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Howard school campaign to retain own committee

January 13, 2009: The Don't Drive Our Children Away (DDOCA) campaign is to transfer its funds to the Bookham Residents' Association. DDOCA was set up to campaign for fair treatment for Bookham children in the allocation of places at the Howard of Effingham School.

The DDOCA will retain its own committee, currently three strong, and identity, says DDOCA's David Cox. He told the BRA committee, meeting on January 5, that the DDOCA committee's active members are concerned that, if the DDOCA became moribund, the money it had raised from the public should go to an organisation that would benefit the local community, "and use that money wisely." He added that, at the moment, such a prospect was theoretical but had to be provided for.

BRA treasurer Chris Pullan said that DDOCA would do its own petty cash and expenses but to transfer its £3,000 reserve from its own LloydsTSB account to the BRA's interest-bearing account, now holding some £13,000. The BRA would pay DDOCA bills authorised by DDOCA committee members.

BRA chairman Peter Seaward said the benefit to BRA was that, if a local education issue arose on which the BRA felt it needed to take a view, it could consult the DDOCA about the wisest course.

The BRA will now change its rules to reflect its interest in educational matters. The rule change will be put to the BRA's AGM on the evening of Thursday, April 23, at the Barn Hall.

What do you think? Tell the editor.

BRA committee votes down 'community notice board'

January 13, 2009: The BRA committee has voted down a proposal to spend £912 on a 5ft6 by 3ft notice board for the supermarket car park at the centre of the village. The notice board was to replace the fly posting of notices on the fence between the car park and the Royal Oak pub.

The notice board or boards, first discussed at the BRA's 2006 AGM, would have been kept in order by the BRA committee. This gave rise to concerns about who would decide what went on the board and what rules they would use to judge whether notices were appropriate.

The local authority, Mole Valley District Council, owns the fence between the car park and the high street and has said it will remove any notices for businesses, as opposed to local notices about creches or other communal services.

Chris Pullan told the BRA committee, meeting on Monday, January 5, that the decision as to what should and shouldn't appear on the notice board might prove a real problem. A hairdresser might rightly be described as a 'business'. But someone offering keep fit classes for their own profit in a local church hall, or the Workers' Educational Association offering classes, though they might generate funds, offered services they should be entitled to publicise without having to pay exorbitant advertising rates.

Various BRA committee members already busy themselves keeping the notices tidy. Committee member Stan Miles said it was hard to list what was acceptable and what was not. He took down notices from a slater from Epsom advertising for work, but he would not take down the notices put up by the Tiny Tots playschool. "I also take down notices from East Horsley, largely because they take ours down."

Seaward asked the Bugle's editor, there to report the meeting, for his view, and he replied that he thought the anarchy and haphazard nature of the present arrangements revealed the village's character and should be left alone.

Cllr Anne Howarth (Lib Dem, Bookham South) said it was "a tremendous amount of money that is really not necessary." Could not this "ridiculous amount of money" not go towards hanging baskets (see below)?: "I actually like the higgledy-piggledy," of the current arrangements. The proposal was "almost like control freakery."

The decision will be a blow to local firm Norbury Park Wood Products, which BRA committee member Richard Eagle said could offer a more attractive more durable and better value product than other, metal offerings.

Credit crunch threatens village hanging baskets

The credit crunch may mean no hanging baskets in Bookham High Street this year. BRA committe member Richard Eagle, who organised the village's Christmas lights, says whether the same support will be available for them next year is in doubt. And the same problem affects the provision of hanging baskets, which costs up to £1,400. Eagle says estate agents were "extremely generous" last year but they may now say the coffers are empty.

BRA attacks MVDC development stance: click here.

Open BRA meetings become the norm – for now

April 26, 2007: The Bookham Residents' Association (BRA) has entered a new phase with the decision at last month's AGM to launch a six-month trial of public committee meetings. As reported here on March 27, the BRA's executive committee had voted for the change by 12 to one. The AGM, held in the Baptist Hall on April 26, overwhelmingly endorsed the change.

The trial cannot start until the autumn, said BRA executive committee chairman Peter Seaward, and next year's AGM would ratify the change.

The motion proposed that, 'Any member is welcome to attend meetings of the executive committee as an observer. If any such member wishes to raise a question at a meeting of the Executive Committee then it must be put forward in writing to the Secretary, who shall receive it at least one week before the meeting is due to take place.'

But BRA members had better behave themselves. The motion goes on to propose that the chairman at any executive committee meeting can ask any member to leave if two thirds of those present vote that the member's 'continued presence… would, by reason of their conduct, be detrimental to the executive committee's ability to pursue the objects of the association.'

This departs from the original wording proposed, which suggested that a member may be asked to leave at the chairman's discretion 'if sensitive or personal matters are to be discussed.'

Seaward did not say how the trial would be judged successful or not. Neither did he say whether the committee or BRA members would make that judgement.

After SC21 had outlined the proposal one member asked from the floor why questions should be submitted in advance of meetings: 'If you hear something you may have questions about it. If you can't ask questions there's little point in attending.

BRA secretary Iden Coleman answered that each of these meetings is a formal committee meeting, 'and it has to be run to a strict time. If it became a free-for-all for discussion it would be totally unmanageable.' The change meant that members could now 'hear what we are talking about, they can read it on noticeboards, they can read about it in the broadsheets and on the website.'

Another member wondered whether the change would mean the meeting had to use larger premises at greater expense to the association. Seaward said the association would have to deal with that when it happened.

'Local infrastructure is threatened by infill' – BRA

The Bookham Residents' Association (BRA) is trying to get a discussion started about the local infrastructure. Seaward told the BRA's AGM on April 26: “A lot of infill development goes on,' but too little consideration is given to the resulting pressure this puts on schools, roads and so on.

The SCC's severe budget problems – the roads budget is £16m across the county – mean there is no money for roads over the next two years, which Seaward said made him 'rather depressed'.

The BRA meets Surrey highways every three months in Limbra [h] and the BRA has been using these meetings to try to get improvements. Bookham's east-west routes had been resurfaced over recent years and the north-south routes through the village, particularly Eastwick Road, now needed attention. Minor roads like Twelve Acre Close and Merrylands now needed repairs.

A few good things had happened, Seaward reported. Some work had been done in Dorking Road and there was hope of curing flooding at the bottom of East Street. The squareabout, however, was suffering because of a drainage problem.

The systems for reporting potholes and flooding had improved. There are now several ways to report potholes, said Seaward, and he encourage BRA members to ring the Surrey help line. [h] He added that he wasn't 'always satisfied that the results come through' in terms of getting the potholes filled in: 'There is a gap between the reports [of potholes] and when things happen, and I'm not sure it's happening as quickly as it could do.'

SCC has few people to do the inspections. One man does them for all Mole Valley's 500km of roads. But action is even less likely to be taken, Seaward pointed out, if people don't make the effort to report problems.

Planning group workload

The planning group of the Bookham Residents' Association (BRA) considered 30 applications in March and somewhere between 360 and 400 over the year, said Seaward.

'Some of these,' he told the BRA's annual general meeting, 'don't take any effort at all. Some are large and complex.' The final decision is made by the [Mole Valley District] council, but the 'seven or eight' members of the group 'have an input'.

The largest planning issue for the group this year had been the Photo-Me International (PMI) redevelopment. This had prompted many protests from residents (and absentee landlords, it must be said) in Bracken Close.

Protests by the BRA and others had led to a resubmission by PMI which had 'ameliorated slightly' those residents' concerns.

Youth club future still in the balance

The whole of Bookham is behind the effort to keep the village's youth centre open, reported Seaward. Not just the BRA but the Bookham Community Association and Churches Together are 'trying to keep the place open,' said Seaward.

'It was going well until last November,' he told the AGM. Bookham would try to get it run by a local management committee with Surrey County Council (SCC) taking over the infrastructure.

'We are still waiting for agreement from Surrey's estates department to get a document setting out the conditions under which we can run the place.'

Seaward added he was 'confident it would happen.'

Surrey's waste disposal strategy 'in legal limbo' - 'No alternative' to 'unpopular' thermal treatment

The progress of Surrey's overall disposal strategy 'is now in limbo', says the county.

A year ago David Munro of Surrey County Council (SCC) told Bookham residents of the serious problem waste disposal posed for the county. This year's AGM learnt:

[] SCC has recruited 35 extra staff for its 15 recycling centres. Their pay has been increased and they've been trained to give the centres' users advice and help;

[] At Randalls Road four staff have been available from April 1 to help offload items, and provide guidance on which of the disposal points should be used for each of the 22 items that the council is now able to accept.

In a statement to the BRA meeting SCC said, 'The overall aim is to raise the percentage of waste that is recycled from the current level of 40 per cent to… 60 per cent across Mole Valley District as a whole.'

The progress of SCC's overall disposal strategy 'is now in limbo while Surrey's Waste Disposal Strategy Plan is considered at an Examination in Public.' SCC says this is an essential legal and administrative step before the strategy can be formally adopted.

The Examination is now in recess at the moment and will resume later this month. 'On present forecasts,' says the statement, 'it is expected that the Inspector will report in the autumn.'

If the plan is adopted Surrey can start a series of projects to cut the amount of waste going to landfill. The most important of these will be to reduce the amount of waste generated across the County 'at source'.

But no matter how successfully Surrey achieves this, the document warns, 'there will always be items of waste that require disposal and which cannot be recycled.' If Surrey is to cut the volume of these that go to landfill, says SCC, there is no alternative to thermal treatment.

'The council is very aware that some of its proposals inevitably impact on local people who live close to locations where new facilities are to be provided. This causes uncertainty and blight which, in extreme cases, can lead to people finding that land and buildings are difficult if not impossible to sell.

'To address this problem the council has taken steps wherever possible to narrow options and remove some sites from safeguarding. In other instances projects are being progressed so that, if the outcome of the Examination in Public is to approve the strategy, the lead time to implementation will be kept to a minimum.'

The most obvious example is Capel, where a planning application for a thermal treatment plant will be made 'shortly'.

'Time is not on the council's side,' the document warns: 'Landfill Tax is already a significant burden, and it is set to increase. SCC is talking to the operators of an Energy from Waste facility under construction at Aylesford in Kent to see if it can offload some of Surrey's waste there.

But this is not a satisfactory long term solution, says the SCC, because it means 'moving large volumes of bulky material over long distances.'

The council has no option but 'to go down the unpopular route of locating thermal treatment plants somewhere within the immediate area. It is recognised that this may not please some, but it has to be preferred to moving large volumes of material around the country or shipping overseas as is already happening with some materials.

'Ultimately all waste has to go somewhere.' The preferred option is to recycle waste to produce a saleable residue, along with eliminating the need for waste at source by, for example, reducing the use of unnecessary and avoidable packaging.

That is a national issue in which government and retailers have to play a role. But 'Packaging will never be eliminated entirely', says SCC. Surrey's only hope, says the SCC, is that the amount of waste its residents produce has to spiral downwards, and that technology can be found to devise new ways to use the rest.

A long term solution depends on local people's cooperation, says the council: 'Waste disposal is one of the less attractive features of modern life. It is a problem we all face whether we like it or not, and we will only succeed in achieving an environmentally responsible solution if the process is managed by the whole community cooperating at every stage in the process. Looking back over recent years much has been achieved, but there is still some way to go.'

There's an apparent conflict of evidence about fortnightly collections. Seaward told the meeting that the 'stop the stink' campaign had gained a lot of attention, and that parts of Bookham will be involved in the food waste disposal trials. But he wasn't aware of a single complaint about fortnightly collections or their alleged maggotty effects since August last year.

The SCC's view is that collecting waste every two weeks – the responsibility of MVDC – did not please everyone, 'but it did raise awareness both of the amount of waste that we all produce and the proportion of that waste that can be recycled.'

The problems it brought, particularly for food waste during the summer, are being addressed. The council is looking at 'new composting techniques' and at more frequent food-waste collections using small, sealable containers.

Mole Valley's recycling rate had now reached 39 per cent, Seaward told the meeting, an eight per cent increase on last year. What's more the total amount of waste generated didn't rise, staying at 30,000 tonnes. Mole Valley doesn't use all its recycling capacity so can sell spare space to other councils. Some 7,000 residents joined the 'green waste only bins' scheme, producing produced 2,000 tonnes of compostable material.

BRA AGM 2007

Unanswered questions after lacklustre PCT presentation


Wendy Lockwood opened a gap between herself and her audience at last month's BRA AGM (above) the moment she opened her mouth. Lockwood works for the Surrey Primary Care Trust (PCT) which, since last autumn, has been running NHS provision for Bookham and elsewhere.

The first crack opened when the audience learnt her title – 'associate director for public engagement'. Most people whose job involves manipulating public opinion are happy to say they're a public relations director. In today's NHS, it appears, such honesty isn't an option.

But then Lockwood spent much of the rest of the presentation translating herself into English. Some of it was merely well-sounding piffle without any roots in reality – 'the future hospital', or 'programme for change', 'expert patient programme.' Parts of one of her slides could have been in Albanian: 'GPOOH', 'WIC', 'UCC', 'HOSC', 'PPIF' and 'LVOS'. But when she got round to the 'virtual ward' some of it began to sound faintly scary.

Surrey PCT (SPCT) was formed last October 1 by merging five former Surrey PCTs – North Surrey; East Elmbridge and Mid-Surrey; East Surrey; Surrey Heath and Woking; and Guildford and Waverley.

SPCT doesn't run hospitals. It buys those services in by using the hospitals and other health providers – GPs and community nurses – as contractors. SPCT's budget is about £1.3 billion to cover a population of 1.2 million people.

SPCT is 'one of the few PCTs that has improved,' Lockwood told us. Not difficult. The largest new PCT in the country, it began with debts to match, and its improvements in medicine management have not been driven solely by the need to deliver happier patients. They 'helped us save some money', she reported.

Patronising platitudes
The BRA had invited Lockwood to tell its AGM about this and Surrey PCT's other challenges, not least how it justified the downgrading of Epsom General Hospital. Instead the audience heard a string of vague, poorly justified and, it must be said, patronising platitudes about how the PCT had our best interests at heart.

Like every other bureaucrat in Surrey's NHS, her current job is to live down the NHS's last brainwave, 'Better Healthcare, Closer To Home' (BHCH). BHCH hadn't inspired confidence. The NHS bean counters expected local people to believe that healthcare would be 'closer' if they moved the hospitals further away and seemed surprised when no-one believed the 'better' bit either.

Strangely enough, BHCH did have a point. What healthcare experts were driving at was that if local facilities, here in Bookham and its surroundings, were improved, you might not need to go to hospital. The way the medical think tank the Kings' Fund puts this is that the government wanted to 'move more care out of hospitals and into the community on the grounds of improving efficiency and access.' The problem for current soon-to-be-deservedly-ditched Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt is that by labelling it with a slipshod slogan she and her officials undermined an exercise local people might have benefitted from.

We'll never know. What we do know is that the latest wheeze in Surrey and Sussex is more of the same under a different label. 'Fit for the Future' (FFF) is an effort by the five Surrey and Sussex PCTs – Surrey, West Sussex, Brighton and Hove, Hastings and Rother, and East Sussex Downs and Weald – 'to design a new health system that will bring more care closer to people's homes', says the FFF website, 'and, at the same time, ensure the local NHS lives within its means.'

Even as a PR stunt it isn't going that well. The first FFF newsletter is nearing nine months old.

Follow the money
It won't be a great shock that a lot of this is about money. Some of it is also about medical egoes. But if you have any faith in doctors at all, you also have to weigh what they say about clinical outcomes.

Even local people who don't know a lot about healthcare feel strongly that they want hospitals to be as near as possible. Local politicians don't care whether it's right or wrong to spend healthcare resources on local hospitals. They've just leapt aboard the 'save Epsom' bandwagon as a way of punishing the government. They may be right, and if you agree with them you can sign the save Epsom petition on the prime minister's website.

But there's another side to this too. As Lockwood struggled to make clear, when you need a doctor, it isn't good enough to find any doctor. You need the right doctor. The clinicians' research appears to show that the most favourable 'outcomes' – 'results' to you and me – are determined not by how quickly patients with, say, strokes reach 'a doctor' but how quickly they reach a stroke specialist. And this means that if you have a stroke it's better to find a stroke doctor than a non-specialist, even if the stroke doctor takes longer to reach. 'That's work the clinicians have don’t,' said Lockwood, 'and it's what the clinicians tell us.'

And what that means is that journey times to hospitals are less important for the health of patients than whether they reach the right specialist. 'There are better surgical outcomes if they are seen by a specialist in a specialist centre,' says Lockwood.

Do journey times matter?
What this leaves out is that journey times do matter if you're visiting the patient, especially if you’re a near relative who lives in the same house. That's why much of the fuss about Epsom has centred around whether or not it retains an accident and emergency (A&E) department. The instinctive view of local people is that, the quicker the patient gets to hospital the better and an A&E department is equipped, first, to deal with any life-threatening problems and, second, to sort out what should happen next and where it should happen.

According to Lockwood, however, 'More than 50 per cent of the people who go to A&E at the moment, it's not necessarily the best place for them. We should be providing the right kind of care.'

If someone falls over in the street, says Lockwood, the first thing people do is call an ambulance to take them into hospital. Then, she says, they spend the next two days there trying to get out [because] they didn't need or want to be there.' They'd be better off if someone took them home and made sure they were looked after, in touch with social services and all the rest of it.

New NHS thinking, says Lockwood, is that one size doesn't fit all: 'People need a whole range of different types of care.' One of the ways the NHS has to develop is 'improving the way people are helped to look after themselves.' The Bugle can reveal that the NHS's plans for looking after ourselves go a lot further (see below).

We'll be looking after each other
Not only that, but the service has plans for us to look after each other. Lockwood told AGM attendees of the SPCT's ' ' (EPP). This consists of groups 'run by people who have a long term condition themselves for people who have a long term condition. It's about people who really know, because they are in the same position themselves,' said Lockwood.

Surrey PCT's Press office says the programme covers condition such as MS, diabetes and arthritis. The PCT is running the courses in Epsom now – at 1pm every Thursday from May 24 to June 28.

The PCT cites the example of Jean Brooks, one of 17.5 million people in the UK with an unnamed long-term health condition. Jean said the free EPP course in Epsom was 'a real inspiration', according to Surrey PCT. 'The tutors taught us how to find out more information using the internet, and also gave us lots of useful materials and publications. Each week, we set ourselves targets, and then reported back on our progress. It gave us a real sense of encouragement to achieve our individual goals,' said Mrs Brooks. 'There was a good feeling of involvement and I enjoyed being in the company of other people with chronic health problems.'

Lockwood said some of the people who have attended these courses are still meeting three years later.

Surrey says course attendees report increased confidence, an improved doctor and patient relationship, less-severe symptoms and a feeling of being more in control. But Lockwood also mentioned that belonging to an EPP group made participants less likely to call out the hospital or their GP. 'Someone may get support via a telephone service where they won’t get an answerphone. They will get understanding and advice.'

That'll really save money.

To give Lockwood credit, not only did she acknowledge concerns that 'the family has to do it all' in supporting the chronically sick, but she said 'that's not good enough.' And she added that the acute services must be available 'for people who most need it.'

'It is broke, and it must be fixed'
A telling part of her presentation was her report of anecdotal evidence from those who had gone into hospital, found that they had been well cared for and were happy with the experience. Those stories, she said, bred the idea that, 'if it's not broke, don't fix it.' For many who need urgent care, 'it is broke,' said Lockwood, 'and it does need fixing. That's why we need to do modernisation and we do need change.'

She expressed concern about the lack of availability of GPs out of hours (that's GPOOH, by the way). It's another concern being picked up in Gordon Brown's 'election' campaign. In mid-May the Sunday papers reported that Brown wants GP's surgeries to open at weekends.

Lockwood reports survey evidence that some parts of urgent care are working well and others where they aren't. 'If it's working in one area it can work in others,' she said.

Surrey is looking at its provision of walk-in centres (WICs), staffed by nurse practitioners who can prescribe antibiotics and other medicines. Surrey has WICs at Ashford, Redhill, the Royal Surrey, Weybridge and Woking. 'Is it a good model? Should we have more of them and where should they be?', Lockwood asked.

Turning to hospital provision she went for it: 'Having everybody in one place may not be a good idea. We need to have something far more streamlined.'

Lockwood spoke of 'triage', the battlefield technique for the most effective use of battlefield casualties to treat the wounded. Ambulances would be despatched to patients who were 'urgent', 'less urgent', and 'not urgent but they still need to go' to hospital. Outside those, non-urgent cases might be asked to see their GP the following day. That would make sure ambulance paramedics got to the people who needed them.

When is an UCC an A&E?
Lockwood says demand for A&E services is expected to fall as these developments take hold. Hospitals without A&E departments will instead have 'urgent care centres' (UCCs). These are able to treat 60 per cent of the people who go there, says Lockwood. She even suggested that they were, in effect, A&E departments. The rest of us are sceptical.

The UCCs would be supplemented by 'a small number of specialist A&E services where you would be at a specialist burns centre, not a local district hospital.'

The question then, she says, is 'what do we need to provide in Surrey, so one or other of our hospitals will become a centre of excellence for stroke or for cardiac [treatment]?' They will not book appointments, she said: 'We're talking about crisis treatment.'

The consultation: "Clinicians… are the ones who count"
The decisions about what goes where will be made 'when we are truly ready to do so,' after consultation. The consultations will involve 'our clinicians. They have to deliver. They are the ones whose views are important.' Then added, 'and with people who use the services'. Finally, she said, 'we have to be able to afford it. It has to be financially viable. If we have £1.3bn to spend, we can't plan something that costs £3bn.'

The deciders will be the Health Overview and Security Committee (HOSC), and the Patient and Public Involvement Forum (PPIF) will sanction the requirements.

Lockwood said no decision had yet been made about how the consultation would be carried out. If it leaflets were dropped through every door that would be 'hugely expensive' and most people would throw the information away. Using free newspapers wasn't a satisfactory alternative because their 'coverage is poor'. The decision as to which method was used would be taken after talking to patient groups.

MP asks unanswered questions
During questionsMole Valley MP Sir Paul Beresford pointed out that the consultation over the Sutton decision was 'abysmal'. This time, he said, the leaflets should go through every door. 'People don't throw it away,' he said.

Beresford also wanted to know what savings Surrey PCT was aming for in this review. And he wanted to know why only off-peak times were used to calculate travel times to hospitals.

Lockwood said the PCT would need to consider whether people do or don't read the information coming through the door and whether it was the best way to provide the information.

On finance, she said she could not answer that because it was 'not my specialism'. The consultation document would make clear the financial information 'in some considerable detail'.

Surrey PCT is talking to the ambulance service about travel times, not just 'blue light' (emergency) travel times but the PCT recognised that there's a need for people to travel who are visiting patients as well as the patients themselves. 'We’re looking at all the travel times,' she said.

One resident suggested from the floor that the last consultation the local NHS was involved in, over the future of Epsom and St Helier, showed that it 'didn't make a bit of difference' what local people think. 'You have your minds made up whatever the public say.'

Lockwood replied, 'I do hear what you are saying, and I have a huge amount of sympathy with it… A lot hasn't been done right.'

Beresford returned to the fray in Any Other Business. 'I was concerned about the presentation from the PCT,' he said. There was a lot going on that had not come out.

The Royal Surrey at Guildford is under threat, and this affects people that live in this area, he said. 'We are fighting to try and keep it and I've got the impression we are going to keep it, but we're not sure what they're going to put in it.'

On Epsom Hospital he said a bid had gone in from the owner of Denbies vineyard to run the hospital but its future was still unsure.

The problem they all faced was that, as soon as Gordon Brown took over as prime minister there would be a new secretary of state for health, and the lobbying would have to start all over again.

He didn't know why Lockwood couldn't answer his question about finance. Local MPs had met the PCT and they were going for £120m worth of cuts.

He had also asked how they were modelling travel time. Plainly, they're measuring it off-peak, he told the meeting, when on-peak is a large proportion of the day at both ends, and that's when a lot of people will be either going to hospital or visiting people in hospital – 'We're trying to get them to change it,' he said.

The consultation document will list a number of options,' said Beresford, but there will be no recommendation from the PCT on which options to choose. 'If you don't get the documents,' he added, 'I want to know.'

There's still a big fight local people had to get stuck into, said Beresford. Local people wanted both hospitals with access to them in a reasonable time.

The travel times are key. What was being tried worked in the north, where traffic and population densities were lower, 'but it doesn't work down here.'

On-line petition to the prime minister


The campaign to save Epsom General Hospital has started an on-line petition on the prime minister's website.

The petition says, 'I call on the Prime Minister to ensure that the Epsom and St Helier Hospital Trust halts the possible closure or reduction of services provided at Epsom General Hospital in Surrey. The Hospital provides high quality healthcare to the local community whose needs would be greatly damaged by such closure or reduction of provision.'
Click here if you wish to sign it.
Mole Valley's Buses4U bus service faces an uncertain future because of lack of demand, says Bookham Residents' Association (BRA) chairman Peter Seaward.
On weekdays passengers can contact Buses4U and ask the bus to take them anywhere in an area bounded by the A24 in the west, the A23 in the east, the M25 in the north and the West Sussex border in the south.
Seaward reported to last week's BRA annual general meeting (AGM) that, 'Buses4U' the service Surrey County Council have funded 'has been running for the last year. We have now got the service but we are not sure it's going to continue because the take-up hasn't been very good.'
Buses4U is a more conventional alternative to Dial-a-Ride, which provides door-to-door transport for those, often disabled, unable to use traditional buses without tail lifts or room for wheelchairs.
Seaward added that the Buses4U service is failing because 'we all have so many cars that trying to run [these services is difficult] 'there are 7,500 cars here in a population of 10,000.'
Bookham residents can use the Buses4U service on journeys to Reigate , Redhill, Horley, Dorking and Leatherhead, even if they are outside the coverage area described above.
Fares are £1.50 single or £3 return for journeys up to four miles and £2.50 single or £5 return for longer journeys.
Bookings can be made by phone (01730 815 518), text (07714 854 082) or email (buses4u@tandridge.gov.uk), giving your name, pick up time, pick up point, destination and, if you need it, a return time.
Look at the areas of service to see the destinations available to you and the hours the bus operates.
Bookham may soon have to do without the unofficial wall of information in the main car park, says the Bookham Residents' Association (BRA). Chairman Peter Seaward told the AGM that wooden notice boards would be a tidier alternative to the ‘fly posting’ on the fence car park fence.
Mr Seaward referred to the result as ‘adult graffiti’. The area next to the supermarket, he says, is ‘littered with fly posting. We are trying to get notice boards and to find a way of moving [the notices]. We will still have a public amenity and have it look more attractive.’

Youth Centre's financial woes

The BRA has been involved with other groups in the village to make sure the Youth Centre remains open, says BRA chairman Peter Seaward. But there are ‘practical issues’ to solve.
The greatest of these is ‘how to fund a more permanent solution to the problems that exist there, how to fund a more sustainable future for the Youth Centre.’
Among the problems to be solved, said Seaward, was that the centre was used three or four nights a week, but ‘it also sits there empty a lot of the time, and it needs to wash its face a bit more in financial terms.’
But, he added, ‘It’s a very important facility for the kids in the village.’

Comment: Business as usual at the BRA

28 April 2006: Last night’s annual general meeting of the Bookham Residents’ Association (BRA) made it clear that the organisation sees no need either to make its planning processes more open or to try harder to sound local opinion before recommending these or other big decisions on behalf of local people.
A packed meeting in a new venue, the Baptist Church Hall on Lower Road, on April 27 heard the Bugle try unsuccessfully to persuade BRA chairman Peter Seaward (right) and his colleagues of the need both to widen the appeal of the organisation and to accept at least some democratic principles.
The editor recorded, again, his dismay at the way the BRA handled a recent planning decision: ‘It is clear that, in forming its stance on the recently approved plans for the National Trust’s redevelopment of Polesden Lacey, the BRA was not just indifferent to the alarm these proposals were causing among some Bookham residents but determined to stifle their opinion or any public discussion of it.

Lack of discussion
‘No objector to any proposal can complain when an openly-made decision goes against them after a properly conducted debate. But in this case there was no debate and the BRA’s decision to support the NT’s plans was anything but open.’ When it came, he said, the BRA’s response was a carbon copy of the NT’s proposal.
In reply John Pagella, speaking on behalf of absent planning committee chairman Brian Granger, said that, in planning and other matters, BRA committee members relied on local people to bring their concerns to them, though it did also take an active role: ‘We try to find out local opinion.’
But in planning matters, ‘You are never going to please everybody.’ In the end committee members had to come to a view, ‘after we have listened to those most directly affected’ by a decision.
When the time came the Bugle, it has to be said, did not put its case particularly well - its editor is not, by training, inclination or talent, a public speaker. But he found the unanimity among the 200 or so in the hall frankly terrifying. This can only be a guess, but the gathering felt much more like a social occasion for local Conservatives than a meeting among a genuine cross section of Bookham and its inhabitants.

Offensive nonsense
Indeed one surprise to the newcomer was the presence, by BRA invitation, of local Conservative MP Sir Paul Beresford. Beresford launched into 35 minutes of party-political knockabout which, though purportedly about the local hospital crisis, ranged from such matters as what a ‘sweet little thing’ the editor of the local paper was to the hope John Prescott’s success with younger women now gave overweight men.
This being so, it soon became obvious that the allegedly factual content of this offensive nonsense was hardly to be trusted. But at the end of the tirade, BRA chairman Peter Seaward, clearly unused to taking points of order from the floor, responded angrily to the Bugle’s suggestion that, a week before district elections, it might have been wise to balance Sir Paul’s anti-government rant with contributions from other parties.
Beresford and the BRA had been working closely on the threatened downgrading of local hospitals and he was there to report current progress, Seaward insisted, to loud calls from the floor that the BRA was ‘non-political’.
Sir Paul’s intervention had two effects on your reporter. One unexpected one was to feel a twinge of sympathy for the charlatans now running the government. The other was to note that, in showing its political colours like this, the BRA is skating on thin ice.

Party slant
First, if the BRA shows favour to any political party its charitable status is at risk. Second, the BRA has pledged ‘to represent the views of all who live in Bookham, and [be] independent of all political parties.’ Has it not noticed, for example, that South Bookham is not a Conservative ward?
The final penny that dropped is that the unelected BRA does not recognise any accountability to anyone. It does a great deal of good work. The meeting revealed the BRA’s work in promoting public transport and encouraging affordable housing ‘ all these stories above . Against all that, however, it has to stop treating the questioning of BRA decisions as impertinence, bad manners or worse.
Its officers are extremely defensive about the way they operate. In John Pagella’s view, for example, to ask how or why some decision was taken is to accuse them of ‘bad faith’ or to impugn their integrity, and the Bugle’s editor should justify asking such questions.
In that Mr Pagella is 100 per cent wrong. The Bugle does not wield political influence on behalf of others. The Bugle does not collect subscriptions to fund its activities. The Bugle does not claim to represent anyone but itself and is answerable to its readers and the laws of defamation. But all that aside, since when does any member of a free society have to justify asking awkward questions of powerful people who, still, refuse to answer them?

Developer trying to cheat?

A Bookham developer has revised plans for a development after Mole Valley gave it permission to build 'affordable homes', says the Bookham Residents' Association (BRA).
In April, after several rejections, Mole Valley finally accepted Preston Cross Farm developer Homes by Warwick's plans for a housing development near the recreation ground on Dorking Road. The site before demolition is shown left.
Warwick's now-granted application, MO/2006/0240, is for four houses on the corner of Dorking Road and Dawnay Road, Bookham. The BRA has written to Mole Valley's Head of Planning to complain that the changes restore many of the features that had made the original plans unacceptable.
According to John Pagella of BRA's planning sub-committee, who wrote the letter, the BRA's action gives the lie to the Bugle's assertion that the BRA was opposed to all housebuilding in the area, even of affordable homes that would allow Bookham's young people to settle locally.
This was a case, he said, where the BRA had taken the view that the unamended plans struck the 'the right balance between preserving the amenity of houses which surround this site, meeting the needs of an important section of the local community and maximising the use being made of land with potential for development.'

Loss of others' privacy
Now, he said, the BRA had been forced to express concern that a proposal for affordable homes had been approved, but the developer then changed the plans 'to raise them to a higher price range.'
In his letter to Mole Valley Pagella notes that the design changes mean residents in Dawnay Road will lose privacy and that the third-floor addition to the new properties will make the designs out of character with the surrounding area.
Of even greater concern, he says, is 'that a development which only reached the stage of approval after many earlier attempts had been rejected on the grounds of over-development should now be resubmitted as an amended design proposing the very scale of which had been the reason for rejecting earlier applications.'
The applicants had said they wanted to build properties designed 'as small and affordable to a wide section of the community on low incomes.
'By increasing the amount of living space the present applicants are quite clearly seeking to appeal to a different and more affluent section of the community.
'Given the need for 'affordable' houses in locations within easy reach of the services available in the village centre this is a particularly unfortunate aspect of the revised scheme which has been submitted in this case.'

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