Our Manifesto Policies for the May 2021 Mole Valley Election

March 8, 2021 3:45 PM

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1 ENVIRONMENT

1.1 Do Everything Possible to Protect the Green Belt - and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty; government planning policies and centrally devised housing numbers increasingly put the Green Belt at risk and the Council must be vigilant and determined to resist this as far as possible by using available planning powers; confirm policy of only considering developments in the Green Belt if the land no longer serves Green Belt purposes and the development has local support; do everything possible to protect the Green Belt in the event that Government demands for excessive housing development put it at risk; implement a similar policy to protect rural areas beyond the Green Belt; 


1.2 Protect and enhance the built environment - provide environmental improvements to town and village centres to increase their attractiveness to residents and business; seek to enhance and improve the quality of pavements, passageways, and street furniture in urban and rural areas and undertake decluttering where appropriate; 


1.3 Provide a cleaner local environment - and support communities by clearing litter effectively and tackling dog fouling, by improving urban and rural street cleaning and by ensuring that street sweeping is scheduled to take account of special circumstances such as the autumn leaf fall; and that graffiti and fly posting are dealt with effectively; 


1.4 Encourage residents to enhance their local environment - by reducing their use of natural resources, re-using materials and increasing recycling; widen the scope of recycling; support the MVDC 'Only Losers Litter' campaign to discourage littering from vehicles; 


1.5 Protect Recycling Centres - campaign to restore the service cuts that have inconvenienced residents, reduced recycling rates and increased fly tipping; work with the County to find a way to extend facilities and opening hours at the Community Recycling Centres in Leatherhead and Dorking; 


1.6 Effectively tackle fly-tipping - in the countryside and towns by using all practical methods including mobile cameras to catch and prosecute offenders; encourage reporting of all fly- tipping on the MVDC website to provide solid data on the scale of the problem; 


1.7 Make the promotion of Green policies a priority - take the lead in energy conservation programmes; promote renewable energy in all Council buildings including consideration of ground source and geothermal heating; work towards the Council becoming carbon neutral by 2030; involve local organisations which promote these aims in enhancing and implementing Council policy; 


1.8 Insist on the delivery of green principles on all new developments - implement green initiatives such as solar, wind turbine or ground source energy, high standard insulation, the replacement of trees and encouraging new planting; the introduction of catalytic converters on log burners and similar equipment; welcoming car club and car sharing initiatives and installing electric vehicle charging points in all Council car parks; support the planning improvements incorporated into the Draft Local Plan; 


1.9 Encourage local power generation - such as solar, wind and hydro energy in appropriate locations; actively motivate investment in renewable energy and dissuade investment in fossil fuels;

1.10 Extend effective monitoring of air quality - and work with all agencies to keep it within acceptable levels especially near schools and in areas of high traffic levels;

1.11 Support proposals for 20 mph speed limits - outside schools and in residential areas where there is local support;

1.12 Oppose environmentally destructive aviation policies - continue to oppose any second runway proposals and emergency runway proposals for Gatwick Airport and unacceptable flight path changes;

1.13 Apply sustainable principles to fossil fuel exploration; oppose exploration in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty; oppose unconventional methods of extraction including fracking; campaign for local consultation on all applications and on the scale of development appropriate across a wide area such as The Weald;

1.14 Support sustainable transport - including the provision of local bus services and support initiatives to encourage car-sharing and the use of electric vehicles; develop planning policy to provide one charging point for every 5 car parking spaces in future residential developments;

1.15 Improve grass and verge cutting - investigate the best ways to provide verge cutting; when resources are available seek to return the service to Mole Valley Council control and invest in an improved service; support the development of wildflower meadows on highway verges to encourage biodiversity.


2 TOWNS AND VILLAGES

2.1 Promote the economy of our communities - by encouraging business and supporting innovation; support initiatives to provide much greater business development support and town centre management; give priority to commercial development in Dorking town centre through the 'Opportunity Dorking' project to complement the 'Transform Leatherhead' project; seek to create business hubs in Dorking and Leatherhead with Council support to encourage inward investment and the development of innovation centres; Establish Town Centre Action Plans for Ashtead, Bookham and Fetcham; 


2.2 Ensure that the Transform Leatherhead and Opportunity Dorking projects are given priority - Transform Leatherhead must make a real and lasting difference that will provide accessible and affordable facilities; ensure that it significantly improves the retail and leisure offerings in the town, develops and extends car parking facilities; preserves its market town character and enhances the riverside; Opportunity Dorking must engage with stakeholders, residents and landlords to achieve an agreed direction, improve the town centre environment and tackle the empty shops problem, improve car parking, develop the visitor economy and take advantage of redevelopment opportunities; 


2.3 Protect the Pippbrook site in Dorking - for community, civic, entertainment, cultural and recreational uses and resist inappropriate housing development on the site; support CHIP in its endeavours to develop Pippbrook House for community use 


2.4 Promote appropriate businesses in rural areas; support planning policies which encourage employment in rural areas, especially through conversion of redundant agricultural buildings to workshops; 


2.5 Improve connectivity - encourage the provision of superfast broadband to support residents and businesses and improved mobile phone reception where needed; 


2.6 Where possible(?) protect employment land from non-commercial development - and seek to expand commercial opportunities; highlight government support for unrestricted conversion of offices to flats without planning permission by making more effective use of Article 4 Directions and reviewing the 12 month notice specification; and seek new and relevant office development especially for small and expanding businesses; expose and oppose Government planning policies to give permitted development rights for conversion of retail units for other purposes and additional stories to flats; 


2.7 Revitalise Tourist Information in Mole Valley - develop Tourist Information Points in Dorking and Leatherhead to promote visitor opportunities and give publicity to local businesses; Work with Surrey Hills Enterprises, Visit Surrey and other partners such as Dorking Town Partnership to develop suitable on-line sites and other ventures to promote tourism and events throughout Mole Valley: 


2.8 Develop a balanced parking regime - which works in the interests of local residents and businesses; bring Mole Valley and the County together to work out a sensible and integrated approach to on-street and off-street parking; when possible expand free half-hour parking in Council car parks; continue moves to introduce a fair charging regime for local residents and to expand the affordable parking package for people working in town centres and for carers making visits; encourage schemes whereby retailers can offer discounts against costs of off- street parking; minimise the impact of commuter car-parking on streets near railway stations; implement the programme of car park improvement and renovation schemes; 


2.9 Encourage the listing of assets of community value - to protect community facilities such as pubs and village shops from predatory development. 


2.10 Investigate ways to fund the provision of a toilet block in the Queen Elizabeth II Playing Fields in Ashtead.


3 HOUSING

3.1 Make the provision of social housing and smaller housing units a priority - make use of all available opportunities to promote the provision of social and affordable housing whilst ensuring protection for the Green Belt; investigate the possibility of Mole Valley building social housing again and means of encouraging more Housing Association development of social and affordable units; 


3.2 Emphasise the need for smaller, less expensive homes - wherever possible use planning powers to encourage the development of small units to meet local need; seek changes in the Government's policies of forcing the sale of Council and Housing Association properties without providing the resource to replace them and of removing planning powers that encourage affordable house building, including those that deal with office to flats conversions and small sites; 


3.3 Promote housing for rent - including developing the Rural Exceptions Policy, since rental is the most effective form of tenure for those on low incomes; recognise that the word 'affordable' has been distorted to mean 'discounted from market prices' which still puts most purchase options out of the reach of low to middle income families; Seek to improve the services provided by Housing Associations; 


3.4 Recognise the need for more intensive housing development - where there is local community support through neighbourhood and village plans and good quality town centre proposals which meet local housing need; More intensive development in urban areas might be necessary to protect the Green Belt but must be sympathetic to the local environment; 


3.5 Ensure necessary infrastructure to accompany housing development - effective drainage is required to prevent flooding and developments must not be isolated from local facilities; recreation and leisure facilities, employment potential and health and social infrastructure must accompany and not be sacrificed for housing development; 



4 COMMUNITY LIFE

4.1 Promote cultural activity across the District - by supporting local arts and cultural organisations; retain and develop Dorking Halls as a Council asset, ensuring that it is affordable for local organisations; take an active role in helping to secure the future of the Leatherhead Theatre, including more Council use of this venue; promote pop-up exhibitions by local artists and entrepreneurs in empty town centre premises; 


4.2 Promote sports and play facilities throughout Mole Valley -properly maintain newly refurbished play areas; ensure that the Leatherhead and Dorking Leisure Centre contracts are affordable and based on quality provision and that all aspects of the Meadowbank facilities in Dorking are managed successfully; promote physical activity throughout Mole Valley by supporting sports facilities and improved play-areas and protecting playing fields and parks; promote Council owned recreational facilities; encourage events such as Park Runs and Walk for Health; 


4.3 Encourage Further and Higher Education in Mole Valley - especially where it will create employment skills, encourage local business creation, and promote apprenticeship schemes to encourage young people to stay and train in Mole Valley and provide training and retraining skills for all ages; negotiate with established institutions for development of satellite provision and outreach facilities in Mole Valley; create a forum to inform young people seeking training and apprenticeships and businesses seeking to employ local trainees; 


4.4 Support individuals and families in difficulties - including those affected by welfare changes which are making some people homeless or dependent on foodbanks; actively support Government schemes to assist refugees subject to the effect of housing provision on the homelessness situation in Mole Valley and work with local volunteer groups helping refugees; 


4.5 Support organisations which help those in need - ensure that there is adequate Council support for organisations such as Citizens Advice which provide a range of service for residents which are not available from the Council; this is especially important at a time of substantial change in the national welfare system; 


4.6 Promote sustainable and smart travel - by campaigning for improved bus services especially to serve rural communities; protecting community transport including dial-a-ride and services for the elderly and disabled and seeking to encourage public transport provision at night for young people; encourage walking for short local journeys and seek improvements to footpaths and
lighting to alleviate safety concerns;

4.7 Support cycling provision - encourage schemes which promote cycling to work or school thereby reducing rush-hour congestion; provide training and education opportunities for cyclists; support the creation and effective maintenance of separate cycle tracks and lanes; subject to local opinion support major cycling events whilst protecting communities from the negative impact of such events; 


4.8 Ensure effective use of police resources - campaign to increase front line policing in both urban and rural areas to reduce risks to individuals and property and to re-introduce effective community policing;

4.9 Street Lighting - support communities that wish to see the restoration of street lighting between 1.00am and 5.00am;

4.10 Library Services -oppose cuts in Library opening hours and campaign for appropriate Library provision to serve our communities and residents; encourage innovative uses of library facilities to increase footfall;

4.11 Revitalise Youth Voice - and Junior Youth Voice and encourage wider participation by young people in community events; re-invigorate attendance from across the District;

4.12 Retain and Improve Facilities for Young People - support established Youth Centres throughout Mole Valley and safeguard youth facilities such as the new Youth Café/ Gym at Chart Downs; support the proposed new Bookham Youth Centre, the 'Greenhouse' initiative in Fetcham, and the proposed Community Hub in North Leatherhead; explore provision of funding resources for youth development and recreation opportunities; encourage initiatives such as the Reigate 'New Music Nights' for young musicians and pop-up cafes and entertainment facilities using available venues across Mole Valley; support the initiative to provide youth facilities at holiday times in areas that have suffered from anti-social behaviour;

4.13 Family Centre - support the new Mole Valley Family Centre and work to encourage the County to provide increased resources for the centre and a base in Leatherhead;


5 FUNDING

5.1 Campaign for a sensible funding arrangement with central government - in order to maintain and improve services; ensure that all available and renewable opportunities such as feed-in tariffs are fully utilised; make full use of CIL and Section 106 developer funding; lobby the Government for an acceptable deal as promised funding review proceeds;

5.2 Make maximum use of all potential funding opportunities - ensure that all possible sources of funding including the LEP's are fully explored and full advantage is taken of all available opportunities to bid for government grants;

5.3 Oppose any further Government proposals for negative RSG - The Cabinet's acceptance of the 4-year Deal with central government that reduced RSG to nil in 2018-2019 and requires future payments to the government for redistribution was a potentially disastrous recipe for Mole Valley financial stability which we opposed; Although this has been abandoned pending the promised funding review there is real concern that it may reappear as a consequence of that review;

5.4 Review the Asset Investment Strategy - in the light of the current problems in the property market and Government constraints; investigate Council investment to secure additional social housing;

5.5 Improve assessment and management of major projects - ensure all project proposals are supported by sound business cases, that project delivery is managed effectively and that completed projects are reviewed to ensure that the planned benefits are being delivered;

5.7 Urge caution on borrowing - ensure any borrowing is in the long-term interests of residents, that there is an established and effective investment policy in place and that priority is given to developing an effective planning and management regime;

5.8 Maximise the effectiveness of operating the District Council - to protect essential services and provide necessary community facilities; ensure that there is no wasteful and unnecessary expenditure;

5.9 Focus spending on providing high quality cost-effective services - with the emphasis on quality, environment and value-for-money; ensure reasonable levels of Council Tax and use Council Tax revenue to ensure the maintenance of efficient and cost-effective services;

5.10 Council Contracts - ensure that all future contracts are measured against a bid to provide the services which are the subject of the contract on an in-house basis and be prepared to take services in-house when this is the most appropriate solution.


6 PLANNING

6.1 Give Residents Views Priority in the Local Plan - the Regulation 18 consultation on the Draft Local Plan has been completed and an effective consultation processes
and are taking full account of the views expressed; there is a statutory requirement that we a Local Plan and we are subject to Government demands on housing numbers and have:

  • challenged the Government's initial overall housing target figure which recent ONS data has demonstrated to be incorrectly calculated and subsequent changes which increased the required number of houses;

  • maintained our opposition to developments in the Green Belt on land that continues to perform the function of Green Belt and which does not have the support of the local community;
  • Argued against any large-scale development either in the Green Belt or beyond the Green Belt because of the potential loss of countryside and because our infrastructure of road and transport facilities is unable to cope with current demands let alone further significant development;

  • Recognised that our main town centres have significant protected conservation areas which would restrict or prevent major high-rise development if our heritage environment is to be preserved;

  • Supported Draft Local Plan amendments that encourage and prioritise the provision of affordable and small-scale developments where brownfield land is available rather than the current restrictions which often militate against such developments;

  • Ensured that the Draft Local Plan prioritised the provision of adequate infrastructure to support new housing;
  • Ensured that the Draft Local Plan prioritised affordable, modest-sized housing, including social housing for rent, to meet local housing needs; 

  • Incorporated the green policies and principles set out in policies 1.7 and 1.8 of the Environment section (page 1) into the Draft Local Plan; 

  • Proposed in the Draft Local Plan that strategic, large scale development sites provide sufficient green space, infrastructure and community focus and are not predicated on maximum housing density; 

  • Reviewed the inherited criteria for Green Belt development following the Regulation 18 consultation and proposed major changes that will change site selection priorities. 


We continue to resist government pressure for developments which would not be in the interests of Mole Valley and work to protect the green environment and ensure a sensible balance between housing, commercial, environmental, recreational and infrastructural requirements; However, in the event of Government demands that provision for their housing total numbers must be included in the Local Plan, we will be as sensitive to the result of the consultations as possible. 


6.2 Improve Staffing for Development Control and Planning Enforcement- parts of the planning unit have been grossly understaffed for a number of years and recruitment to rectify this has being undertaken as a priority to ensure planning applications are thoroughly investigated and planning decisions are respected and that enforcement operates effectively;


7 COMMUNICATION

7.1 Provide clear and timely information for residents - and make this equally available to those who do not access the website or social media;

7.2 Make consultation meaningful and accessible to all - and ensure that its results influence decision making; 


7.3 Make Information Hubs More Accessible - reconsider Help Shop provision in Leatherhead and ensure Council Customer Service facilities are providing an effective service; 



8 DEMOCRACY AND DECISION MAKING

8.1 Consider Returning to a Committee decision making process as soon as possible provided there is support within the Council for the change- to ensure greater involvement of all elected Councillors; Committee decision making is more open, transparent and responsive to community needs; 


8.2 Encourage direct public participation - by offering residents greater access to Council decision- making via questions and petitions with meaningful debate; 


8.3 Give local communities the power to make local decisions - support and where necessary enhance existing Parish Councils and actively assist and encourage the establishment of new Town and Parish Councils where there is local support; Town Councils could take responsibility for activities to promote local communities; 


8.4 Oppose the County Council's policy to establish a single unitary authority which would lead to the abolition of all 11 Boroughs and Districts in Surrey; 


8.5 If Government requires Unitary Authorities in Surrey ensure full consultation with residents and party members about possible links with other Surrey authorities before any decision on the future of the District is decided; 


8.6 Seek devolution of more County powers - over local matters to Mole Valley or community levels; where necessary take a more robust approach to opposing County Council decisions which adversely affect residents of Mole Valley;