GOOD AFTERNOON and welcome to my South West Surrey update No.189. It’s a big by-election day with voters choosing representatives on Godalming and Haslemere Town Councils plus for the Hindhead ward of Waverley Borough Council. There are also two Westminster by elections which will get rather more national media coverage. Sadly the rail strikes continue making commuting for many a misery but more positively I have just met Environment Secretary George Eustice and secured a meeting to discuss changing the Surrey Hills AONB into a national park. All that plus Covid is creeping back onto the agenda.
WHAT’S GOING ON IN WESTMINSTER
MICK MADNESS We’re into the second day of the strikes ([link removed]) with little sign of a resolution sadly. The government is holding firm and not getting involved in the day to day negotiations on this arguing they should be between the unions and the rail companies. This is obviously sensible because aside from the issue of how much taxpayers cash we are prepared to commit is a basic productivity question: are we prepared to allow the cost of rail travel to continue to be higher because of working practices that have long since been removed in other industries? Surely the best future for the railways and tubes is to make them as modern as possible so that we keep ticket prices low and commuters off the roads which are far more environmentally damaging? Addressing those fundamental issues will do more to secure the future of train travel than pointless TV exchanges with the admittedly entertaining Mick Lynch.
([link removed]) And none of these strikes will help the economy bounce back from Covid which I talk about in my Herald column ([link removed]) this week.
SEWAGE SUCCESS Important news for my Green Spaces campaign to stop, amongst other things, the 76 sewage overspills last year into the Wey at Chiddingfold: Environment Minister Rebecca Pow confirmed this morning that the government will be publishing their Storm Overflow Discharge Reduction Plan in September. This will tackle protected areas of rivers first, including bathing areas, but I want to see progress across the Wey and will raise it when I go to see Environment Secretary George Eustice about a longer term priority which is to change the designation of Surrey Hills AONB into a National Park.
BILL OF RIGHTS Earlier this week the Justice Secretary, Dominic Raab, introduced the Bill of Rights to Parliament ([link removed]) . This is designed to give freedom of speech greater weight, strengthen Parliament over the courts, make it harder for foreign criminals to delay their deportation and reduce the number of trivial legal claims. People will now have to show they have suffered actual damage when pursuing a claim that their human rights have been breached rather than base their case on an abstract claim. This is significant on many levels, not least because it is a way to avoid the courts being over-ruled by ECHR judges without us having to leave the European Convention on Human Rights, something that would be a great shame not least because Britain set it up. I am meeting Dominic Raab tonight so will find out more.
COVID ALERT The ONS has reported a significant increase in the number of cases of the virus in England ([link removed]) with 1 in 50 having it in the week ending 11th June compared to 1 in 70 in the previous week. The dashboard also shows that in the last 7 days cases have increased 29% and hospitalisations are up 37%. Deaths, however, are still thankfully down. This interview with Professor John Edmonds ([link removed]) on the Today Programme (0753) is about the best summary I have heard of why we don’t need to panic (yet) but will have to learn to live with potentially 1% of the population having it at any one time. As of 10am the Covid dashboard shows that we have had a total of 22,239,483 positive cases of COVID-19 with 177,977 confirmed deaths in the UK. There have been 42,809 confirmed cases in Waverley and sadly
330 confirmed deaths, with an estimated 248 currently active cases in Waverley.
The key number remains 0300 200 1008 for anyone with pandemic related difficulties. Also please check out my full list of local groups ([link removed]) working to support vulnerable residents.
WHAT’S GOING ON IN SOUTH WEST SURREY
SURGERY STORIES Yesterday I spoke to a Farnham resident who is very concerned about a number of small things not being given attention in the town centre including pavements not properly reinstated after service digging, bollards askew, railings that need repainting and waste bins in a bad state. I talked to him about our plans for the transformation of the town centre but also my long standing belief that local democracy doesn't function at all well in Britain because we emasculate councils and don't have elected mayors. The result is turnout around half that for general elections and frequent disaffection that people feel unable to use the ballot box to secure improvements in their local environment. Things are getting better, particularly with the growth of unitary authorities, but there is a long way to go.
DUNSFOLD DISASTERAs I’ve said publically ([link removed]) , the government's decision ([link removed]) to allow drilling and fossil fuel exploration in Dunsfold is wrong and a bitter disappointment both for me and for local residents. I think it will have damaging repercussions for the environment, local businesses and the Dunsfold community as well as being against the long-term objectives of climate change policy. SCC has already rejected the application so to ignore the strength of feeling about this and press ahead regardless shows complete contempt for local democracy. I have written to Michael Gove urging him to reverse this flawed decision and this week spoke to the government's Chief Planner
about the process. Opponents to the application have until 19^th July to launch a legal appeal against the decision. Such an appeal would be considered by the courts and there could even be an appeal against that appeal so the process is far from over. It is also worth reflecting on the fact that this application is for exploratory drilling only and for a period of three years rather than for actual extraction. So even if this does go ahead, the company would have to make a fresh application to drill to extract commercially and that application's economic and environmental impacts would have to be considered. Obviously I hope we don't get there and that the decision to explore is overturned ahead of that.
COMMUNITY CRIME Concerningly this week I’ve read of a series of crimes being committed across South West Surrey which I’ve already raised with Waverley Borough Commander Sam Adcock. Firstly, two puppies have been stolen by a couple from a residential garden in Frensham. The suspects have now been brought in by Surrey Police, but sadly, the puppies have not been located. As a dog owner myself, I can’t imagine what their owners are going through, so if you see these dogs ([link removed]) please tell Surrey Police immediately (Crime number P22127269). There have also been reports of men trying to gain access to cars in and around Farnham in the early hours of the morning so please be vigilant about locking them up. Also in Haslemere a few days ago several garages on Marley Combe Road were cleaned of their contents (particularly power tools and bikes) by individuals in a transit van, so secure garages and outbuildings overnight.
AND FINALLY… ARE YOU FEELING GENEROUS? On 24th July, Angela Richardson and I will be taking part in Cancer Research UK’s famous Race For Life ([link removed]) at Stoke Park in Guildford. We’re hoping to raise further funds for the Cancer & Surgical Innovation Centre at The Royal Surrey ([link removed]) . We have had a terrific response so far to the campaign but still need to raise more so are running 5k. Reminder: the new centre will lead to an additional 7,000 patients receiving essential surgical treatment every year. If you feel you could support us with a donation large or small our justgiving page is here! ([link removed])
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