Developing Redhill, demolitions in Horley, but no more solar power

This Thursday was the latest meeting of the Council’s Executive. As usual we joined other ‘back-benchers’ in asking questions before the 10-person Conservative Executive voted on key decisions.

The agenda was an epic 342-pages! Some of the discussions on it and our thoughts are shared below.

Powering Community

The meeting started with our Green motion – to put solar panels on local buildings, including those owned by the Council, and set up an Energy Services Company to channel the income from these panels to community projects.

I made a short presentation (you can read it below) outlining how this could be a win-win option for the Council and community. Even with the reduced government support, solar energy still offers a good return on investment of up to 10% each year, compared with the less than 2% the Council is getting currently from its other investments.

The Conservative Executive members acknowledged that this was a good idea, but that “other priorities” meant they were unable to take any action now. So our motion was not passed. This felt like a lost opportunity: while the Durban Climate Summit pushes for a global agreement on climate change this week, our Council is also still failing to take sufficient action.

Vision for Redhill – what do you think?

Most of the agenda was devoted to plans to redevelop Redhill town centre. The Council plans to ‘regenerate’ the town centre, mainly by building more shops and offices and 700 more houses – including on car parks and empty community buildings. (Is it sensible to build on ALL the car parks in Redhill?)

We are concerned that the plans rely on predictions that we need even more shops and offices, without considering the impact of new stores on the existing High Street or making plans on how we might fill the currently empty offices. The Council says that we should not be concerned as a big new Sainsbury’s should solve the problems – although this is not how bigger supermarkets have impacted town centres elsewhere.

We proposed that the ‘evidence base’ for the public consultation should include our plans for sustainable transport improvements (also agreed at the meeting), consider the need for youth and community facilities (as highlighted recently by our County Councillors) and make sure the housing plan does not ignore homelessness.

Please let us know what you think – and have your say in the New Year when the Council will be consulting on the plans.

Marketfield Way Car park

The Executive, as well as approving demolition of two buildings in Horley, approved initial proposals to sell Redhill’s Marketfield Way car park.

The outline option agreed is to knock down the existing shops to make way for a cinema, new shops and restaurants (as already reported in the Surrey Mirror).

We raised concerns after we heard that the Council’s leadership is prepared to virtually give away the site. We argued, with other back-bench Councillors, that giving away our public sites in Redhill is not the best way forward, and could be bad value for money. We highlighted that the Liquid and Envy building used to be a cinema but has just been sold off and is currently empty – so why not refurbish it and site the new cinema here?

Giving away Redhill town centre would allow developers to maximise their future profit – but would leave the Council with less control and money to invest in community needs, in Redhill or elsewhere.

This is just a brief flavour of discussions at one Council meeting. Other highlights included plans for sustainable transport, including better cycling and walking for Redhill, which we support (Redhill Cycling and Walking Improvements proposals).

If anyone is interested in knowing more you can read the meeting papers on the Council website (links below). And please tell us what you think – by email, phone or by arranging to meet in person.

Read more:

Full agenda and supporting papers:

Redhill Area Action Plan

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