Hands off our Green Belt!

What land should be released for building over the next 15 years? That’s what the Local Plan is all about. But the inflated government target for building in Elmbridge will mean the extra people will:

  • Squeeze already hard pressed local health services
  • Create further shortages of local school places
  • Intensify traffic congestion
  • Increase pollution

What we really need is 1, 2 and 3 bedroom truly affordable homes. Is this going to happen? No! Land prices are high so private sector homes will be unaffordable. And the national government makes sure that boroughs have insufficient revenue to build new social housing. National funding for local government has halved in the last ten years.   So the amount of social housing which can be built is very limited.

The national government requires our borough to allow 9,400 extra homes to be built over the next 15 years.  The borough has independently assessed that 5,000 new homes are needed for our needs in Elmbridge over the next 15 years.  The government requirement of 9,400 new homes is based on flawed thinking. All the options, but one, in the Local Plan consultation document lead to too much development because it had to follow government guidelines. Only Option 4 restricts development as far as it can and preserves the existing character of our community. This is the one we should press our Councillors to adopt.

It doesn’t deliver all the building central government wants, but we need to send a clear message to government that this is justified. There is a risk that government will overrule us, but we must choose whether to fight or cave in.

What to do?

Right now – or as soon as you can:

  1. Read the Local Plan documents and complete the consultation form
  2. Write to your local councillor (Check names on www.elmbridge.gov.uk )
  3. Post your views on Facebook and/or Twitter
  4. Write to your MP Philip Hammond and/or Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government – both at the House of Commons.
  5. Book your attendance for the meeting on 27th August (you need to apply for a ticket here)
  6. Join your local local residents’ association or amenity society

Shape the future of Weybridge

Our Home

Weybridge is undeniably an attractive place to live. Our easy access to London and Heathrow, our vibrant town centre, rivers, woodlands and green spaces, all ensure that many find it hard to imagine living anywhere else and would like our children to be able to live here too.

More houses

We recognise that, as people live longer and households are smaller, we need to build more and different places to live in Weybridge.  Even with no interference from outside, our council would encourage the building of homes with fewer rooms.  Ideally almost all of them would be social and affordable housing for rent, with some for purchase.  Thus moving the emphasis from mansions to high quality, smaller, environmentally sustainable homes.  This would mean about 200 new homes a year across Elmbridge.

Unfortunately, the regime in Westminster has stated we must make provision for 600 new homes to be built in Elmbridge, each year, for the next fifteen years.  Three times as high as our current build.

Elmbridge versus national government

Elmbridge has no power in this debate.  If we do not do what the national government says we risk having all our planning powers taken away from us and developers might run amok.  The only way this will change is if there is a change of national government – and it looks as if the new Johnson administration is set on having a national election in the next few months.  Of the four national parties, three are pushing for more housing to be built (the Brexit “party” does not yet have any policies except to leave Europe), but they differ in their views on what sort of housing we need and where it should be built.

But we do not give in – Elmbridge will make the best case within the rules that are laid down.  We aim to adopt a new Local Plan for “sustainable” development in Elmbridge.  The borough’s staff have been working with other local governments, national agencies and utility providers to assemble the evidence required to make robust decisions. Laying the foundations for a Local Plan is a very complex affair and is often iterative.

Elmbridge Borough has listened to the concerns of Elmbridge residents, and has been working hard to progress a new Local Plan. This long-term plan aims to marry our national obligations to build more homes in Elmbridge with our desire to protect the character of Elmbridge.

The next stage is a public consultation running from 19 August through to 30 September. It is important that all residents from all parts of Elmbridge get involved by making a response to the consultation. You can sign up to alerts on the Local Plan through the EBC website and at consult.elmbridge.gov.uk

Councillor Karen Randolph, Portfolio Holder for Planning, has said:

“It is vital for the future of our borough that our residents contribute to the development of the Elmbridge Local Plan. We are determined to do what is best for Elmbridge and we want to hear from you.

“When the consultation opens on 19 August there will be information available in libraries, at the Civic Centre in Esher, online on the Council’s website and we will also host public meetings, all to provide our residents with as much information as possible on the Local Plan options.

“We want to shape Elmbridge for the benefit of all; will you help us?”

We are not a ‘safe seat’ any longer

Featured

The old adage about ‘safe seats’ does not apply in the Esher & Walton constituency any longer. Here’s the proof. Elmbridge voted decisively ‘remain’ in the European election by voting for the Liberal Democrats – ahead of the Brexit Party and the Conservatives.

And the most recent YouGov poll in the Esher & Walton constituency confirms that the Liberal Democrats are ahead of the Conservatives in people’s voting intentions.
So the time has come to send a Liberal Democrat to Westminster as our MP.

Our parliamentary candidate Monica Harding is campaigning energetically to unseat the current Tory MP Dominic Raab, who does not represent our views.
Get to know Monica and support her campaign!
https://www.monicaharding.org
https://www.facebook.com/MonicaHardingEsherWalton

Successful Liberal Exchange with Antony Hook MEP candidate and Monica Harding Prospective Parliamentary Candidate

Our Liberal Exchange with Antony Hook MEP candidate and Monica Harding Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Esher and Walton last night in Esher was inspiring, encouraging and energising. Thank you both and great to have a good crowd join us. Now we are campaigning across the constituency for all ‘remainers’ to vote for the Liberal Democrats in the European election on 23rd May. We can still stop Brexit!

Liberal Exchange about Euro elections with Antony Hook MEP candidate for the South East and Monica Harding Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Esher and Walton

Having only just ‘wrapped up’ the local Elmbridge election there’s another election looming in a couple of weeks – the European Parliamentary election on 23rd May.
Here’s an opportunity to learn more about European Parliamentary election, Parliament itself, how it works and how our MEPs are contributing.
We are delighted to have Antony Hook, Liberal Democrat MEP candidate for the South East join us this Sunday 12th May at 7pm at King George’s Hall in Esher (opposite the Civic Centre) to tell us more about European Parliament and its role. You’ll be able to put questions to Antony and engage in a discussion about the current state of affairs in Brexit negotiations.

Antony is an international criminal barrister by professional background so he also knows a thing or two about cross border crime, and why European cooperation is essential. But not just in crime, but also in how to tackle climate change and air pollution, transport, research cooperation, agriculture, technical standards and other key areas.
The event will be hosted by Monica Harding, Lib Dem Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Esher and Walton.

You and your friends are warmly welcome on Sunday night (12th May at 7pm) to this free event!

Why aren’t we getting there? By train!

Monica Harding, Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Liberal Democrats in Esher & Walton writes:  

South Western Railway has become a joke in our constituency. Failings in our transport network mean we can’t get to work on time, our children can’t get to school, and yet fares have increased again by 3.2% in the New Year. We’re being asked to pay more for less.

It is not good enough. It is unacceptable that we are not able to get to London on time – the world capital of finance in one of the largest economies in the world. This is having a negative impact on earnings which are lost, enforced time off work, childcare extras, appointments missed and so on.

While the national government fails to get a grip on poor performance, Liberal Democrat MPs are stepping up and holding the rail companies to account. They believe that passengers must come first, not the investors in South Western Railway. They are speaking up for their constituents and offering solutions and they are pressing the government to take action.

Our neighbouring Lib Dem MP, Vince Cable (Twickenham) brought an emergency debate to parliament in December on the subject of South Western Railway and Ed Davey (Kingston and Surbiton) has set up an All Party Parliamentary Group to hold the train companies to account. In December Ed published a report ‘ Passengers Must Come First’ which spells out what needs to happen.

LibDem MPs have a reputation as good constituency MPs, working hard for their constituents and standing up for their interests. As the Liberal Democrat PPC in Esher and Walton I will work with Ed and Vince in pushing the solutions for trains in our constituency.

Here’s what needs to happen:

  • The national government must either remove SWR’s franchise or impose a new performance related contract, without negotiation.
  • SWR must not be rewarded for its manifest failure. A new contract or operator must be incentivized to put the passenger first, before shareholders. Profits should only be made once stretching performance targets are met.
  • Performance targets on SWR must include the existing Public Performance Measures improving to at least 90% on all routes by the end of 2018/20.
  • SWR and Network Rail must urgently develop new capability and capacity to manage disruptions better.
  • The Government must support immediate additional funding for essential investment.
  • Network Rail must reform its structure and culture so that managers are held accountable for performance.
  • Network Rail must be given more time to access safely the infrastructure to allow for basic maintenance and repairs.
  • The Department for Transport’s role in holding the rail companies to account should be independently assessed.

Want to know more? Follow me on twitter @monicabeharding, Facebook or at monicaharding.org and get updates as we demand better for Esher and Walton.

Guess what – Surrey admits Brexit is bad for us

Brexit is bad for us says Surrey County Council’s impact assessment – now that it has finally been revealed.

Thanks to Monica Harding working with other local Lib Dem members and our campaign with the Surrey Advertiser, the Information Commissioner’s Office have ordered Surrey County Council to release their Brexit Impact assessments.

And guess what, brexit is really bad.
‘No deal’ means that the UK would be treated by the EU as a 3rd country and would be subject to full 3rd country controls, including completing customs declarations and being subject to a variety of border checks.

Brexit is not included as a risk within the National Risk Assessment 2016. Although the risks associated with BREXIT can be drawn from this document

On the Surrey Community Risk Register in a no deal brexit scenario the following risks are identified:
H14 – Food Supply contamination
H60 – High consequence dangerous goods / transport accident
H24 – Emerging Infectious Diseases
H25 – Major outbreak of exotic notifiable disease in animals (including birds)
H37 – Influx of British Nationals

The following risks have also been identified in the SCC report:

  • Loss of cover due to industrial action by workers providing a service critical to the preservation of life (such as emergency service workers)
  • Local accident on motorways and major trunk roads
  • Public Disorder
  • Notifiable plant disease / Notifiable exotic invertebrate species

Within SLRF partners own risk management processes there is the risk to the supply chain where goods and products are imported from the European mainland

And the kicker – as of 20 July 2018, HMG has suggested that partners should have plans in face for a four week period of disruption (that is increased controls by EU states at ports, including Eurotunnel) plus a two week period to allow the impact to return to relatively normal levels of service.

Key consequences:

  • Surrey expect long delays in accessing Dover ports and Eurotunnel in Kent.
  • Temporary closure or permanent changes to all or part of the M20 and M26 to support Operation Stack and other mitigations for port delays.
  • Significant reduction in the capacity of the Surrey Highway Network, with consequential increase in local and pan Surrey road journey times, impacting on local residents and businesses.
  • Significant long term detrimental impact on county’s economic competitiveness, attractiveness
  • Significant disruption to health and social care delivery within the community; for patients travelling to hospitals for treatment and for critical staff in getting to work

Significant disruption to the food supply chain with delays in the exportation of food from Britain, and importation of food from the rest of Europe and non EU countries.
Significant disruption to the distribution of medication around the county along with supply chain of medication from outside of Britain.

Significant economic and environmental impacts for Surrey or in other words – total chaos to our supply chains. That’s food and medicine supplies to the shops. We learn of nearly half million homeless in Britain, and one in five children living with severe food insecurity, and then Brexit contingency plans say supplies will be disrupted. Welcome to the land of hunger.

When was the government last right on a timescale? The Prime Minister couldn’t even get the date of the meaningful vote delivered, a simple vote in parliament. What hope ferries delivering vital food and medicine to Britain? How long will four weeks stretch on for with failing Chris Grayling, four months? four years?

Surrey hid it from us, even though it all its contents were already in the public domain. Why?

Surrey County Council has only included in its impact assessment existing published information. Why did they try to hide it from residents? Were they ashamed of their own lack of activity, or following the minority conservative governments orders against the interests of the residents of Surrey?

Surrey County Council obviously feared the residents of Surrey would be unhappy to learn of their plans, and so decide to keep them hidden. They found the only legal argument they could to try and hide behind. To refuse to provide local residents with information about Brexit preparations, to deny FOI requests, and to keep secrets from residents. They relied upon an exception intended for cases of national emergency and public order. They relied upon the section 36(2)(c) exemption – the catch all exception – using “safe space arguments” to delay the publication of supposedly important contingency plans.

And they have been found to have done so improperly, with the ICO ordering the information be released.

A victory for Surrey residents against a secretive county council seeking to keep the residents of Surrey in the dark.

Yet the plans are half baked, barely worth the effort of reading. What a farce of a county council.

Surrey residents left in the dark again.

Tribute to Paddy Ashdown

Lord Ashdown (Paddy) has died after a short illness. He was a big politician in the best sense of the word, who seemed to be one of those indefatigable people who would always be there dispensing his wisdom and enthusiasm. A great loss. A wonderful person.

I didn’t get to meet him apart from when he signed a copy of his book for me after a talk describing his upbringing and how he became such a committed and successful Liberal Democrat. I was struck by how his remarkable career evolved and how he became a Liberal. This was well set out in the Guardian obituary and it includes this quotation from his memoirs “the decision (to become a politician) was naïve to the point of irresponsibility; it just happens to be the best decision I made in my life.”

Ashdown will be best remembered for transforming the Liberal Democrats into an effective third party – gaining the best ever result in the 1997 election – and for serving as the United Nations’ high representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina from 2002 to 2006. He oversaw the implementation of the Dayton peace agreement, which has kept the peace in the Balkans since the Bosnian war.

He was generously praised by politicians from across the spectrum after news of his death emerged. He was an ardent pro-European and tireless campaigner. He built relationships across political parties. He is a great loss to the Liberal Democrats and to the country – especially as we face the uncertainties looming in 2019. Sad though the mess we have got ourselves into is, we do have to put some trust in there being people like Paddy Ashdown who will work across parties to make the best of a bad job.

Paddy Ashdown’s unique campaigning zeal is what we Liberal Democrats need more than ever in working to secure a solution that addresses all our deepest concerns.

On that note I wish you all an optimistic New Year, which we, and the country, can all hopefully enjoy in 2019.

Richard Waller – Chair of Elmbridge Liberal Democrats

 

Brexitometer highlights anti-Brexit sentiment in Elmbridge

Monica Harding, Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate for Esher & Walton, together with her campaign team are hitting the streets of Elmbridge and asking residents about their Brexit concerns – using Brexitometer. In it locals are invited to give their view on five Brexit-related questions, by placing star stickers in ‘yes’ or ‘no’ boxes. So far this street action has taken place in Walton and Claygate. Esher, Cobham, Molesey, Thames Ditton and Long Ditton are next in line.
There is no doubt about how Elmbridge residents are responding to Brexit – it is not going well, it is bad for our future, it will hurt NHS and economy. Mr Raab also gets a thumbs down when it comes to his role in the process. So no wonder a large majority of residents demand a People’s Vote.

If you’d like to hear more about Brexitometer or talk with Monica about your concerns, get in touch by emailing her – monica_harding@hotmail.com – or call her on 07799 704816.

 

Liberal Democrats’ Prospective Parliamentary Candidate Monica Harding invites you to support her campaign

Dominic Raab’s resignation as Brexit Secretary has made it clear that our local MP wants the very hardest of Brexits and is willing to push our country to a no-deal.  There is no moderation in his idea of leaving the EU.  This is at odds with the wishes of his constituency who voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU.

As Brexit Secretary he was responsible for negotiating the deal which he now says he can’t support. Two years of negotiation and two Brexit secretaries have been unable to produce a deal which would lead us to the sunlit uplands promised by the Leave campaign.

It is clear it can’t be done.

We are left with a bad deal which the Prime Minister is trying to railroad us into accepting, because everyone knows a no deal outcome would be catastrophic.

The Prime Minister asked MPs to make a choice of her deal, no deal or no Brexit. She asked them to choose based on what their constituents want. We know what the constituents of Esher and Walton want based on their vote in the referendum. But I’m not sure our MP is listening or wants to listen. He certainly looks hell bent on his own idea of a hard Brexit.

If our MP can’t represent us then let’s fight for a people’s vote where we can express the final choice ourselves. Let’s take back control.

If you believe that your MP no longer represents you, then please join my campaign. My team are fighting hard for a people’s vote because we believe the people of Esher and Walton deserve better and for their voices to be heard.

Our country stands on the brink – the decisions taken over the next few months will determine our futures and Britain’s place in the world for decades to come. If you want your voice heard then join me. Please email me – monica_harding@hotmail.com – and we’ll work together.

Monica Harding
Prospective Parliamentary Candidate
for Liberal Democrats in Esher & Walton

Email monica_harding@hotmail.com