First “in person” Council meeting for over a year heralds optimism for the coming 12-month in Mole Valley
Due to necessary social distancing requirements, the Annual Meeting of Mole Valley took place, not in the council chamber, but in the Large Hall of the Dorking Halls. It reminded everyone of an exam room with each councillor sat at a separate table. But the atmosphere was lively as everyone was freed from their virtual zoom squares and back into the world of reality.
Chris Hunt, an Independent councillor, was inaugurated as the new Chair with Councillor Paul Potter, a Liberal Democrat, as Vice-Chair. The 6 new councillors were welcomed and the re-elected councillors were congratulated.
Councillor Stephen Cooksey, the Leader of the Council, gave a vote of thanks to residents of Mole Valley for their support for the policies and initiatives introduced last year during the pandemic and for their genuine understanding of the problems faced and decisions that had to be made in those dark days.
Whilst the pandemic is far from over, the Liberal Democrat administration, will now be progressing an optimistic programme for moving forward into a more normal world with the improving circumstances we hope to see in the coming months.
The recovery programme for our communities is therefore high on our agenda with special references to helping businesses and ensuring that our town centres offer diverse and thriving facilities to encourage residents and visitors to return.
Climate Change policies and our "green agenda" are ongoing priorities - that is helped by our success in achieving significant grants for decarbonising important public buildings and installing charging points in all of our car parks. The importance of our "green agenda" is reflected in the creation of a new cabinet role dedicated entirely to Climate Change.
This year will also let the public see progress made on our Local Plan. The consultation with residents on the Draft Plan confirmed our view about the importance of the Green Belt and the significance of complementary infrastructure. With that in mind, strict new criteria are being applied to site selection and we will be bringing forward a final version of the plan for Council approval in the summer followed by the Regulation 19 consultation and presentation to the inspector.
Even with our optimism and resilience, though, there are uncertainties ahead, the main concerns being due to Government policies. Firstly, long-term strategies are seriously hampered by Government's decision not to provide any information about Council funding beyond the current year. Secondly, forthcoming Government legislation on permitted development could have dramatic and unwelcome effects, allowing unfettered development without local controls and reducing our ability to provide affordable homes.
We recognise that all of these are serious challenges but they are challenges that we are determined to meet and every one of us in this administration will do our best to deliver the services and improvements that our residents deserve. We will continue to work for a brighter and greener future.