September 9, 2006:
Why is the Bugle
carrying out what some think of as its vicious and vindictive campaign against those nice people who run the Bookham Residents' Association (BRA)?
’s editor often asks himself this question.
But then the BRA or its officials always do or say something so assinine that the doubt disappears.
They did it again last Monday. As the BRA nabobs got stuck into their meeting, planning panjandrum ‘Sir’ Brian Granger got stuck into the Bugle
’s editor (See report inside)
. That doesn’t matter. More important is why we’ve upset him.
The BRA justifies its subscriptions because, unlike Effingham, Mickleham or many other surrounding villages, Bookham does not have a parish council. The people of Bookham need the BRA or something like it to convey their views to local and national government.
says the BRA cannot convey villagers’ views because it never seeks them. It sees no need to. It relies instead on the instincts of a self-selecting group of, mainly, white, middle-aged, middle-class activists who identify closely with the local Conservative party.
This would not matter if the BRA confined its meddling to collecting litter or asking the council to pay for hanging baskets. The BRA is right to support the Youth Centre and the local community speeding partnership - commendably, last Monday it made tackling speeding through our village a police priority for the next two months.
But planning is more sensitive than any of the BRA’s other activities. It directly affects everyone’s quality of life. It offers the temptation of financial gain for those with inside knowledge. And it also opens those involved in planning discussions to undue influence, whether by threats or financial inducement.
There is no suggestion whatever that such gains have been made by any of the current participants in these meetings. But, while it is true that the BRA has no statutory planning role and can only make recommendations, it has undoubted influence with Mole Valley’s planners.
Its support can make the difference between a plan’s success or failure. BRA endorsement was undoubtedly a key factor in the National Trust’s recent planning success in moving its Polesden Lacey car park to a new site in the Green Belt. The Bugle
will explain why in an article soon.
That being so, and in the absence of a parish council, the BRA should use its influence only if it has a legally respectable mandate and offers complete transparency.
It has neither.
The BRA has no mandate because:
 One - The annual ‘election’ of the BRA committee is not an election that anyone who believes in the secret ballot would recognise. Voting for local or national government representatives on a show of hands was abolished in the 1872 Ballot Act.
 Two - The BRA ‘electorate’ are the 2,500 households - around half Bookham’s total - who pay the BRA’s £1, shortly to be £2, subscription. No valid electorate can be confined to those willing to pay for the privilege of voting or being represented.
As our report of Monday’s meeting shows, the BRA holds Bookham residents in such contempt that it sees no need for transparency. The planning subcommittee, says the BRA website, ‘decide[s] on its course of action having regard for all of the information available to it.’ 'The BRA says this is how district and county councillors make their decisions at planning meetings.
Oh but it isn’t:
 The people in the council chamber have been duly elected.
 We know their political allegiances.
 We can see their biographies on the MVDC website.
 They have to record their business and other interests, and any gifts or hospitality they have received.
 If there is any conflict with a planning proposal before them they have to declare it and leave the chamber.
 The public can watch the debate from the gallery or, up to a month later, at home on the web.
 Full records are kept of the proceedings.
Not one of these conditions applies to meetings of the BRA planning subcommittee.
Until they do or the subcommittee is disbanded, the campaign goes on.
Updated October 12, 2006. See Bugle Blunders, front page