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Unworthy campaign

A campaign that sullies the BRA's record
April 14, 2017

The Bookham Residents’ Association (BRA) has done great things for Bookham. Its latest newsletter (click here to download it) lists some of them: police liaison, renovating war memorials and cricket pavilions, bulb planting and so much else. Some of its committee members were also leading contributors to the drafting of the Neighbourhood Development Plan, the subject of a separate vote on May 4.

A shame, then, that the newsletter short changes Bookham residents by misrepresenting the ‘dangers’ of a Village Council.

In the newsletter, BRA chairman Peter Seaward mentions South Bookham SPACE in Dorking Road, now run by volunteers, and asks: “Why change this magnificent volunteer culture for a another layer of bureaucracy and yet more tax?”

Perhaps he should ask the people of Chilworth, whose village society, Chilworth2gether, works closely with two parish councils, Shalford and St Martha, on joint concerns.

With the St Martha Parish Council, for example, it is fighting a plan to redevelop West Lodge, part of the local Gunpowder Mills, a scheduled ancient monument. It’s a small building and its main function is to provide toilets for locals and visitors. But they want to keep it, and the local residents association, its Village Society and Parish Council are working together to make sure they do.

Chilworth’s conservation work on the mills is just the tip of a huge voluntary effort: they hold two barbecues a year to thank the volunteers! Two! Where is the evidence that having a Parish Council has damaged Chilworth’s voluntary spirit or changed it except for the better? Chilworth2gether’s annual report lists thriving a Brownie pack, a Mothers’ Union, a youth club... Not only did Chilworth2gether’s annual duck race make £2,000 for local work, it was able to write out a cheque for £150 to the local CofE infants’ school to thank it for the use of its car park.

Or Peter Seaward could go to Blackheath Village, whose thriving Village Society raises more money for its work than the Wonersh Parish Council whose area it sits in. How, exactly, is that possible if parish councils conflict with local voluntarism? Christine Howard, chairman of the Surrey Hills Society and a woman with long experience of parish councils in our part of the world, told a recent BEAM information meeting that in Blackheath the Parish Council also part funded a much-needed traffic calming scheme. Wonersh PC's planning meetings, by the way, are open to the public, unlike those of the BRA.  

Yes, all these residents pay a bit more to have a Parish Council behind them, but they’re happy to, and so are hundreds of communities all over the country just like Bookham.

One reason is that, whatever Peter Seaward chooses to believe, local councils reduce bureaucracy not add to it.

Christine Howard also told us how, in West Sussex, problems with potholes, sign cleaning, overhanging vegetation, gutter spraying, graffiti removal, and much else could be remedied with just one call to the Parish Council rather than the 13 steps needed if they had to be reported to the County Council.

 The residents of Bookham are being short-changed. The newsletter notes how it is trying with others ‘to find money to improve and safeguard the Chrystie Rec pavilion’. A Parish Council could, if voters wanted, make that money available immediately.  

The Bugle has always tried to pay the BRA credit for the excellent things it does for the benefit of all of us. This campaign sullies that record, denying BRA members and others the even greater benefits certain to flow from a Parish Council and a forward-looking residents’ association working together.

This site will publish more evidence of BRA misrepresentation shortly - watch this space.

Editor’s Note: Although this website supports the BE AMbitious (BEAM) campaign for a Village Council for Bookham, the articles published here are compiled without the approval or foreknowledge of anyone in the BEAM campaign except the editor, who takes sole responsibility for the views expressed.

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