This morning, I in common with other residents of Mole Valley received a letter headed “Your chance to help decided where new homes should be built.”
This is all very well, and maybe the Council Officers will pay regard to public consultation. But the final word rests with our elected councillors. Not so long ago, without any similar prompting from the Council, more than three hundred people wrote to the Council with their views concerning an exclusive golf course and luxury hotel on the Cherkley estate. Two thirds of those letters opposed the development. The Council Officers no doubt took that into consideration when producing their report, praised by Justice Haddon-Cave, to reject Longshot’s proposals.
Did our elected representative take note of public opinion? No; the majority ignored public representation and thought they knew better than their officers. What guarantee is there that elected councillors will not disregard public opinion again?
One councillor recently said he would be listening to the public. But the evidence so far is not encouraging. Despite widespread opposition to the Council going to the Court of Appeal over the recent Cherkley decision, the councillors voted to do so. When the LRA held a packed meeting on 2nd December at which we had presentations by Mr Rowland McKinney concerning the Green Belt and by the Save South Leatherhead and the Poors’ Allotment groups, our District Councillors were noticeable by their absence! It is true, there were apologies received from two of them, but not the proverbial dicky bird from the others!
Besides, we poor members of the public do not have proper information. We read at the beginning of the second paragraph in the Council’s letter: “The main objective is to prevent inappropriate development in the Green Belt … .”
But, as I have pointed out before, the Secretary of State rejected the application for five traveller families having their temporary permission to occupy 4.7 hectares of Green Belt being made permanent because it would cause “substantial harm to the green belt.” If this is so, then I completely fail to see how Mr Pickles could allow any residential development of the Green Belt.
- We need to know by what criteria Mr Pickles deemed occupying 4.7 hectares of Green Belt would cause substantial damage.
- We need to know, therefore, by what criteria any of the Green Belt can be deemed appropriate for residential development.
As we’ve have seen both with the Cherkley Court application and with the Randalls Road travellers’ application, the elected councillors can override Officer’s recommendations; and with regard to the latter application, we , we saw that the Secretary of State can call an application in at the request of our local MP. So I ask two further questions:
- Why should those same councillors not similarly override whatever recommendations are produced as a result of this current consultation?
- How can the Council retain control of where development takes place if, at the request of our MP, the Secretary of State can call an application in?