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MOLE VALLEY DISTRICT COUNCIL LIBERAL DEMOCRAT GROUP

OUR MANIFESTO POLICIES FOR THE 2019 MOLE VALLEY ELECTION

1. ENVIRONMENT

Protect the green belt - and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty; government planning policies increasingly put the green belt at risk and the Council must be vigilant and determined in using available planning powers; only consider developments in the Green Belt if the land no longer serves Green Belt purposes and the development has local support; continue policy for similar protection of rural areas beyond the Green Belt;

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 rural and urban areas and undertake decluttering where appropriate;

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;

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;

Protect Recycling Centres - campaign to restore the service cuts that have inconvenienced residents, reduced recycling rates and increased fly tipping by looking to Mole Valley Council to supplement the service; work with the County to find a way to ensure that Community Recycling Centres in Leatherhead and Dorking remain open;

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

Make the promotion of Green policies a priority - take the lead in energy conservation programmes; promote renewable energy on all Council buildings and work towards the Council becoming carbon neutral; involve local organisations which promote these aims in enhancing and implementing Council policy;

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 wherever possible;

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;

Address traffic congestion as a matter of urgency -recognising the negative effects of congestion on commercial activity and public patience; to improve air quality and make town centres more attractive to residents and business; work with the County on initiatives to achieve this objective;

Ensure 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;

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

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

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

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

Improve grass and verge cutting - investigate the best ways to provide verge cutting and 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

Promote the economy of our communities - by encouraging business and supporting innovation; provide much greater business development support and town centre management; give priority to commercial development in Dorking to match 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;

Ensure that the Transform Leatherhead project is sufficiently ambitious - to make a real and lasting difference that will provide accessible and affordable facilities; ensure that the project seeks significantly to improve the retail and leisure offerings in the town, develops and extends car parking facilities; preserves its market town character and enhances the riverside; resist lucrative housing developments which reduce commercial, retail and leisure opportunities;

Protect the Pippbrook site - for community, civic, entertainment, cultural and recreational uses and resist inappropriate housing development on the site; reformulate the East Dorking Regeneration Project to provide social, entertainment and sporting facilities and ensure a community use for Pippbrook House, such as those proposed by CHIP;

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

Improve connectivity - campaign for superfast broadband to support commercial growth and improved mobile phone reception where needed;

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 and make more effective use of Article 4 Directions; and seek new and relevant office development especially for small and expanding businesses;

Revitalise Tourist Information in Mole Valley - re-introduce Tourist Information Centres in Dorking and Leatherhead to promote visitor opportunities and give publicity to local businesses; introduce suitable on-line sites to promote tourism and events throughout Mole Valley;

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; introduce a fair charging regime for local residents and maintain free half-hour parking in all Council car parks; take the initiative in developing an 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; speed up the implementation of car park improvement and renovation schemes, including the introduction of electric vehicle charging-points;

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

3. HOUSING

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;

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;

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;

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; Intensive development in urban areas might be necessary to protect the Green Belt but must not lead to inappropriate structures;

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

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;

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 new Meadowbank facilities in Dorking are managed successfully;

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; 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;

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 Parkruns at local fitness schools and public venues;

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 and work with local volunteer groups helping refugees;

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;

Promote sustainable 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;

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; support major cycling events whilst protecting communities from the negative impact of such events;

Campaign against continuing cuts in the police budget - that reduce front line policing in both urban and rural areas and put individuals and property at greater risk; campaign to re-introduce effective community policing;

Street Lighting - support residents who wish to see the restoration of street lighting between 1.00am and 5.00am;

Library Services - seek ways to protect and maintain the Performing Arts Library, 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;

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

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; explore other funding opportunities when Council grants are cut; 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;

Children's Centres - campaign to protect our Children's Centres from County Council cuts; oppose the closure of the Leatherhead Centre and the massive reduction in funding for the Dorking Centre.

5. FUNDING

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;

Make maximum use of all potential funding opportunities - ensure that all possible sources of funding including the LEP's and any remaining European funding are full explored and full advantage is taken of all available opportunities;

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 payments of £820,000 to the government from 2019-2020 was a potentially disastrous recipe for Mole Valley financial stability which we opposed;

Review the Asset Investment Strategy - a consequence of the 4-year deal which carries risks of excessive costs for the purchase of commercial property and loss on property disposals; property acquisition consumes high levels of officer time and there are questions about available officer skills for dealing effectively with the investment strategy; investigate Council investment to secure additional social housing;

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

Seek to re-negotiate Business Rate Retention - Mole Valley currently retains 4% of Business Rates collected in Mole Valley which will reduce to 1.3% in 2020 as a consequence of the deal agreed with the government by the Conservative administration - this must be changed;

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;

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

Focus spending on providing high quality cost-effective services - with the emphasis on quality and value-for-money;

Council Tax - ensure reasonable levels of Council Tax and use Council Tax revenue to ensure the maintenance of efficient and cost effective services.

6. PLANNING

Give Residents Views Priority in the Local Plan - ensure effective consultation processes throughout the Local Plan preparation and approval stages and take full account of the views expressed; Subject to the feedback from residents, we would:

  • challenge the overall housing target figure which recent ONS data has demonstrated to be incorrectly calculated;
  • maintain our opposition to developments in the Green Belt on land that continues to perform the function of Green Belt and which do not have the support of the local community;
  • Campaign 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;
  • Recognise 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;
  • Support a planning system that encourages and prioritises the provision of affordable and small scale developments where brownfield land is available rather than the current restrictions which often militate against such developments;
  • Ensure adequate infrastructure is provided to support new housing;
  • Prioritise affordable, modest-sized housing, including social housing for rent, to meet local housing needs;
  • Ensure that strategic, large scale development sites provide sufficient green space, infrastructure and community focus and are not predicated on maximum housing density.

Overall we are prepared to resist government pressure for developments which would not be in the interests of Mole Valley; protect the green environment and ensure a sensible balance between housing, commercial, environmental, recreational and infrastructural requirements;

Improve Staffing for Development Control and Planning Enforcement- parts of the planning unit have been grossly understaffed for a number of years and this must be rectified as a priority to ensure planning applications are thoroughly investigated and planning decisions are respected and where necessary, enforcement operates effectively;

Planning processes - ensure that the recommendations of the recent Planning Peer Review are properly evaluated and remedial measures are introduced to resolve the deficiencies identified in the review.

7. COMMUNICATION

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

Provide information about changes in provision - regardless of which authority is responsible for service cuts ensure that information about service reductions and alternative provision are made available to local residents;

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

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

Return to a Committee decision making process - to ensure greater involvement of all elected Councillors; Committee decision making is more open, transparent and responsive to community needs; the Cabinet system limits decision making to just 9 members for over 90% of Council business and most decisions are effectively taken behind closed doors and simply ratified in formal public meetings;

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

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.

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.