The government’s planning proposals: wrong answers based on wrong assumptions

I am compiling a response from the local Green Party to the Government’s ‘Planning for the future’ policy proposals – please send me your thoughts before Thursday, 29 October and I will try to include all useful contributions in our response.

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New planning rules a cynical attempt to assist big housebuilders

Recent changes to planning law brought in by Conservative governments mean that our Council is losing control over developments in our towns. ‘Permitted development rights’, which allow office blocks (not just empty ones) to be converted into flats have led to some becoming modern-day slums which have had a detrimental effect on the mental and physical health of their occupants.

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Summary of Jonathan Essex’s questions at County Council meeting

Surrey County Council’s big transport investment plans fly in the face of Climate Emergency

Despite declaring a Climate Emergency last year, Surrey County Council’s coronavirus recovery plans seem to have ignored climate and other environmental considerations while applying for much-needed government funding. Green Party Councillor Jonathan Essex (Redhill East) raised the issue at a council meeting this week, questioning why £42m in road infrastructure investments did not include a formal environmental or sustainability report, as mandated by the council’s Climate Change Strategy.

Jonathan also sought to affirm the council’s commitment to promoting reuse and retrofitting, rather than new builds, via support for the #RetroFirst campaign from the Architects Journal (see https://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/news/retrofirst). The Climate Change Strategic Board has pledged to consider this at their next meeting.

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Green Councillors respond to call for food bank donations

During this period of lockdown, food bank donations have decreased while demand for donations has reached record levels. Throughout this time of hardship more and more people have found themselves relying on food banks to support themselves and their families, but as money gets tighter, fewer people have been able to do donate resulting in a crisis at food banks.

Green councillor for Earlswood and Whitebushes, Ruth Ritter

Green councillor for Redhill East, Sue Sinden

Green councillors Sue Sinden (Redhill East) and Ruth Ritter (Earslwood and Whitebushes) have stepped up with others to support Reigate and Banstead’s call for donations to the central food bank at The Harlequin. By setting up collection boxes in their gardens, it allowed people who were less mobile/higher risk to donate without having to travel into Redhill town centre.

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Three green things to keep you entertained this lockdown season

1. Hope for the Future’s Webinar Series

The webinar series from Hope for the Future brings together the views of environmental, climate, health and social experts on the impacts of COVID-19. The series covers how we can move forward with an environmental perspective; the role of UK politicians in recovering from the crisis; and the alternatives to COP26 climate talks following its postponement. It encourages interaction from those participating and provides a space where your questions can be answered by experts. The live shows are free to participate in and will continue through to July.

The series is available live on https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/hope-for-the-future-17742422623. If you cannot make the live broadcast, it is recorded and available on their YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHF4s9laXn3sgn7RVN3yh9A

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Green Councillor makes emergency cycling and walking investment proposals

New cycle lanes on London’s Park Lane. Source: Redhillandreigatelife.co.uk

As part of the coronavirus emergency response, central government has made money available for local authorities to make changes to the road network to make it easier for people to walk and cycle.

East Surrey Green Party consulted our members and local cycling campaigners and sustainable travel champions and pulled together a set of recommendations of how this could be done in Reigate & Banstead.

We have submitted this to Surrey County Council.  Green County Councillor Jonathan Essex will work with council officers and others to push for these improvements to be made.

Link to submission: http://redhillgreens.org.uk/downloads/cycling-and-walking-proposals-to-scc-3june20.pdf

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Save Longmead!

The Longmead building – a handsome Edwardian school in Redhill Town Centre is threatened with imminent demolition – despite being acknowledged as of historic importance and structurally sound.

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Councillor news… an anniversary and a goodbye

Newly elected Cllr Essex in May 2010

Newly elected Cllr Essex in May 2010

Ten years ago this week, Jonathan Essex was elected as Redhill’s first ever Green Councillor – and the first to be elected on a Green ticket in Surrey.

Since then he’s worked tirelessly to bring about positive changes in Redhill and beyond – and has proved a strong and principled independent voice on the local and County Councils.

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Difficult times: responding to the Covid-19 emergency

We are in uncertain times as the Covid-19 pandemic escalates in our country and round the world. We don’t yet know the extent of the impacts it will have, but we do know they will be devastating, with great loss of life and difficulties for people, businesses and communities across every sector of our society. Many people are anxious and afraid.

Our Councillors will do all they can to support our communities, working with the Council and the voluntary sector, in line with official advice.

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Time for the Council to address affordable housing shortage and climate threat

At the Council’s budget-setting meeting on 13 February 2020, I called on the Council to set targets for new genuinely affordable homes for rent, to provide stronger support across all our communities to address the impacts of austerity, and to commit to real urgency in addressing climate change.

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