Due to the inspiration of David Smith the Residents Association was re-vitalised from the remaining nucleus of the Leatherhead Society, and thanks to the hard work particularly of Paula Sabine and Fran Barnby the membership has grown from two to five hundred households. Ray Brown set us on course with the establishment of our Website and we now have the excellent support of our Webmaster John Bleackley.
I am not going to bore you with a summary of the events of the past eighteen months. All members have received our newsletters and those who have access to the Website have a regular update of minutes and are aware of our concern with events in the area concerning planning, parking, the High Street, the River Path, Epsom Hospital, transport and the Core Strategy – future planning for Mole Valley.
My task is to thank members who have supported our meetings, Roy and Cheryl Allen and Caroline Brown for their support to local residents and their concerns over planning issues.
Over this past year that has been a considerable increase in concern over consultation, MVDC has provided training for Residents Associations concerning planning, but the situation still continues of proposals concerning the High Street where consultation has not been extended sufficiently to residents who are concerned over the obstruction to comfortable and safe access through the High Street, due to clutter of A boards, chairs and tables, parked cars and the sad state of the paving, drains and rough cobbles. However there appears to be action planned to improve this situation.
Changes have been made in the methods of providing information and consultation. We no longer receive paper copies of minutes and Agendas of the MVD Council meetings, and now have to rely on the Internet. The introduction of Council controlled Forums, in our case the Ashtead and Leatherhead Forum, has led to concern from all four district Residents Associations in the North of Mole Valley, who all agreed the importance of maintaining the Leatherhead Town Centre Forum as a means of sharing our mutual concerns. This has led to a change of name and will now be known as the Leatherhead and District Forum.
Three years ago representatives of each of the four areas led the research involved in the establishment of the Leatherhead Plan and the eventual formation of the Leatherhead Area Partnership to enable the opportunity for finding additional funding for local projects. Some have been successful, a few led yet again to concerns over insufficient consultation. Three members of the Leatherhead Residents committee, David Smith, Paula Sabine and myself are now members of the Leatherhead Area Partnership and are in a better position to represent the concerns of residents and also to promote local need for organisations needing funding.
The LAP now intend to centre their aims on supporting local organisations, which will ensure that projects are put forward that are hopefully not likely to cause contentious opposition. That is my interpretation of the decision. The LAP reports to the Leatherhead District Forum and it also has established links and incorporates representation by local Council Officers and County and District Councillors, at present these are Tim Hall and David Sharland.
Another change intended to involve greater public in-put to influencing services is the establishment of Local Involvement Networks, which replace the Patient and Public Information forums. Members of the public are invited to monitor both Health and Social Services. Surrey LINks is in its first year of establishing committees and I serve on the communications and mental health groups.
The Government have also decided that greater concern should be taken in the views of people of age 50+, and the establishment of local a regional forums through Age Concern and the amalgamation of Age Concern and Help the Aged are again adding to a volume of meetings, not to mention the Co-design meetings held by the Surrey Primary Care Trust concerning the provision of services at Epsom Hospital. The outcome of these is to be announced on Wednesday at Epsom Town Hall.
Challenges: The recent announcement of MVD cuts in subsidies and increases in charges, in the current credit crunch, leaves us all aware of the need for not only tightening our own belts, but also the need for extra support both by volunteers and petitioning and fund-raising. One advantage of the concerns of climate change and considering reducing the effects of CO2 emissions is that it involves reducing expenditure, although sometimes it involves initially increased installations costs. The arrival of 1400 employees to Unilever in Leatherhead has increased the road and parking problems, but hopefully helps to support our local shops.
This week presented the proposals for waiting restrictions for consultation and the next stage of the Core Strategy and housing provision proposals. But without consultation the latter has included a suggestion of a possibility of increased housing provision over the car park area in Bridge Street.
This last Saturday a number of voluntary and service organisations took part in a health and community event jointly promoted with Mole Valley 50+. Apart from providing information useful to a number of residents on issues of finance, carers concerns, health, transport and volunteering, there were a number of suggested ventures, which will present us with challenges:
- The survival of the Theatre
- The formation of a Credit Union
- The offer of a musical event as an opportunity of funding.
- The challenge of encouraging Leatherhead to become a Transition town and to decrease the use of oil, preparing for the inevitable reduction in oil supplies and the problems of climate change.
- And an assurance of funding from Surrey County Council for a future community event.
As increasingly the means of communication becomes focused on e-mail and the Internet, I find myself involved with communication to a variety of organisations with members, who do not have access to the internet, either due to age, health problems or lack of income. I have reluctantly decided that I cannot cope with the increase of commitment that I have undertaken and have decided to step down from the chairmanship of the Residents Association, knowing that there are others with greater computer skills and experience of local government than myself well able to take over. I will continue to support the committee and look forward to the challenges that are inevitably going to keep me busy with your help.
Hilary Porter 1.3.09