The ERA AGM took place recently to a capacity audience in the Council Chamber. Our guest speaker was Elmbridge CEO, Rob Moran who offered us a whirlwind tour of the challenges facing Elmbridge BC , along with some interesting stats:
- Elmbridge BC employs 400 staff and has 48 Councillors
- The Council has seen the removal of £7m funding from central government and expects to have to give money to central government in the future!
- It has replaced some of that lost income by property investments that contribute £4m annually
- £40m in benefits is paid out annually to residents by Elmbridge BC on behalf of the Government (this is a wealthy area, imagine what the less well off areas of the country pay out)
- 100 children with special needs cost SurreyCC £40m/pa
Whilst running all this, the Council is preparing its new Local Plan. Central Government has demanded we build 623 new dwellings/year (we are currently building 250-280). Councillors and the Council itself have spoken to local MPs Dominic Raab and Philip Hammond and both have said that Elmbridge is not a special case.
Rob Moran balanced this with the observation that most Residents Association councillors are deeply opposed to building on Green Belt land and favour Option 4.
The audience expressed real concerns about the way planning applications are handled – the Jockey Club’s proposals for Sandown Park were cited, as well as a very controversial development at Warling Dean 33 New Road, where it is felt a new flatted development is changing the ‘sense of place’ in the road.
There was great surprise and some anger about the sudden closure of Moore Place Golf Club. Had the Council known about it in advance? Rob Moran said he had heard about it at the same time as everyone else, via the newspapers. However, the new owners had offered it when calls for land for development were sent out for the new Local Plan.
Rob confirmed that the new owners have no responsibility to maintain the land, but if they are, as suggested, draining the pond this could be construed as undergoing engineering work that should be reported to the Council Enforcement Team.
Following Rob’s talk, there was a brief interlude dealing with matters financial, a plea for more contributions to keep up the fight against poor buildings being built and protecting the Green Belt. The need for more road reps to help distribute the very popular newsletter and for potential new committee members to come forward.
Once these formalities were over, a more informal group discussed our approach to the Local Plan. Jonathan Pockson and others felt that the Council needs to push back hard to the government and reject the 623 new dwellings target. Cllr Richard Williams agreed and was clear that the government will never ask local authorities to give up Green Belt land – they don’t want blood on their hands – however, if we voluntarily offer Green Belt land, they will inevitable come back for more. Former councillor Ruth Lyon agreed.
We thank Rob Moran for spending his evening talking to our very engaged and passionate audience.