Surrey County Councillor Final Update
This is Nikki’s final update as your Independent Surrey County Councillor, it has been a real privilege to serve the community of Haslemere for the past 4 years.
I would like to thank the SCC Highways team for all their input and patient advice during my term in office.
I have held regular meetings with the Highways team, and local residents to discuss a range of local issues as well as giving updates to Haslemere town council. Other key issues include:
Lower Street: road safety
Lower Street residents contacted me as they were concerned about traffic speeds, pedestrian safety and disabled access. I set up a meeting with SCC Highways officers. Residents proposed a number of measures to address safety issues- including a pavement in front of their properties, a one way traffic system, speed reduction, a ramped access to the high pavement, better parking enforcement and the poor state of the steps accessing the Waitrose car park.
Highways officers response: unfortunately Lower Street is physically too narrow to put in a pavement on the north side, it would only be feasible if a one way system was put in place- but costs and practicalities mean this is not a viable option. A ramped access, although potentially feasible would be prohibitively expensive. The Waitrose access is the responsibility of Waverley BC.
Traffic speed reduction was agreed to be the most possible to address. Traffic speed data analysis along Lower Street indicates an average speed within the threshold to permit consideration of a 20mph zone. The current financial crisis facing SCC means there is little chance of implementing this in the immediate term, it was recommended residents consider a community speed watch to monitor traffic speeds, and raise awareness of the issue.
An open meeting will be held on May 10th, St Barts School at 6.45pm.
Lion Lane: Shottermill Infant School- new pedestrian crossing (photo to come)
Shottermill Infant school governing body requested a zebra crossing to make it safer for children and parents crossing Lion Lane to get to both Shottermill Infant and Junior School. I gave the proposal my full support and worked with the Highways team to secure funding for the scheme. Most of the work has been completed, electrical work on the belisha beacon lights will be finished in the next 2 weeks and the crossing fully opened.
Critchmere: highways drainage
Critchmere residents in recently built homes were experiencing severe drainage issues causing recurring property flooding. I asked SCC Highways officers to help resolve the issues. After many months of investigation Kirby Homes accepted responsibility for the problem, a new drain culvert was put in preventing further flooding.
College Hill footpath public inquiry successful outcome for the town
The College Hill footpath, used for generations as a safe passage was blocked last year by developers Mr Warner and Mr Robbie. A public inquiry was held and in Jan 2017 the inspector found in favour of the community- the footpath (FP 604) was reopened and now has official ‘rights of way’ status.
At the inquiry I was concerned that the taxpayer was footing the bill for the SCC legal team in the inquiry when the defence case lacked any tangible evidence. SCC’s legal team agreed to make claim for costs. In April 2017, SCC was awarded full costs of over £7000.
Bunch Lane posts
Residents of Bunch Lane requested wooden posts to protect a section of footpath from parked cars and traffic damage. I secured funding for this scheme.
Old Haslemere Road
Residents requested the replacement of a damaged grit bin. There are new strict criteria for grit bin replacement, and I provided the additional necessary councillor support to achieve this.
Night light switch off
A number of residents have raised their concerns over the recent SCC cost saving night time street light switch off- in particular along routes used by commuters. Unfortunately there are strict guidelines for this, I have challenge this and requested an extension until 01.00 hours. I trust my successor will continue this.
Haslemere Train Station
Haslemere Community Rail Partnership – helped organise the official opening of community information hub in the station shop. The partnership has funded a part-time hub manager to coordinate a team of volunteers that will man the shop over the summer months- promoting the town, its businesses, events and surrounding countryside. The shop has already welcomed many visitors, including a couple of walkers from India who arrived at Haslemere station from London to explore the South Downs without any maps or local information.
The partnership has also funded the clearance and replanting of the flower beds on the platforms and planters to screen the new car park. Plans include window boxes outside the waiting rooms and an improvement of the station flower beds on Lower Street.
The SWT funded forecourt works are nearly complete, with unfortunate delays to the paving at the station entrance.
The new trees and hedging plants are beginning to screen the new car park structure, I gave very clear input to SWT during the pre-construction consultation that native species should be used rather than the planned ‘ivy’ walls.
The station travel plan survey identified the need for additional sheltered waiting places for travellers outside the station forecourt to reduce congestion at the station. A 12 metre bus shelter (3x4m) with some seating and lighting has been ordered for the bus layover on Lower Street. This should be installed by mid-June 2017.
Agreement has been reached in principle with SWT, SCC and the Station House development to fund a traffic calming scheme at the station to reduce speeds and improve safety for pedestrians- and particularly those using the bus stop on Lower Street. A design will be drawn up by SCC Highways.
The provision of real time bus information is the final element of the station improvement scheme to be finalised.
Other key community issues and events:
Marjorie Grey Hall Alzheimer’s Society Day Centre– under threat of closure following the Alzheimer’s Society decision to withdraw from the centre with a mere 3 months’ notice. I attended a number of meetings to see if a community led rescue solution could be found. SCC provides funded and referral places at the centre, and highly values the provision it provides for a large geographic area of SW Surrey.
A group met with Jeremy Hughes, CEO Alzheimer’s Society. I had discovered other day care centres had been given 6 months’ notice, and asked that the Marjorie Grey centre be given the same to give the chance to save the centre and the services it provides.
An additional 3 months was granted until the end of June, 2017. A working party has been formed. To date: NHS property board has formally agreed to transfer the lease to Haslemere Town Council, securing the future of the building for community day care use. SCC is continuing to refer clients to the centre, discussions are on-going with various partners and an appeal has been made for donations to a transition fund to help keep the centre going until a new structure has been fully established. Please contact Haslemere Town Council if you wish to make a donation.
SCC youth services: meeting with SCC youth services officers and Haslemere Town Council to agree how to provide additional sessions at the Weycentre in the face of SCC cuts, with the result that there are no SCC funded youth sessions. It was agreed that priority should be given to sexual health and well-being, HTC agreed to fund a weekly session for a 6 month trial period. Unfortunately due to SCC cuts, Surrey were unable to provide a key worker for these sessions.
NHS: Stroke services consultation– attended a meeting with NHS managers to discuss local concerns over NHS plans to relocate stroke services to Frimley Park and St Peter’s hospitals. It is critical that a stroke sufferer receives a lifesaving injection within 2 hours of the stroke. The NHS plans are based on 2 highly unrealistic assumptions that an ambulance arrives immediately on the scene in Haslemere, and also that journey times are 45-50 minutes to Frimley or St Peter’s Hospital. The South East Ambulance service has been failing to meet its response targets and has been identified as a failing service. We were told by the NHS management that a consultation process was consider these concerns but there was concern by many that the plans were presented as a ‘fait accompli’. Coverage here in the Herald.
Hillfest, Woolmer Hill school music festival- it was a great pleasure to attend Hillfest where a sell-out crowd to listened to the many excellent music acts in the sunshine.
Other council meetings attended include:
SCC Full Council March 2017: Budget– A totally shambolic day in the Council Chamber. We arrived expecting to vote on whether to hold a referendum to raise council tax by 15% in the face of a financially unsustainable position. (CIPRA had carried out an official audit that raised serious concerns about SCC financial management, and sustainability).
The meeting was adjourned for several hours. On our return to the chamber it was announced that the 15% hike had been dropped, and we were to vote on a 4.99% rise. There was no detail of any kind on this new budget, without this vital knowledge I abstained in the vote. Numerous Conservative councillors congratulated the Leader David Hodge on his success at securing a special deal with central govt. I asked a question about this “special deal”, and for detail on how much extra money SCC would be getting. I was told there was no special deal what so ever.
David Hodge’s texts sent to the wrong “Nick” subsequently revealed that a sweetheart deal had been brokered. This was denied by central government and despite 5 SCC MPs holding cabinet positions, I presume was unable to be seen to give financial favours to Surrey. To my knowledge no extra funding has been received, meaning the SCC faces a highly challenging financial crisis. SCC will be allowed to take part in the business rate pilot earlier than planned.
Brightwells/East Street development, Farnham- although outside my division I am very concerned about the lack of process in the decision by SCC to invest £30 million into a property development scheme when many experts have challenged its viability. Even SCC audits consider the financial investment is on the margins of viability, justifying the investment in terms of ‘community benefit’ that will accrue.
I asked a question about the moral case for investing £30 million of Surrey tax payer’s money, in a questionable scheme given the county is in financial crisis- with cuts expected to essential services going forward. I was given an extremely hostile response by Conservative councillors to my question.
Waverley Local Area Committee– Hale Institute, Farnham. Papers here.
Haslemere Town Council– gave county concillor update
Members Allocation: 2016/17 total allowance- £10,296
Waverley Skateparks Open Day 2016 – £500
A Place to Be Youth Group: A Place to Be Yourself project – £300
Tennyson’s Sure Start Children’s Centre: provision of a crèche for Parenting Puzzle course – £452
Woolmer Hill School: Orchestra Day and Young Musician of the Year event – £680
Crossways Counselling: Equipment for creative counselling sessions – £1280
Haslemere Hockey Club: Schools program – £240
Haslemere Great War: Great War Centenary Flagpole project at St Christopher’s Church – £400
Haslemere Community Rail Partnership: Train station information hub – £750
St Bartholomew’s School: One Book project – £1500
The Orchard Club: Neighbourhood Lunch Club – £500
Transition Town, Haslemere: Community allotment – £300
Haslemere Citizens Advice Bureau: Purchase a lap top and mobile phone – £580
Woolmer Hill School: Library refurbishment – £2606
Haslemere String Competition: Local competition for talented young musicians on 18th May – £200
When I look back over 4 years, I clearly remember a shop keeper in Haslemere saying he would bet £100 on me getting elected. He said it was a safe bet as it would be impossible for an Independent to succeed. He also said that if by chance I did get elected, I wouldn’t be able to achieve much – as I wouldn’t be part of the Conservative ruling majority party.
I did get elected on a manifesto of openness, transparency and community engagement, and believe I have managed to get quite a lot done for the community over 4 years.
A few of my achievements
- Regular updates on haslemerefirst.com, sharing all my SCC activities and decisions.
- Blackdown Lane resurfacedHigh Street conservation area- declutter of all redundant signage, signage upgrade and all street furniture painted black
- Derby Road East resurfaced- the section of private road outside St Bart’s school until then refused resurfacing
- Weyhill resurfaced- inexplicably not included in Project Horizon resurfacing program despite being main road through town
- Student concessionary train fares for 16-18 year olds in full time education- negotiated with SCC officers to extend the scheme to pupils travelling south from Haslemere, previously only those travelling north were eligible
- Sandrock- new conservation lighting columns along a previously unlit section heavily used by commuters and school pupils
- Weyhill- new zebra crossing
- Lion Lane- new zebra crossing serving Shottermill Infant and Junior schools
- Haslemere Community Rail Partnership- set up the partnership with SWT, and other key community groups to improve the station and promote the town
- Station travel plan commissioned to develop a more holistic travel plan for Haslemere and the station
- College Hill footpath reopened following SCC legal challenge to blockade by developers- and I requested the successful claim for appeal expenses against the defendant
- Stepping Stones school- provided support from SCC education that was vital in securing successful planning permission in an appeal
Thanks very much for reading my blog. I hope you have found my updates useful and I wish the newly elected County Councillor for Haslemere much success representing residents.
Au Revoir …