Heathrow third runway – your say

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In  October 2016 the national government announced that the Heathrow Northwest Runway Scheme was its preferred location for new runway capacity in the south east,  and ran a 16 week consultation.

A consultation on the revised draft Airports National Policy Statement is now underway. This is an opportunity to record your views on the proposals.

The revised draft Airports National Policy Statement sets out:

  • the need for additional airport capacity in the south-east of England
  • why government believes that need is best met by a north-west runway at Heathrow Airport
  • the specific requirements that an applicant for a new north-west runway will need to meet to gain development consent.

The consultation runs until 19th December 2017. For more information click here or phone 0300 123 4797 or go to this page to make a response.

Is Question Time Intentionally Biased?

Many people complain about the political mix on the BBC’s panel shows; Question Time and Any Questions.  Indeed, it is difficult to understand the basis upon which the panelists are chosen.  I think it would serve the BBC to be open in relation to its selection methodology.

The BBC not only fails to convince that its mix between parties is fair but, in my view, it falls into the trap of being Westminster centric.  This failure over the decades has been a contributing factor in the Brexit result.  The reason is that they both overwhelmingly concentrate on one level of government.  We have four levels of government in this country (I’ll put parishes to one side because they are usually considered non-party political): Europe; Britain; upper local tier; and, lower local tier.  Each week AQ and QT should have one person from each of these tiers.  As QT has five members on its panel it can have a wild card as well.

One might think that by having a specific formula for the panelists the vigour would go out of the debate.  Far from it.  I think that reverse would be true.  There would be a welcome injection of fresh perspectives.  There are around 30,000 politicians in Britain and for each place in the panel there would be a variety of people to chose from.  The methodology below would simply provide a group of people for each panelist chair from which the producers could still choose a specific range of people to add sparkle and energy to the debate.  However, the overall mix would reflect the realty of politics today.

Instead of Westminster politicians having the virtual monopoly to lambaste Europe or local government, representatives from the European parliament and local government could counter these often monochrome arguments.

For many people, the outcome of the Brexit vote was caused by Westminster MPs blaming Europe when an informed Martian knows that most of the problems that concerned leave and remain voters alike (NHS, school places, housing, jobs, immigration) were caused by the British government and not by the Scottish parliament, the European parliament or local government.  Yet for decades AQ and QT has not challenged the Westminster monopoly.

My method of choosing panelists would be as follows.

Politicians.  All panelists on QT and AQ should be politicians.  Pundits are interesting but they have not been elected.  They have not been in the position of having to make difficult – sometimes nigh-impossible – choices between options.  Often with little time and insufficient information.

Gender.  Always two women and two men.  In extenuating times the balance could be different but then it should corrected as soon as possible.

Heritage.  The panel should reflect the self-styled make-up of the country.  How people describe themselves ethnically.  Preferably avoiding the catchall word “British” if possible in the categorization.  According to the latest ONS figures, out of every hundred guests: 73 would be English; 7 Scottish; 4 Welsh; 2 Northern Irish (split); 2 Indian; 2 Pakistani; 2 African; 4 other European; and, 4 other world and mixed.

First Panelist – Europe.  This person should be a member of the European parliament and should be selected in proportion to the votes cast in the last election.  Out of every hundred guests for this seat in the panel: 32 should come from the Peoples Party; 27 from the Labour party;  10 from the Conservative party; 10 from the Liberal Democrat party; 8 from the Left party; 8 from the Green party; and, 7 from UKIP.   The interesting aspect of this particular member of the panel is that although the People’s party is the most numerous party in the European Parliament it does not have a single MEP in Britain.  They could provide a very interesting perspective in upcoming debates.

Second Panelist – Britain.  This person should be a member of the British parliament (either house) and should be selected in proportion to the votes cast in the last election. Out of every hundred guests for this seat in the panel: 37 should come from the Conservative Party; 30 from the Labour party; 13 from UKIP; 8 from the Liberal Democrat party; 5 from the SNP; 4 from the Green party; and, 3 from others.

Third Panelist – upper local tier.  This chair of the panel would be chosen from the Scottish parliament, Welsh and Northern Irish assemblies and English counties.  I do not have the resources to work out what the party political proportion would be for this tier but I suspect there would be fewer UKIPers and more Liberal Democrats and independents.

Fourth Panelist – lower local tier.  This chair of the panel would be chosen from the districts and unitaries across Britain.  Again, I do not have the resources to work out what the party political proportion would be for this tier but I suspect it would be similar to the upper tier with proportionally more independents.

Other characterizations.  It is possible to extend these descriptors to cater for age, orientation, faith and disability etc.

Allocation. You might think that with 30,000 politicians in the pool for the two shows the job of allocation would be difficult.  Getting the data into the system is relatively easy. Writing the computer programme to suggest members for each chair would be a simple task for most programmers.  The programme would automatically suggest, say, twenty people for each chair and the producer would select those that would make for the best programme.

I think that rating for the programmes would increase – at the very least, I would begin to watch QT again.

9,450 new homes – what’s your view?

Elmbridge’s Green Belt is under threat from the national government.  It tells the public that it will protect the Green Belt, but privately Westminster puts pressure on local government saying that boroughs must, from 2018, release the Green Belt for housing development if their local plan is older than 2012.

Elmbridge’s local plan was published in 2011 so it cannot be used to protect the Green Belt after 2018 unless a new plan is produced. Also the national government has said that Elmbridge must build 9,450 houses by 2035.  The new plan must show where these new houses will be built, and if not, the national government will step in.

The borough has four basic options: do nothing and the national government will take over; object to the figure of 9,450 which Elmbridge is currently doing; allow developers to build up in certain places or locate areas of the Green Belt where specific development can take place. Building high is also a consideration.

Your opinion counts – give your option here and for background here

Protecting the Green Belt – Building more Homes

Why is Elmbridge Reviewing the Green Belt?

The answer is simple – the national government has changed planning law and Elmbridge has to respond to the various changes.

This costs money and effort which could otherwise be used to improve or extend services or reduce council tax for the people of Elmbridge but unlike like the British government, under our unwritten constitution, Elmbridge is not sovereign so we have to comply with the wishes of the unrepresentative Westminster government (supported by only 37% of the popular vote).  Ultimately, its army is bigger than ours.

New National Planning Laws
In 2012 the national government introduced a radical change in planning law called the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).  It replaced all previous laws, rules and regulations relating to planning in England.  This caused upset across the planning profession and local government too.  There was a distinct possibility that over sixty years of planning practice would be comprehensively trashed.  As problems with the NPPF were exposed, the national government introduced explanatory guidelines for local government to explain its thinking.  This process could not happen overnight.  In fact, it continues through to today and the national government has indicated that more changes are on the way.

How does that affect Elmbridge?
In 2012, it became possible that developers could apply for planning permission and if Elmbridge refused planning permission the developer could win on appeal because the national government’s planning inspectors would use the new NPPF as the basis of their decision not Elmbridge’ policies.

Elmbridge Responds
As the dust settled, Elmbridge quickly reviewed all of its own adopted planning policies and associated documents to ensure that they complied with the new laws.  Some of Elmbridge’s planning policies only came into force a few months before the publication of the NPPF and were considered compliant with the new NPPF.  Where there was doubt about whether Elmbridge policies were complaint with the NPPF the process of change was put in place.  For the moment, Elmbridge’s Green Belt policy was considered safe.  Despite this, all Elmbridge policies adopted before the NPPF were reviewed on a regular basis to check their compliance.  Not least because the national government was continually introducing new guidances and rules.

Elmbridge’s Housing Requirements
There are many things that the British government requires Elmbridge to do before the borough can set its own plan for Elmbridge.  One of these is an assessment of the need for housing in Elmbridge – both in terms of the number of new houses (or flats) and their size.  In requiring Elmbridge to assess its housing need, the national government did not say how it should be done or what should be considered but it did require that Elmbridge was objective in its assessing housing need (OAN).  Nevertheless, Elmbridge must produce a figure for the number of new homes required by 2035.  Elmbridge has published its Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) and the independently derived figure is 9,450 new homes – about the same number of households currently in Weybridge.  This new figure is over twice the number produced by Elmbridge’s previous SHMA.  The borough’s current local plan does not cater for such a large increase in houses in Elmbridge – a new local plan is required.

More housing changes ahead
Although originally the national government allowed local government to provide their objectively assessed housing need using their own methodology, it now states that there must be one nationally set method for assessing need.  When the national government introduces this new method sometime in the future (date unknown) Elmbridge will have to undertake a new OAN.  This could mean that our current figure of 9,450 new households could be substantially increased (or it could fall but that is less likely).

What would happen if the borough did nothing?
It is very likely that many, if not all, of Elmbridge’s planning decisions will be overturned by the national government.  For example, the recent planning application 2016/2217 for a development of over 1,000 houses, known as Drake Park, between Walton and Molesey, on a large area of green belt.  This was robustly refused by the borough at a meeting on 21 November 2016.  It is likely that the developers will take this to appeal, and one of the main reasons the borough’s decision might be upheld is because we are preparing a revised local plan.

If we do nothing, the national government will declare Elmbridge’s current local plan policies non-compliant with the NPPF and take over planning decisions, which would mean a free-for-all for developers.  As a result (and this has already happened in some areas of the country), all refusals by Elmbridge borough of planning permission, when taken to appeal, would almost inevitably be allowed by the national government’s planning inspectorate.

Furthermore, in those circumstances the costs will almost inevitably have to be borne by Elmbridge local tax payers by means of higher council tax and/or reduced services.  Such applications would be judged only against the NPPF without any reference to any local planning policies or guidelines.  If the borough develops a revised local plan there will be particular local policies which would have to be applied in addition to those in the NPPF.  That is what the current Strategic Options Local Plan consultation is all about.

What is Green Belt?
Many people think that the Green Belt is countryside and the countryside is Green Belt.  Nationally, most of the countryside is not designated Green Belt and in Elmbridge we have many buildings in the Green Belt: offices, houses, schools, colleges, oil depots, sport halls, shops, stations, hotels and more.  Much of the Green Belt is private and the average person may not walk in it or even see it at a distance.

Much of Elmbridge’s countryside is already protected by planning law: sites of special scientific interest, sites of nature conservation importance, conservation areas, local nature reserves, strategic views, ancient woodlands, flood plains, areas of special historic interest and Whiteley protection among other protections.  Often these create greater protection than Green Belt.

But for Elmbridge Green Belt is very important.  Its main function is to stop the coalescence of our towns.  In this regard, it has mainly succeeded.  There are fourteen possible coalescence corridors within Elmbridge – the perceived experience of leaving a town entering the countryside and entering the neighbouring town:  five are well protected, six are reasonably protected (but could be better) and three have no countryside between them (Weybridge-Walton, Walton-Hersham and Ditton-Molesey).  Externally, Ditton has no countryside between it and Surbiton.

In the south of the borough the Green Belt has another role: that of giving a sense of open country – although this is not specifically mentioned in the NPPF.

How do we plan for this number of new houses?
More than half of Elmbridge is covered by Green Belt and as we know, most of the rest of the area has been increasingly urbanised, many would say to capacity.  About 3,500 houses could be probably be built on sites which are known about or allowed for (that is, sites which have been identified by developers and interested parties, allowance for ‘windfall’ sites, backland development etc).  That leaves a shortfall of around 6,000 (the same number incidentally as the ‘affordable’ or social housing which is needed within the borough).  Where are we going to find the space for all these houses?

If we leave the Green Belt entirely untouched we will have to consider more intensive development in existing urban areas, for example, replicating what is going to happen in Kingston and other parts of London, and building upwards.  Are we happy to have multi-storey blocks of flats in our towns, thus altering the character of our area while we leave land designated Green Belt (some of which may not be particularly attractive) untouched?  The additional houses will have to go somewhere.  The borough is required by the national government to review and consider the Green Belt when updating the local plan to take account of the increased assessed housing need.

On the other hand, we could cater for the extra 6,000 households until 2035 by building sixteen town centre housing developments similar in size to the Heart in Walton: two in each of the borough’s towns and one each in Claygate and Oxshott.  In this case, no Green Belt will be touched and, physically, 95% of the borough would remain no different but there will be infrastructure consequences whatever we do.

Elmbridge’s Green Belt Consultation
The national government’s view on housing assessments.
National Policy on the Green Belt

Aren’t we lucky living in a representative democracy

Of course, I am referring to the European Union not Britain.  Unlike the European parliament, the British parliament is clearly unrepresentative.  If we had had a representative government in Britain we would not have had the referendum.  Even though UKIP would have gained around 85 seats and even if they worked directly with the Conservative Party they would not have had the majority necessary to to introduce one.

Campaign with us

Our three top campaigns are

No to a hard Brexit

Elmbridge, Surrey and South East England all voted to remain in Europe.  The other options offered by the Brexiteers are proving to be figments of their imagination.  Join us in protecting Britain from the unthinking slow decline that the Brexiteers offer.

No to Heathrow Expansion

No other country in the development world has decided to built or expand an airport to the west of a major city.  Heathrow is in the wrong place and the proposals fail to address the  problems of pollution that it already causes nor is the sufficient plans infrastructure to make make the expansion work.

Strengthen health and social care

We need a combined heath and social care programme sustainable funded.

Could Richmond Park be repeated in Elmbridge?

sarah-olneyZac Goldsmith resigned as MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston because of his opposition to the planned third runway at Heathrow. But he was ultimately ousted in the by-election by the largely ‘remain’ electorate for his uncompromising stance as a ‘hard Brexiter’. The Lib Dem candidate Sarah Olney won the seat having gained support not just from Lib Dem voters, but also from a large number of pro-Europe Tories and Labour supporters in the constituency.
Could the same happen in Elmbridge? Disappointingly our MP Dominic Raab does not represent our views on Europe, after all 60% of us in the constituency are pro remain. Add to that his staunchly pro-Heathrow expansion stand and he is even less ‘our man’ in Parliament.
There are interesting indications of growing unhappiness in Elmbridge about this state of affairs. People are perturbed by the indifference Mr Raab is showing toward the majority’s views whilst promoting visions of ‘a paradise’ outside the EU. His widely publicised opposition to Parliamentary scrutiny is also puzzling for any democrat.
As the local Liberal Democrat party we have seen increasing numbers of now ex Tory (and Labour) supporters approach us with the question ‘can we not come together as a progressive force to ensure that our views are more fairly represented?’ It is heartening to note that pro-European citizens have not been silenced by the mis-representations and intimidation that emanate from the hard-Brexit camp. So our response is ‘yes, let’s work together’.

Should Dominic Raab MP resign?

european-union-flag-1024x7681Last Thursday (27 October) Dominic Raab MP held a meeting for local residents in Claygate. With 60% of his constituents having voted ‘remain’ in the June referendum the audience was keen to hear whether Mr Raab would have a reassuring message to offer. This was not the case and one audience member asked Mr Raab if it was a matter of honour for him to resign as he does not represent his constituents’ views fairly. Here are some audience reactions after the event:

  • Mr Raab, you made rather light of the roughly 20% drop in the pound. While this has some compensations in making British industry more competitive, if as seems likely it persists, it will have the inevitable result of boosting inflation probably into the 3-4% area for several years, which will erode British living standards. These things tend not to strike home right away, but over time a drop in the value of the currency gets reflected in the purchasing power of ordinary people.
  • You do not believe the British parliament will be able to veto the Article 50 submission, scrutinise yes, but no veto. This leaves the future of our country in a very narrow set of hands from within parliament!
  • You were keenly focussed on today’s data…. GDP (better than expected), the FTSE (highs), inflation (just 1%). But made no recognition of the future… inflation is clearly on the rise, hiring intentions are falling, and the FTSE is so high because the international earnings are translating into more pounds.
  • Mr Raab, your dismissive attitude to people who oppose you, your ideological fanaticism focusing on ‘deals’ and increasing tendency to play the man not the ball have stiffened my resolve to continue the fight. I was encouraged by the lack of substantive contributions made by your ‘fan club’…just a series of braying noises on cue when an opponent dared to challenge their hero, which sadly led you to go on repeating ‘the truth is..!
  • I was uncomfortable with the way you slyly used your supporters against your critics. You were  happy to mock people opposed to your views and used emotive language when talking about refugees – on the one hand using numbers of Syrian children into this country to show some mock humanitarian gesture – you in fact voted AGAINST the children coming here.
  • You just did not take seriously any of the ordinary mothers’ concerns about the future opportunities for their children after Brexit. Neither did you for that matter consider it worth while to consider what is already happening in small and medium sized business – layoffs throughout the supply chain.
  • On the day when the Banking Association told us that some banks are planning to re-locate as early as December you were cock-sure they would not have any place in Europe to go to.
  • You also stated that a good deal was likely because it would be in the economic interest of both Britain and EU countries to have one. I suggest that you are being naïve in the extreme. The western world these is days is riddled with anti-trade, anti-globalisation, protectionist sentiment. These elements are essentially irrational and unable to properly assess such self-interest and are likely to have their way irrespective of the economic self-interest that perhaps more reasonable people might perceive.
  • By the same token the ‘spite’ that you referred to could also easily prevail. History suggests that human being very often take decisions for reasons such as national pride, religious allegiance and many others that have nothing to do with economics. In my view the decision made in the recent Brexit referendum is itself an example of just such a tendency.
  • You also glossed over the potential challenges of the UK joining the WTO. Although Roberto Azevêdo the current director general does not see a problem with it does not alter the fact unanimous approval is required may delay matters and the UK may need to jump through hoops and make messy compromises in order to eventually achieve membership.
  • Could you possibly avoid repeating “the truth is…”, when it is not a truth.
  • May I suggest you should tone down your remarks about the strength of the economy. I predict yesterday’s growth figures will be revised downwards in due course and we will remind you of your optimism if this is the case. You brushed off a 20% devaluation, which in earlier generations would have seen a government fall.
  • You mentioned Glaxo’s increase in profits as evidence. They are of course higher as its revenues are in foreign currency and the pound goes down 20%. That does not show a strong economy; it just demonstrates that Glaxo is a good hedge against sterling.
  • You also brushed off questions about what you would do, if the government fails to achieve the optimistic Brexit you outlined. You should seriously consider what interim arrangements could be put in place once the two-year article 50 time is up to cover Britain until permanent arrangements can be agreed.
  • You talked up worse case scenario being WTO rules and the EU external tariff as “not that bad and potentially more advantageous than we have now”. You are completely blind to the rhetoric coming from EU leaders, such as Francois Holland, saying that Britain will need to pay the price for leaving the EU. How do you think that means we’ll have a better trading relationship with the EU than we do now?
  • You repeated the Brexit line that the EU needs trade with us more than we need trade with them (German cars.. etc) but that has widely been dismissed in Europe as nonsense. We represent about 9% of German car exports so yes they will feel pain over Brexit, but they aren’t going to sacrifice the four EU principles over that. The EU takes something like 45% of our total exports so they hold all the cards in this negotiation.
  • Please don’t forget that people in Elmbridge did not vote for Brexit and the country did not vote to become poorer. Whenever you mention trade, also mention services. That is how Elmbridge mainly earns its living.

Will Britain survive Brexit? Join the next Liberal Exchange.

key_tom_brakeIn last June’s referendum 60% of Elmbridge voted to ‘remain’ in the EU. This contrasts starkly with the position of our local Tory MP as a hard Brexiter, which does not allow for our pro-European views to be represented democratically in Parliament.

Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake will lead the discussion in the next Liberal Exchange about Britain’s economic and cultural challenges brought on by what threatens to become a ‘hard Brexit’. This event is open to all and will take place on Thursday 10 November 2016 at 7.30pm at Holy Trinity Church Hall, Church Road, Claygate.

Organised by Elmbridge Liberal Democrats the event offers increasingly anxious citizens an opportunity to air their concerns about the negative impact of Brexit on our country and our families’ lives going forward.

The focus will be on the many uncertainties brought about by the Conservative government’s risky approach to exit-negotiations. For this reason the Liberal Democrats are pressing the unwilling Theresa May to give the nation and its representatives in Parliament the final say in settling the terms of Britain’s departure from the EU.

All are welcome!

Tribute to ex-councillor Jimmy Cartwright

Ex-councillor Jimmy Cartwright died on Monday 25 July in East Whittering. Representing the Claygate ward he served many years as Liberal Democrat councillor for Elmbridge borough until 2013, when he retired at the age of 81 and moved to West Sussex. As a tribute to Jimmy we re-publish an interview with him and his wife Audrey from the April 2013 issue of Focus.

Jimmy Cartwright resigns from Elmbridge Council – by-election in May 2013

A long-serving Claygate Councillor Jimmy Cartwright has decided to ‘retire from active service’ at the mature age of 81. He has resigned from Elmbridge Borough Council and
this triggered a by-election as his term runs into 2014. The Liberal Democrats have selected Mary Marshall of Holroyd Road, Claygate as their candidate in the forthcoming May elections, hoping to hold on to the seat vacated by Jimmy.

The Focus team visited Jimmy and his wife Audrey as they prepare to re-locate to their new home in West Sussex. Copious cups of tea and delicious cakes inspired a memory-laden fire-side chat with the cheerful couple.

There was a time when Jimmy Cartwright, as the local area manager for Wall’s, used to witness his salesman pick up orders for meat pies, pasties, bacon and pork sausages from eleven (yes you heard right!) different grocery stores in Claygate. Well into the 60‘s the village was still a haven for small stores littered around the village and where people were served over the counter. “Social life and meeting your neighbours in those days revolved around getting your daily shop locally, that’s how important news were exchanged and village affairs were discussed”, Jimmy comments.

“There were no refrigerators either so the stock turnover had to be swift” says Jimmy when looking back at his long and happy career with food manufacturers, and at the different pace of life in the village. Jimmy’s patch as Wall’s area manager was Surrey, but his home base was in Claygate. And so it has remained to this day. In the intervening years Jimmy has witnessed the growth of Claygate into a ‘small town with a friendly village atmosphere’ and a total transformation of grocery retailing.

With his sales experience and the knowledge of the local commercial scene, it was no wonder that in later life Jimmy got involved in running village affairs in the Parish Council. But before retiring fully Jimmy also served a number of years as a bursar in a Molesey school. “I wasn’t ready to rest on my laurels after a busy and rewarding career in a sales role, so I decided to apply for this position in a school. It got me involved in the community from the educational side.”

One thing rapidly followed another and Jimmy was elected a Liberal Democrat Councillor in 2002, representing the Claygate ward in Elmbridge Borough Council. “It’s been very rewarding and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. Speaking on behalf of your community is really more about being an alert and active neighbour than politics as such. After all these years you get to know the people in the village and they know you, so serving as a councillor comes naturally.”

Jimmy’s father ran a grocery business in Kingston, which had an influence on his later career choice. But it was Audrey, his future wife, who drew young Jimmy’s attentions to Claygate. Her family lived in Hare Lane and Audrey’s responsibilities in the family home included mucking out in the stables with 15 beautiful horses. “We had a riding school and I had my very own Lad, a handsome thoroughbred stallion. I think Jimmy first fell in love seeing me mount Lad and looking the part,” Audrey giggles.

The young couple move to their first home together in Meadow Road and subsequently to Rosehill, but later took up residence at Audrey’s family home in Hare Lane where they have remained ever since. “This has been our ‘happy castle‘ for many years and we’ve enjoyed being in the centre of action in the village. The horses have long since gone, but wonderful memories remain,” tells Audrey.

A while ago Jimmy and Audrey decided that in their senior years it was time to embark on ‘a project to explore the world‘. So they started looking for a new home in West Sussex, by the sea. They eventually found just the ideal one in East Whittering, near where Jimmy’s younger brother already lives. Although Jimmy still had a year left of his term as a councillor, he decided that now is the right time to move and handed in his resignation to Elmbridge Council.

“As a councillor I have always believed that the best way to get things done is to talk quietly and personally with everybody – including those who opposed my ideas or perspective on things. Grandstanding or aggression was never for me,” Jimmy analyses his approach in Council work.