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 (email@example.com), 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.
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.
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.'