Why we’re standing up for the Green Belt

Reigate & Banstead Borough Council is consulting on new development management policies that include potentially allowing up to 1,400 new homes to be built in the Green Belt.

You can view the Council’s proposals and submit your comments online – or visit an exhibition to see the plans and meet planning officers. Details of both are on this page

East Surrey Green Party is holding a public meeting to discuss the proposals. All are welcome

We are opposed to Green Belt release. Here’s why:

Green Belt serves several vital purposes. It stops urban sprawl – stopping towns joining together. It provides space for recreation and for wildlife. And it ensures there is land around big cities to provide the food and other amenities they need.

The Green Belt has done a fantastic job of preserving the character of our towns, villages and countryside and it should be off limits for development.

National planning policies brought in by the coalition government have put ours and other Councils in a very difficult position. They are obliged to plan for high levels of housing growth.

But south-east England is already overcrowded, and needs the Green Belt to be protected. Meanwhile, other parts of the country are badly in need of regeneration.

Locally, we need places for our young people and key workers to live in. That means affordable homes in our towns and villages, not expensive low- and medium-density housing developments on the edges of our towns.

The Green Councillors are listening to residents and will be preparing our own detailed response to the consultation. Please contact us to tell us your views.

 

“The need for a buffer of natural landscape [around our cities] has never been more critical – not only as an essential refuge for wildlife… but for us all to be able to access for the benefit of our health and wellbeing… The Green Belt acts as a ring for life, to lose it would be an act of dangerous short-termism.”
Chris Packham, naturalist and television presenter

 

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Council Motion: Surrey needs to listen to residents and repair divisions

Jonathan Essex, County Councillor for Redhill East, will move a Motion at the Surrey County Council meeting on 12 July, inviting the Council to respond to the challenges posed by the result of the recent EU referendum. The text of the Motion is as follows:

This Council notes that whilst Surrey voted 52 – 48% to remain in the European Union, the UK as a whole voted the opposite way. We respect the fact that five of Surrey’s eleven districts voted to leave, with six to remain and that the younger generation voted far more heavily to remain.

This Council believes that following this referendum, there is a need for a listening exercise to repair the divisions, and with tolerance and respect, to try to re-unite the people of Surrey.

Therefore this Council resolves to:

  • explore ways of bridging divisions in our communities, through intergenerational dialogue and increased understanding.
  • seek reassurance from the Government that the four-year funding deal offer to local government is ring-fenced from any future budget changes following this referendum vote.
  • ask the Government to take steps to ensure that staff and students from EU countries can continue to work and study at our three universities, Surrey, Royal Holloway College and the University of the Creative Arts.
  • work with all the boroughs and districts to ensure that no racist or xenophobic behaviour is tolerated.

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Green Councillor joins Opposition Forum at County Hall

Liberal Democrat and Green County Councillors have formed a Combined Group, the Surrey Opposition Forum, on Surrey County Council to provide a more effective opposition to the Conservatives at County Hall.

Jonathan Essex, Green County Councillor for Redhill East, said, “The new Opposition Forum will enable us to more effectively scrutinise and challenge the Council’s Conservative leadership. It doesn’t commit Liberal Democrat and Green councillors to vote the same way but it does mean we can work together to better hold our very one-sided Tory Council to account.”

Liberal Democrat County Councillor Hazel Watson said, “I am delighted that we will be working closely with Jonathan Essex from the Green Party to provide a more effective opposition which can challenge the administration for the benefit of Surrey residents.”

 

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New Green Councillor elected in Redhill

Steve McKenna croppedSteve McKenna was elected as Councillor for Redhill East in last week’s local elections.

Steve joins Jonathan Essex as one of two Greens on Reigate & Banstead Borough Council.

You can read more about Steve here.

Thank you to everyone who supported the Green candidates – and all those who voted Green.

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Introducing Steve McKenna, candidate for Redhill East

Steve McKenna is standing for election as Councillor in Redhill East on 5 May 2016. [Read about our other candidates here]

Steve McKenna croppedSteve is a Chartered Surveyor and Town Planner. He has 30 years’ experience working for public and private sector organisations, and has managed many major urban regeneration programmes. He currently works for a charity that acquires and manages open spaces for public benefit.

As a member of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors’ (RICS) World Environment and Resources Board, Steve has worked on RICS’ responses to Government policy initiatives including leading RICS’ work on issues concerning the extraction and use of rare earth metals.

Steve says, “I want to represent Redhill East to help protect and enhance the character of our town and green spaces, and to represent all residents.

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Climate Local: which way will Conservative councillors vote?

Tonight Reigate and Banstead Borough Council will vote on a recommendation by the Executive NOT to sign up to the ‘Climate Local’ initiative.

Climate Local is an initiative run by the Local Government Association and the Environment Agency to encourage and support local Councils to take action on climate change [1].

I introduced a Motion suggesting that Reigate and Banstead join up at a recent Council meeting and it was seconded by Cllr Kay, the Council’s Deputy Leader.

As Surrey County Council had recently agreed to sign up to Climate Local, I was hopeful that our local Council would too.

However the Council’s Executive (ten Conservative Councillors) have decided not to do so – and will be asking the full Council to ratify this at tonight’s Council meeting.

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Earlswood Lakes: how was decision to allow boating made?

Many residents have contacted us about their concerns over recent developments at Earlswood Lakes.

The Council is awarding new contracts for catering at the Lakes, including the reintroduction of boating on the top lake.

Boating was stopped years ago and since then the lake has been managed for wildlife.  It is part of a Local Nature Reserve and Site of Nature Conservation Interest and boating is prohibited by bylaw.

The decision to reintroduce boating was made by the Council’s Property and Regeneration Department, without consulting the public, wildlife groups, the Earlswood Common Management Steering Group or local Councillors.

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Reigate and Banstead can choose to invest to make our services better and living here more affordable

This is the speech I made in response to Reigate & Banstead Borough Council’s budget proposal at last night’s Council meeting. (Please see the footnotes for references and further information.)

I will start by thanking officers for their work preparing this financially sound budget. Yet our strong financial position includes money not yet used, which could deliver more for our residents.

We should ensure that our budget delivers our promises to residents. Over three years ago we promised to make our recycling better for all1. But only one third of those in flats have our new service2 – although this was promised again in last year’s budget. At the current roll-out rate this will take another six years. Extra staff are needed in our recycling team to speed this up – and not just to make it happen but to help stop the wrong waste contaminating our recycling, which is currently costing our council hundreds of thousands each year. Read More »

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The Government should not force Surrey to make frontline cuts

Today was the annual budget-setting meeting for Surrey County Council.  This is the speech I made.

I cannot support this budget.  As an opposition member here in Surrey I only get to vote on the budget envelope rather than on what’s inside. This budget hides all the details which could mean deeper cuts to care services while leaving every Surrey resident, rather than tax dodgers, facing a 4% tax hike.

This Council accepts the government’s two – not so generous – offers: firstly to eliminate all funding in two years not four, and secondly to raise council tax by 4% not 2% – but this still leaves us with a budget gap.

The government appears to be quite happy for Councils like ours to deal with deepened funding cuts by cutting spending on adult social care and children’s services, while infrastructure spend such as on highways, street lights and waste disposal is bound up in long term contracts and can’t be cut.

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“A dangerous attack on local democracy”

Like many councillors, I am receiving a lot of emails this week from people concerned about leaked government plans to strip councils of their right to vote against fracking applications in their area. You can read about the leaked proposals in The Telegraph.

This is how I am responding:

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