MVDC Local Plan – Regulation 19. Reply from Councillor Stephen Cooksey – Leader of MVDC to BRA’s open letter

Following on from Peter Seaward’s letter to Councillor Cooksey we have received the following reply from Councillor Cooksey:


 

Sent on behalf of Cllr Stephen Cooksey

Dear Peter

Thank you for your email which you also sent to officers. I am sure that Piers will contact you direct if there is anything additional that officers can add.

As you might be aware we have received a number of emails from Bookham residents along similar lines.  I am grateful for the opportunity to reply to the Residents’ Association and hope that if you wish this can be distributed as it is not possible to reply individually to all the comments being made.

It is not possible to deviate from the requirement in the Local Government Act for Members to be present at a meeting in order to vote, and as such you are correct that proxy votes cannot be used at any meeting.  I note your comments on a recorded vote.  Part 4 section 26.5 of the Council’s Constitution allows for a recorded vote if requested by more than 25% of the total number of the Council, Cabinet or Committee (rounded up).  This can be considered by Members on the night of the meeting should they wish.

It must be remembered that this is the stage at which the Council must decide whether to publish the document.  The publication of the papers for Cabinet and Council are not part of a request for comment on the soundness or otherwise of the draft Local Plan.  That can only occur once the draft is published.  If it is agreed for publication, then there is a formal period of 7 weeks in which comments can be made as to soundness and legal compliance.  After that, the Council will decide whether to submit the draft Plan for examination, and if it does so, there will be an examination in public during 2022. I appreciate that the supporting documents to the draft Local Plan are long and in many cases complex and technical. However, I am of the view that seeking to delay publication does not solve any issue but defers them. There is very clearly significant opportunity over the course of at least 7 weeks and probably many months for residents to read and digest the documents.

You are correct that the Council collates the responses and submits them for examination. During the examination, the Inspector may recommend changes, the Council may suggest changes and representors may also do the same. Following the closure of the public hearings part of the examination, the Inspector will then usually ask the Council to undertake a further consultation on the proposed modifications. Therefore, changes can be made all the way through the examination process.

In conclusion, I hope you can see that there is indeed a significant amount of time for you to consider the draft Plan if we can move on to that point.  The manner of how a vote is taken is a matter for the members present at the meeting and that means I cannot give you a guarantee that a recorded vote will be taken.

Kind regards

Cllr Stephen Cooksey

Leader of Mole Valley District Council


The following letter has been sent by Peter Seward, Chairman – Bookhams Residents’ Association to Councillor Stephen Cooksey – Leader Mole Valley District Council

Dear Councillor Cooksey,

As Chairman of The Bookhams Residents’ Association I am writing on behalf of the local community to request some Council action. The vote on this Plan is on Wednesday where I understand Proxy votes will not be allowed. Also voting will be by a show of hands, not a recorded vote. For something as important as this plan to many across Mole Valley as well as here in Bookham transparency is paramount and surely the full array of democratic actions should be visible and therefore accountable. We as residents will then see that views are debated and listened to by all MVDC Councillors.  Local communities are entitled to know which Councillors voted for or against..

I would also ask that this decision be delayed by a further month. I appreciate the pressure that exists within the Planning rules caused by delays, but this complex and comprehensive document is a large piece of work which will affect us all for many years to come and we, the public, have not had sufficient time to study all the details. The appendices alone are over 800 pages with some sections including well over 1600 different items.  This includes the responses by MVDC to our comments to the Regulation 18 document.

I understand that this plan does have a further seven week consultation period but this is only relevant once the Inspector has been appointed. My understanding is that MVDC’s responsibility is now simply to collate all responses to this Regulation 19 plan and to forward them to the Inspector. Unless changes are made there is a very real risk that, should we discover material issues in this lengthy piece of work, we will no longer be able to suggest that MVDC change anything.

The result will be decisions taken by a body denied information in the hands of the local community but not available for consideration as part of the decision making process exposing the final decision to the risk of legal challenge.

You may query why we in Bookham should seek the above changes when others may not. Here, especially in the west of Bookham, the MVDC plan along with the proposed developments in Effingham will, if both go ahead, create a new settlement of some 600 to 700 dwellings effectively merging the built up urban environment of Effingham and Great and Little Bookham. Although discussions have taken place between MVDC and GBC we here have no indication that the problems this new settlement will cause are being considered let alone addressed.

It maybe that MVDC consider the Effingham development to be separate from that proposed in Bookham (Preston Farm). However the physical distance between these sites is small and unimportant in infrastructure terms.

Effingham sits on the very edge of Guildford Borough Council (GBC) and is closely aligned with Bookham for many of its facilities. Schools are an example.  700 pupils from Bookham, (the single largest cohort) attend the Howard of Effingham School. The two GP surgeries in Bookham not only serve Bookham and also Fetcham as well as many Effingham residents. Both Bookham practices serve a population combined of over 20,000 and are overloaded,  (Their local PCN will confirm this). Roads and transportation are  a combined facility and geographically parts of Effingham are separated from Bookham by no more than a notional line in the centre of a road.

So far in a rapid study of the Plan it seems to us that the key road link has not been fully analysed for the increased traffic these new settlements will bring. (section 7.5.1 of the SCC Transport appendix)   Although land is proposed for a possible new surgery the existing surgery has had no conversation with MVDC about this. Surely this should have been done – they after all are the qualified experts whose views should be considered.  

Whether the HoE school will cope with the increasing population is questionable. Although we believe the possible increase in places needed for the new dwellings in Effingham may have been allowed for by SCC, they have not factored in what growth there will be in Bookham. The SCC opinions are based on the new school being built. Given the behaviour of Berkeley Homes this may not happen. Pupil increases will not be just from the Preston Farm developments but elsewhere in Bookham. These include the 240 small site allowances confirmed by Duncan Clarke plus any additional growth from the new increased density capacities (40 dph) allowed on the A246 within  Bookham’s boundaries.

Here in Bookham we have detailed knowledge at a professional level of many of our infrastructure issues and can act on these too. This happened when dealing with a sewage pipe leak ,close to Preston Farm, where local people were able to help identify one of the underlying causes.  Or making sure that (in conjunction with MVDC), we were  able to create an alternative footpath for HoE pupils, in danger of traffic conflicts, going to school during the floods of 2013/14.  We have been part of the Bookham Flood Forum for many years and, with the other authorities, have helped identify those assets which are critical to our infrastructure.  Our knowledge about school admissions is recognised by SCC and others. We work closely with the Police and Highways and recently agreed electronic safety signs to deal with speed problems.  

We as a local Residents Association represent the views of an informed, mature and capable community.

For all these reasons we would ask that a fully transparent and accountable democratic process in voting terms is allowed and also that we are given more time to look in depth at the volume of comprehensive material contained in this Version 19 Draft Plan.

Peter Seaward

Chairman

Bookhams Residents’ Association

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