December has been a quiet month as far as Council activities are concerned. This is partly because of the general election. This has created a great deal of work for Council Officers and has meant that some meetings have had to be either cancelled or postponed.
Those of us who are chairmen / vice chairmen had been asked to keep a log of the amount of extra work in the chairmanship/ vice chairmanship role that we had undertaken during November. It’s not till you log what you do and how long it takes that you realise just how much time is involved.
One of the strands of the work of the Standards Committee is to keep the Constitution up to date – and it is in the process of being revised. There are lots of changes needed because of changes in legislation and Council changes, such as job titles and responsibilities. There are also changes that Council Officers or Councillors request. The draft amendments are put together by the Council’s legal team, then, as chairman of the Standards Committee, I go through them all with a fairly fine tooth comb to check them before they are circulated to the committee. We then debated the sections under consideration at the meeting in November. Following this, the legal department and I worked on the report that was taken to the Full Council meeting on December 18th and, I’m pleased to say, agreed.
Another interesting item on the Council Agenda was a debate on a petition that had been presented to the Council about their planning strategy in light of the Government’s house building targets. The Government’s housing target for Epsom & Ewell is 579 per year for the next 15 years. This puts the Council in a very difficult position as there just is not sufficient land available without making very difficult decisions about the height and density of housing, as well as the use of green belt land. An interesting debate was held looking at the options open to the Council and the outcome in other areas where Councils have either challenged or chosen to ignore the Government’s targets.
The Local Committee meetings are an opportunity to ask questions about Surrey County Council matters. At the December meeting I asked that the junctions of Ashely Road / Ashley Avenue and Dorking Road / South Street / Woodcote Road could be re-assessed as the current road markings and traffic light timings appear to be causing problems for both road and pavement users. Other points of interest to Woodcote Ward discussed included the problems with traffic in Worple Road and Chalk Lane and the provision (or lack of it) of bus passes for girls travelling to Rosebery School from Langley Vale.
We held a Councillor Surgery in Langley Vale Village Hall. Thanks to those who came and we hope you found the session helpful.
Keeping an eye on planning applications and responding to residents about them has taken quite a lot of time. The controversial ones in the ward this month have included the application for flats in Dorking Road (corner of White Horse Drive) and ongoing rumours about what will be applied for on the part of the site sold by the hospital. So far the applicant has asked the Planning Department whether an Environmental Impact Assessment will be required – and they have concluded that it will not. This month I have also updated residents on progress with planning applications where they have asked for my advice, and have discussed a couple of potential new applications with neighbours.
I was contacted by a resident about slippery leaves for residents walking from the Woodcote Estate area through Rosebery Park to the Town Centre and arranged for clearing these to be added to the Council’s work program. They have a large workload at this time of year and the weather has to be suitable – no point in trying to clear them if they are frozen to the ground!
Other issues raised by residents have included tree preservation orders, litter, untidy gardens, drones and traffic routes for accessing the Woodland Trust site.
We took our two granddaughters to see Peter Pan at the Playhouse – an excellent production, well worth a visit whatever your age! As a Council nominated member of Citizens Advice, Epsom & Ewell I was also pleased to attend their Christmas festive drop-in and hear an update on their work, that does so much to help and support local residents.
My diary is already filling up with meetings for January, it looks like an interesting time ahead.