Health Service. I have been forced to move out of Oxted, after spending the first 18 years of my life living there, due to the lack of affordable housing, accountable to an ageing population and lack of development. I now live in East Grinstead, which has just been voted as the most prosperous place to live in the south east. Their neighbourhood plan, which has already been voted in favour, includes some development, and consequently major restructuring for our town centre which will in turn support local businesses and the residents of the area. A very exciting prospect for a thriving town. I have no issue with “my parent not being universally liked for his decisions”, I was simply wondering why they posted a picture of him next to a quotation which seems to be of no relevance to the truth or his views. Instead of writing a well scripted response to me on Facebook perhaps you would be more advised to spend your time understanding the principle of forming a local plan, it’s intention, and each council’s obligations to do so by central government.

She has twenty likes for this (more than I ever had!) when I put it on my Facebook page and added, Really proud of you Dad and all that you do voluntarily for the local community and Oxted.

On Thursday I met with the residents of Boulthurst Way to discuss the open space following the Council’s decision to put this site forward in the Local Plan. Firstly, thank you to Stephen and Lucy for hosting the meeting – and also for the glass of wine.

I discussed the role of the Council as a land owner and the sites that we are putting forward in the Local Plan process. The appropriation notice is in connection with our role as the landowner and is a legal notice declaring that we are considering the site for development. Anyone who wished to object or make representations is required to respond by 25 November whereas the consultation on sites in the Local Plan is open open until 30 December.

With particular regard to Boulthurst Way, we are currently looking at how it could be developed and I will take back the suggestions made so they can be fed into the process. When we put the site forward for possible development it will be with the caveat that significant amenity space must be kept.

The options we are considering include – affordable housing, a discounted private rented model aimed at local people and market housing. As land owner, we are keen to retain control over the site and are looking to balance its contribution to the community, alongside the additional housing it could provide.

Once we have worked through the possibilities we will be in a better position to share any plans with the local community. I agreed to come back to Stephen and Lucy, which I expect to be in February/March time.

 

On Friday I attended a Remembrance parade at the Council Offices with Chairman of Council Pat Cannon and wife, Jill. My thoughts were focused on my Uncle Bob who went down with HMS Prince of Wales in the South China Sea in December 1941. My aunt, a war widower never remarried is now 96 years old. Afterwards, I was pleased to share coffee and biscuits with members of the Limpsfield Royal British Legion  in the Council offices.

Robin Parker, husband of Councillor Liz Parker, was also there. What an amazing man who had a pioneering heart transplant some thirty years ago.

On Sunday I attended the Memorial Parade in Oxted. I felt proud to lay a wreath on behalf of Tandridge residents, alongside Nick Skellett Vice-Chairman of Surrey and Karen Weightman from Oxted Parish Council.

St Mary’s church was full for The Royal British Legion service of Remembrance where I read the lesson from St Luke’s Gospel. It is an occasion when the community comes together to remember those lost or injured in our two World Wars and other conflicts. I was accompanied by Jayne Godden-Miller representing the Officers and staff at Tandridge District Council. Afterwards, we went back to The Royal British Legion to enjoy hearing stories from the men and women to whom we owe so much.

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Tandridge District Council – Press Release 9 Nov 16

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Tandridge District Council Press Release 9.11.16

Sentenced to 170 hours of community service for flytipping

On 18 October at Redhill Magistrates’ Court, George Smith of 36 Crowley Crescent, Waddon CR0 4EB was found guilty of flytipping. He was given a 12 month community service order during which he has to complete 170 hours of unpaid work. The Council was awarded costs of £450 and Smith also has to pay £85 to the victim support fund.

The flytip occurred on Tillingdown Lane, Caterham around 12 April 2016. The waste consisted of a large amount of household furniture and had been left in the lane and the driveway of a private house. Tandridge District Council removed the waste and recovered paperwork from a property in Purley. The householder identified the waste as his and confirmed it had been removed by George Smith.

The Council checked the Environment Agency’s register and found Mr Smith was not a registered waste carrier and not authorised to carry waste. Smith pleaded not guilty to flytipping the waste, but was found guilty after Magistrates called his account inconsistent and implausible.

Paul Barton, Chief Community Services Officer, said: “This is another successful prosecution for Tandridge District Council. We are committed to catching and prosecuting people who flytip in the district. It is a criminal offence and is unsightly, threatens wildlife, causes pollution and endangers public health.”

A reward of up to £500 is offered by the Council to anyone who provides information which leads to a successful prosecution for flytipping.
• To report a flytip as it happens, please call Surrey Police on 999.
• If a flytip is blocking a road, call Surrey County Council on 0300 200 1003.
• If it is not in progress, but you have information, please fill in the form on www.tandridge.gov.uk/flytipping. Alternatively call Customer Services on 01883 722000.
• Details of flytipping incidents where more information is needed can be found on the appeals page www.tandridge.gov.uk/appeals.

Consultation Week – 6 Nov 16

lingfield-2The Council has just launched the 8 week Local Plan: Sites Consultation, which will give residents an opportunity to comment on sites being assessed as part of the local plan. This is part of an evidence gathering process.

Last Monday I went along to the Planning Policy Committee. We were accused of taking too long on the Local Plan process, but ironically the opposition joined forces to propose further delays inviting us to go back and revisit the work we had done so far. I did comment in the meeting that when I became Leader I wanted to speed the process up, but had to accept the logic of having a second round of more specific consultation. We learned lessons on communications from the first round, so every household should now have received a flyer inviting residents to a series of drop in sessions throughout the district to talk to planning staff about the consultation.

The last consultation received 5,200 responses from 3,100 residents, about 9%, which seems in line with other district response rates.

On Tuesday I was involved in the final interviews for the position of Chief Operating Officer, we had some very good candidates, with a diverse range of skills. We have made an appointment. Having accepted some 20+ staff for voluntary redundancies earlier this year, it may seem strange we are recruiting in these challenging financial times. However, we have at least one senior member of staff retiring next year and going forward we need a different skill set to help TDC develop new strategies for our future.

I was up to London in the evening for an East Surrey Business Club dinner hosted by Malcolm Dunbar with Amber Rudd, Home Secretary, as guest speaker. Pleased to sit on her table and discuss topical issues. For her these were Calais Jungle and Orgreave riots, plus ongoing terrorism, policing and immigration. For me the Local Plan and district financial challenge. As Sally Marks, Chairman of SCC, pointed out she has had a remarkable journey – just six years as an MP and now she is Home Secretary.

Then on Wednesday I was invited to Dormansland Parish Council. I gave an outline of TDC priorities for the coming year and explained how the site maps in the consultation should be interpreted. We had a really interesting debate about the need to conserve the heritage and openness of our area and the moral dilemma between that view and the need to provide houses for our children and local residents. We need more houses as people are living longer and this manifests itself in the growing number of young adults in their twenties living with their parents.

On Thursday we had our first meeting of the Oxted Town Centre group. All eight District Councillors were there and it was good to have representatives from the two Parish Councils, as well as Nick Skellett for Surrey County Council. A positive model for multi authority working. We agreed to meet again early in 2017 to follow up on our discussions.

Friday found me discussing the thorny issue of proportionality (allocating seats to councillors from different parties to sit on Committees) with the Chief Executive and Deputy Leader. This as a result of two recent by-elections and two resignations (one from Lib Dems & one from Conservative). There are prescribed rules for allocating seats to committees, which will be agreed at the next full Council meeting on 17 November.

 

 

Tandridge District Council – Press Release 1 Nov 16

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Tandridge District Council Press Release 1.11.16

Committee agrees next Local Plan consultation

Last night’s Planning Policy Committee agreed the Local Plan: Sites Consultation, which will give residents an opportunity to comment on sites being assessed as part of the creation of a new Local Plan. The Sites Consultation will last for eight weeks, starting on Friday 4 November and finishing on Friday 30 December.

Each site has been through a landscape, ecology and other assessments to look at whether it could be developed or not.

As a result sites have been identified which:

  • Could be realistically developed.
  • Cannot be recommended for development
  • Need more investigation before a decision can be made either way.

The Sites Consultation will include evidence which can be used to protect the Green Belt in the long term. It will:

  • Not allocate any land for development.
  • Not change the boundary of the Green Belt.

Drop in sessions

As part of the consultation drop in sessions are being held where planning staff will be available to talk about the consultation.

Tuesday 15 November South Godstone Sports and Community Association, Lagham Road, South Godstone RH9 8HN 2pm-7.30pm
Wednesday 16 November St John’s Church Hall, Eastbourne Road, Blindley Heath RH7 6JR 2pm -7.30pm

 

Thursday 17 November Lingfield & Dormansland Community Centre, High Street, Lingfield RH7 6AB 2pm -7.30pm
Monday 21 November Council Offices, Station Road East, Oxted RH8 0BT 2pm -7.30pm
Tuesday 22 November Soper Hall, Harestone Valley Road, Caterham CR3 6HY 2pm-7.30pm
Wednesday 23 November Centenary Hall (Outwood Room), Wheelers Lane, Smallfield RH6 9PT 2pm -7.30pm
Tuesday 29 November Warlingham Church Hall, 339 Limpsfield Road, Warlingham CR6 9HA 2pm -7.30pm
Wednesday 30 November Bletchingley Community Centre, 78 & 78A High Street RH 4PA 2pm -7.30pm

 

The Sites Consultation documents can be viewed on www.tandridge.gov.uk/localplan. Anyone can make comments by:

Piers Mason, Chief Planning Officer, said: “This is another step in a long and complex process, set out by the government, to draw up a Local Plan which will shape the development of the area until 2033. We know residents are concerned about sites submitted to the plan and this important consultation will enable them to give us their views on individual sites. My team is very aware of the concerns about infrastructure and as the process progresses and there becomes more certainty about particular sites, detailed infrastructure planning can be undertaken. Sites can still be ruled out if infrastructure cannot be provided. Please take this opportunity to tell us what you think about the sites in the consultation. We want you to help shape and influence the place you live, work or visit.”

Tandridge District Council – Press Release 31 Oct 16

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Tandridge District Council Press Release 31.10.16

Roadside stop and check carried out on commercial waste carriers

A joint vehicle stop and check operation took place on Wednesday 19 October, run by officers from Tandridge District Council and Reigate and Banstead Borough Council, working with Surrey Police.

The stop check was held on the A22 at Whyteleafe and concentrated on commercial vehicles to ensure they were registered to dispose of waste. Waste carriers are also required to carry a completed waste transfer note.

In total 55 vehicles were stopped and following checks with the Environment Agency, five companies received written advice to ensure they meet all regulations.stop-and-check

Chief Community Services Officer, Paul Barton, said: “This was a very successful operation and is part of our ongoing campaign to crack down on flytipping. We were pleased to find most commercial vehicles carrying waste stopped were properly licensed. These joint stop and check operations are a great way to ensure businesses dispose of their waste legally.”