Are we being served … by our local politicians​?

Here at the Waverley Web we’ve heard that membership of grassroots Conservative groups in this borough is falling … fast! And… due to internal squabbling, one local constituency is imploding!  So has the march of Independents and Residents Associations begun?

Here’s an interesting article from The amazing  Guildford Dragon – which could just as easily apply to ‘Your Waverley.’

This week in Waverley the bulldozers have moved onto a variety of sites in Farnham and Cranleigh and planning applications and appeals for development on greenfield sites continue to flood in.

Local residents are now hitting Facebook urging people to object to development  before they even morph into schemes!

Opinion: Are Residents Well Served by the Main Political Parties in Local Government?

By Chris Dick

Whichever political party seems to be in power the pressure to build more houses seems to trump election promises to protect the green belt.

Here in Guildford, it is the Conservatives who are pushing for new housing on the green belt and it is the Guildford Greenbelt Group (GGG), supported, intentionally or not, by a few Tory and Lib Dem rebels, who are attempting to check the proposed developments.

Of course, before development can take place on green belt the council may remove the green belt status via the Local Plan process called “insetting”. Once inset the protection of the green belt legislation is lost and the council can then truthfully say it has not built on the green belt.

As we watch successive developments threaten to continue to take over the green belt down the A3 corridor we also see some areas looking to independent resident association candidates to redress the balance. Epsom & Ewell District Council has been in the hands of independent resident associations for decades and we now see that control of Elmbridge Borough Council has shifted the same way with resident associations forming a coalition.

In 2016 Elmbridge Borough Council finally had a new leader after the borough’s Residents’ group and Liberal Democrat group formed a coalition to end eight years outright Conservative control.

So will we see more resident associations become affiliated nationwide and select their own independent candidates for the 2019 local elections?

GBC councillor David Reeve (GGG, Clandon & Horsley) wrote in the East Horsley Parish magazine: “I think it is worth considering whether our local council would be more responsive to residents’ concerns if its composition was more like that in Epsom & Ewell, where 30 from the total of 38 councillors are representatives of a local grouping called “Residents’ Associations of Epsom and Ewell”.

“It is the only council in England where Residents Associations have overall control. In contrast, the long-standing position in Guildford is that one national party has consistently held about three-quarters of seats on the borough council. Food for thought for the 2019 local elections?”

Tim Murphy, chairman of the Epsom & Ewell branch of CPRE, (Campaign to Protect Rural England) wrote along similar lines in the Autumn 2017 issue of the CPRE’s Surrey VoiceMagazine: “Two years ago, three candidates of the Guildford Greenbelt Group (GGG) won seats on Guildford Borough Council on a ‘Defending the Green Belt’ manifesto – Susan Parker and Mike Hurdle in Send and David Reeve in Clandon and Horsley.

“Then in the May 2016 local elections, Jackie Wren won the Oxted North & Tandridge seat on Tandridge District Council on behalf of the Oxted & Limpsfield Residents Group (OLRG), defeating the council leader by almost three votes to one. On the same day, two countryside campaigners, Patricia Wiltshire and David Hawksworth, won seats on Mole Valley District Council as Independents, supported by Ashtead Residents’ Association, securing three times as many votes as the candidates from the ruling party.”

In Tandridge, the councillor for the Portley Ward in Caterham, Cllr Clive Manley, left the ruling Conservative party in protest at the council’s plan to build over 9,000 new homes in the district, entailing the loss of large swathes of the green belt and open spaces.

He said: “I was elected last year on a platform of opposing significant new development.

“There has already been a vast amount of building in the Caterham area which has put intolerable and unsustainable pressure on schools, health services, roads and parking… I cannot remain part of a group whose plans are in direct opposition to the wishes of the people who elected me.”

His comments echoed those of the Conservative councillor for Clandon & Horsley, Matt Sarti, during the debate on submitting Guildford’s Local Plan. He said all his consultation with his constituents indicated they were overwhelmingly against parts of the plan which compelled him to vote against it.

Tim Murphy continued: “Even more recently, at the local elections earlier this year, Independent candidates representing local residents’ associations found themselves catapulted into overall control of Elmbridge Borough Council, toppling longstanding councillors from the previous ruling party.

“Are we seeing, here in Surrey, the beginning of a groundswell movement where candidates who are prepared to oppose their councils’ unrealistic housing targets are elected at the expense of those who are not willing to stand up for the interests of their local electorates?

“In both Guildford and Tandridge, the majority of councillors of the ruling party have accepted the housing figures wished on their areas in widely criticised Strategic Housing Market Assessments (SHMAs), which make no allowance for the environmental or planning constraints.”

But Murphy argues local authorities don’t have to accept these numbers and gives an example of Reigate & Banstead Borough Council which, he says, has successfully resisted the very high housing numbers proposed for the district.

He said: “At a public hearing into its Local Plan the council stood its ground against what it saw as unsustainable housing targets – and, although it eventually had to concede some loss of green belt, the loss is comparatively modest and the overall outcome for the borough is significantly better than had been expected. In consequence, there seems to be no grass-roots revolt against the ruling party.”

But apparently, GBC need not be too concerned. When asked if this matter had ever been discussed at their committee meetings or whether they might consider extending their affiliations to make such a move possible in the future, Amanda Mullarkey chairman of the umbrella organisation the Guildford Residents Association, which represents 25 residents associations and parish councils, declined, on more than one occasion, to reply. Perhaps this potato is just too hot to handle?

6 Responses to Opinion: Are Residents Well Served by the Main Political Parties in Local Government?

  1. Peter ShawReply

    January 5, 2018 at 3:16 pm

    I wholly support David Reeve’s statement and encourage those in Residents Associations to stand for council positions in 2019.

    I’d be so impressed if we could get even half of the council to be made from Resident Association candidates. It will be healthy for our borough and local democracy.

  2. David KingReply

    January 5, 2018 at 5:14 pm

    It is disgraceful that Mrs.Mullarkey refuses to comment on this issue which has a real groundswell of support.

    What is the point of her position if she will not comment on or support this drive for competent administration out of the hands of the political parties.

    If councils do not listen to their electorate I predict that we shall start to see civil unrest.

  3. Alan RobertsonReply

    January 7, 2018 at 7:55 pm

    The moribund Conservative borough council in Guildford should be replaced by independent councillors who care about the area and who will listen to their electorate. The current set up must be terminated at the earliest opportunity.

  4. Jules CranwellReply

    January 8, 2018 at 8:32 am

    Unfortunately for Guildford, the GBC Executive has done anything but stand its ground over unsustainable housing targets. If anything it has artificially inflated the target through its top secret, undisclosed, “black box” methodology, which it continues to refuse to disclose.

    What do they have to hide?

    Let’s hope 2019 [when the next GBC election is due] is the year of the independents, GGG, and residents associations.

    I wish a few more of our councillors had the guts to take the position: “I cannot remain part of a group whose plans are in direct opposition to the wishes of the people who elected me.”

    We won’t be fooled again.

  5. John PerkinsReply

    January 9, 2018 at 1:28 pm

    In my opinion, concert parties are not compatible with real democracy, especially when coupled with a first-past-the-post electoral system. The argument most frequently offered in favour of FPTP is that it leads to strong government, but experience indicates that the electorate is badly served wherever and whenever one party dominates. In practice, it favours the established political parties who support it.

    Another problem is that of character. To quote Douglas Adams “it is a well-known fact that those people who must want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it”.

  6. Jules CranwellReply

    January 9, 2018 at 10:39 pm

    Unfortunately for us, character seems in short supply at GBC, apart from GGG and depressingly few honest individuals from the other parties. These individuals tend to be reluctant politicians, who have sacrificed their private lives to a greater cause, without allowing personal ambition to cloud their judgement.

    Where is the character in tweeting offensive comments to fellow councillors?
    Where is the character in ignoring the wealth of objections to the discredited Local Plan?
    Where is the character in hiding vitally important calculations on the housing need?

    We should ask ourselves why we have allowed such characterless and mediocre individuals to govern. Arise, the independents and residents’ representatives.

Anne Cooper verbatim.

 

 

You may like some additional facts about Waverley’s financial incompetence when it comes to looking after listed buildings.

  I have attached a couple of documents (these are not included on this post) relating to Brightwell House and the Redgrave Theatre: one is a survey carried out for Waverley at the end of 2016 which shows that urgent repairs will cost £277,000 and a total of all repairs as  – £470,000.

The other attachment is a document from Historic England which urges owners of listed buildings to keep them in good repair, and in use, to deter vandals,  and we know that this is a constant problem for Waverley.

Owners need to take out insurance in case anyone, authorised or not, can sue for damages if they incur an accident inside a vacant listed building!

 Brightwell House has open floorboarding over cellars, no lighting and no security alarm and the Redgrave is full of hazards for the unwary to encounter also in the dark!

REVEALED IN THE AGENDA PAPERS OF THE DECISION MEETING ON WED. 17 JANUARY.

 IT SEEMS THAT CNS WANT TO BREAK UP THE DEVELOPMENT INTO SEPARATE ELEMENTS NEEDING INDIVIDUAL CONTRACTS – THUS BYPASSING THE NEED FOR A SIGNED CONTRACT FOR THE WHOLE DEVELOPMENT BEFORE WORKS CAN START ON A LISTED BUILDING. IT WILL BE A PIECEMEAL DEVELOPMENT WHICH MIGHT GO ON FOR YEARS AND YEARS! 

Needless to say, the tory Tossers listened, but nobody heard and Farnham’s Redgrave Theatre WILL bite the dust! However, sometime soon it could take some Farnham councillors down with it!

 

More burrows on their way to Cranleigh?

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No sooner have the Berkeley Bunnies begun burrowing into Knowle Lane, than the Waverley Web learns that other landowners in Knowle Lane are eager to jump on the builders’ wagon to burrows into their own green fields. They too want to house the Wimbledon and Wandsworth Wanderers who are all migrating down the A3.

Well, why wouldn’t they when a two-up-two-down in Nappy Valley can be swapped for a five-up, five down with ensuites on Knackered (oops! Knowle) Lane in Cranleigh? Ah! but these are for – ‘key workers” where for … London?

According to our mole inside  Waverley, Liz-the-Bulldozer, AKA Lilibet (We’ll have a liddle bet she’ll grant consent)! knows all about it and, desperately worried that her plans for Dunsfold Aerodrome won’t see the light of day, thanks to Mistress Milton and Jeremy Shunt,  is welcoming owners of greenfields in and around Cranleigh with open arms: ‘Roll up! Roll up! Give us a field and we’ll give you a consent …’ Never mind that Wildwood Lane has potholes the size of craters as it crumbles under the weight of lorries pounding up and down it. Who cares? Not LTB that’s for sure.

The Cranleigh Rumour Mill has gone into overdrive since it was announced that David Manns is hosting a coffee shop consultation to-day on behalf of the owners of Suffolk Pensions who want to build 22 houses on a greenfield at Craneswood in Knowle Lane near Knowle Park Nursing Home.  The land is owned by Cranleigh couple David and Sarah Osborne, who are being a bit shy about claiming ownership of the scheme.

Regular readers will recall that the Lettuce King (AKA Nick Vrijland, who owns Cranleigh Nurseries – another green field that’s been consented for housing in Cranleigh) is a major shareholder in David Manns. Does that mean that the Lettuce King and his cohort, Andy Leafy, are up to their old tricks and trying to help concrete over yet another of Cranleigh’s green fields? Or is it just a generous gesture to allow the store to be used for such purposes. Perhaps it would have been a sensible move to use a neutral venue, like the Band Hall, or the community hall, rather than telling residents you are backing Cranleigh New Town?

Rumours abound that a consortium of so-called movers and shakers (AKA people well placed in local business and local government to make things happen) have pooled their SIPS – NO! We’re not talking about a crafty G&T! We’re referring to their Self Invested Pension Plans – in order to acquire local landholdings where they plan to combine their cash and local clout in order to boost their pension pots at the expense of Cranleigh’s green fields and local residents’ amenity.

By the way, isn’t this field adjacent to Cranleigh’s Beryl Harvey Memorial field? You know the one that the late Councillor Brian Ellis wanted to build houses, and villagers stopped him just in the Nick of time!

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Despite a flood of opposition from the local residents, ‘Your Waverley’ rules that Farnham’s Redgrave Theatre will bite the dust!

 

Double, double, toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
Fillet of Isherwood
In the Pott boil and bake;
Eye of Cockburn and toe of Band,
Wool of Frost and tongue of King,
Seabourne’s fork and Byham’s sting,
Le Gal’s leg and Elsie’s wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boils the Bury’s bubble.

Despite  impassioned pleas by three Farnham Residents’ Councillors, The Farnham Theatre Association, hundreds of residents – and even, Godalming’s new boy on the block – Waverley’s old guard stuck to their guns and hope they’ve now delivered  their final blow for the demolition of part of the Grade 11 Listed Brightwells House,  paving  the way for demolishing a theatre once visited by royalty to become, ‘casual dining restaurants’, no doubt serving eye of newt, toe of frog, wool of bat and tongue of dog – get the picture!  

Absolutely ideal for the witches and warlocks occupying the Burys belfry now that their usual haunt The Bell and Dragon is closing down! And bound to be an added attraction for the Wimbledon and Wandsworth Wanderers heading down the A3 to make the once attractive Farnham market town their new home? The latter are used to the more exotic fare served up by the Nappy Valley eateries, so they’ll be on the lookout for something to perk up their jaded pallets. Anyone for Tempura Battered Scorpion?

But with dozens of restaurants struggling to keep their heads above the bain Marie surely a theatre, even a provincial one, might be more of a  draw for the upwardly mobile migrators who are used to having the fleshpots of the capital’s theatreland close. 

And now we come to think of it, wasn’t Art & Culture a big part of ‘YW’s Cultural Strategy trumpeted by the portfolio holder Elstead’s Elsie as a major part of its Daft Local Plan????  Another day … another dollar… we suppose, and this time the dollar… but this time the dollar is the most important issue surrounding last night’s  decision tonight heralding the redevelopment of East Street because the county council is investing squillions of Council Tax payer’s money in the scheme and so is..YW! Why? Because there were no commercial backers! Durrrhh!

BUT IS IT A WISE INVESTMENT?  THAT IS THE QUESTION?

Anne Cooper of the Farnham Theatre Association gave such a good showing – we intend to give her her own post.

Although his microphone’s  barely warm, Godalming’s new boy on the block Lib Dem Paul Follows dared to question the council’s sense in continuing with a scheme, which he said , “had begun while I was still at secondary school.’

Brave boy, particularly after chief planning officer ‘Beth the bulldozer’ gave a very peremptorily sermon on the mount to the Tory voting fodder, that the situation before them was ‘Not a planning application’ but a renewal of a previous consent and there was no change in circumstances!’

No change in circumstances? Is the  Munstead Mumpty suffering from short-term memory loss, no change in circumstances! The whole bloody world has changed since permission for  East Street was granted while Councillor Fellows was still in school swatting for his GCSEs!   Only four weeks at ‘YW’ and he’s swapping swatting for sweating!

He said: “I think it is scandalous how much money has been spent on this over so many years, I want to know when something viable is proposed? Is this development still viable, can you persuade the developer (Crest Nicholson Regeneration Ltd) to actually make this happen, and has the harm to this area been adequately looked at?”

Carry on like that oh chopsy one and you’ll get Beth the Bulldozer on your case! Her response was polite, ‘Perhaps as you are so new Councillor Follows, we could talk  about this IMPORTANT scheme – offline.’ A rap on the knuckles with a slap on both cheeks to follow if we ever heard one!

Councillor Andy McLeod read the retail runes, by pointing out the obvious, restaurants were closing, shops, including House of Fraser, were pulling out of high streets, and even the  ‘anchor tenant’  M&S wouldn’t commit and, elsewhere were closing stores around the country!  “The developer keeps saying – it’s  just about to happen, but it doesn’t! Tonight we hear it is going to happen, but we’ve heard it all before, we  keep on renewing consents and it just keeps stringing us along!’ In 2012 this committee refused a four-year extension and only gave three on condition the scheme as had to be built in that time -frame, and yet we stagger on.  They  said it was ‘ shovel ready’ and all they did was  dig a big hole for the bridge, and take down sheds at the tennis courts!”

Double, double Beth’s in trouble; Fire burns and Potts could bubble?

Cool it all with taxpayers dosh,

Then we wait for the developers’ cosh?

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Needless to say – as we predicted a day or two ago… the voting fodder were like pigs at a trough… as they stuck their trotters in the air … and scuttled out of the chamber pot before being barbecued by the people of Farnham! 

To be continued  

Screen Shot 2017-08-17 at 16.21.28.pngBut it streams for over an hour before it starts!

https://youtu.be/3JPj8UP5BFk

No challenge there then to have the word ‘Housing’ added to his title?

Here at the Waverley Web we have just spotted this on a community page on Facebook relating to the timing of the Dunsfold decision.  

What is he referring to,   D – FOR DUNSFOLD of course!

 

 

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Secretary of State for Housing and Communities Sajid Javid. 

 

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Abandon hope all ye who enter here?

waverley_bankrupt

Here at the Waverley Web, we’re all for a good old Dante reference and it could come in particularly  handy when objectors turn up, or tune in, to watch ‘Your Waverley’s’ nodding donkeys.’ On Wednesday  17th January they will give the nod, following the previous 2012 nod then 2014, nod, which followed the 2016 nod to the 2018 permission for the part demolition of Brightwells House. Which of course, will then lead to another nod to the redevelopment of Farnham’s East Street?

Just in case you’re nodding off – the East Street Saga has been going on for so many years, it’s hard to remember when they weren’t talking about it – and now it’s just in time to meet one of the biggest retrenchments in restaurants and retailing since heaven knows when? 

Crest Nicholson Regeneration Limited – (has it set up a new arm?) together with Sainsbury’s want to knock down the old Redgrave Theatre and covert the building into two spanking new restaurants, so that Farnham can look like just any other old town center. After all, we don’t want our market towns looking like …. market towns do we? Heaven forbid! How would that fit in with life for the Wandsworth and Wimbledon wanderers? And of course, ‘YW’ has already spent over £10m added to over £30m or is it £50m of  ‘ our money’ that the county council is throwing into the big bad Blightwells hole!

The council planning officers led by…we mustn’t call her Liz the Biz so, Beth-the-Bulldozer, or perhaps ‘Eliza-Do-Little-to save our borough’, aren’t too bothered because according to the report to the Joint Planning Committee... ‘the scheme would “cause less than substantial harm’ to the Grade 11 Listed Building. What the hell does ‘less than substantial harm’ mean?

A building that since 1792 has been treasured by Farnham people in a setting of the Brightwell gardens, a rare lung of green open space, sacrificed on the altar of another developer’s greed! So no worries there then! There’s quite a lot of greed about at the moment in the country, so why not here?

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The Joint Planning Committee will be chaired  by non-other than, Peter -“I must not forget to turn the microphone off  or Farnham objectors might just hear what I think of them too’ Isherwood, who will no doubt be rubbing shoulders with Farnham’s Carole Cockburn who would really rather the council despoiled the villages of Cranleigh & Ewhurst as they have ‘no architectural merit.’ But then no doubt their time will come if she has her way! Oh dear… isn’t Cranleigh’s Stocklund Square next on the developer’s hit list and Cranleigh’s characterful high street could will go the same way! Oh! yes, of course, aren’t they considering demolishing Stocklund Square? Click the link below, because Waverley councillors have been holding ‘secret meetings’ on this cunning plan since 2015! Ask Councillor Ellis, Patricia we mean!  We are sure her late husband will have told her all about it!  Oh dear… is Cranleigh’s Stocklund Square next on the developer’s hit list?

There are however four letters supporting a new vibrant retail/restaurant sector in Farnham and over 400 objectors who don’t.

 We would list all the objections here – except you would NOD OFF! And, so would we!

Now here comes the rub!! Crest Nicholson no longer wish to enter into an actual  ‘Contract’ for the East St development, but a ‘Development Agreement,’… wonder why? Perhaps to-day’s long predicted announcement that Carillion has gone tits up has put more than an icy cold blast up the Aris of the plumply salaried Crest NS Finance Director and Wonersh resident Patrick Bergin!  

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So … we’re  all happy about that… arent we?

Just watch all the mits go into the air with gay abandon as another Farnham treasure bites the dust!

This is a quote from Farnham resident Mr. David Wyle.

“Waverley may  be able to go on inflicting its low- grade mediocracy on us because it doesn’t know what consultation and democracy are; it may be able to go on abusing and misusing its powers because local government regulations favour thugs and bullies, but what it will never gain, not unless it changes its tune, is public endorsement and goodwill.’

 

 

 

 

It’s called passing the​ buck! Where does it stop?

So when the Governments cuts the funding to Surrey County Council so that it no longer fund the services it is not obliged to provide, it passes them onto Waverley Borough Council, who then pass the buck down to the parish councils – the grassroots tier of local government. When the parishes can no longer provide them – what then?

Surrey’s roads are now so full of pot-holes, some large enough to place a large washing up bowl into them, is it now time that the borough councils started filling them in? If it says no, perhaps the parishes? Or perhaps we should get out there with buckets of tarmac!

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This was taken from Bramley Parish Council’s newsletter to residents.

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As two of​ ​Your Waverley councillors sneer and deride the villages of Ewhurst and Cranleigh, officers are daft enough to remove the incriminating​ remarks​ from U-Tube.

 

Here’s a post we published a couple of days ago which revealed what the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of Waverley’s Joint Planning Committee REALLY think about another part of our borough!  One councillor from Hindhead – another from Farnham! Hey, Ho, where did localism go? Certainly not to Ewhurst! Our video of the offensive remarks was removed, but not until many of you had seen it! 

Ewhurst is another part of the borough where ‘YW’ and a Government Inspector, intend to help the Cash and Clout brigade to cover the countryside in concrete!Screen Shot 2018-01-10 at 17.26.31.png

The original streaming video has now been taken off U-tube and tidied up by the IT  guys, who cannot produce a decent webcast however hard they try! 

Well, just in case you missed it, here is just part of it below!  Sadly, we couldn’t get the whole conversation on video but we do have it on our telephones! And, if this is removed again, we will not hesitate to use it!

So next time Councillor Isherwood, when you feel like laughing and rubbishing the very genuine concerns of the residents of Ewhurst for speaking up for their village, act responsibly!  And, Councillor Cockburn before telling them to buy some shutters to block out offending development and making other derogatory remarks, turn your bl**dy microphones off! And…

Perhaps Councillor Cockburn,  it is you, and your colleague, who should take advantage of that councillors’ training programme offered to you by CPO ‘Bess the Biz, or Betty the Business! Because you need to do your homework.  The village you describe as: “after all we’re not talking about exquisite pretty English villages here are we,” and “there’s  an awful lot of rubbish there” Ewhurst, has won the Best Kept Village title on more than one occasion and is good enough for such world-renowned stars as Eric Clapton and Kenney Jones to call it home!

Cranleigh too is/was, pretty proud of its very attractive village status, and which you snidely describe as not having much ‘architectural merit.’ Dare we suggest that even those, who, in times past were among the most respected, reasonable, and fair-minded people, once institutionalised by Waverley towers, become self-righteous bores when they are long past their SBD!  

SHAME ON YOU for treating Cranleigh and Ewhurst with such contempt! Do the decent thing and either resign or apologise for your insulting and damning behaviour. Now we all know, right across the borough, what you really think about the East – wonder what you REALLY feel about the west?

 

 

A big payout to Godawfulming’s Parish Clerk?

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Perhaps Godalming residents should be making a few inquiries?

Funny the things you find if you can be bothered to trawl through the small print of local authority accounts!

We know, have a good laugh, sad souls that we are here at the Waverley Web when between running to get our Costa and preparing for the next meeting’s agenda, we go on fishing trips… and here are the chips!!

Well hidden, or at least camouflaged as ‘other staff expenses’  in the Godalming Town Councils accounts is a £30,000 bung given to disappearing Town Clerk! So whats the story behind this massive hole in the Godalming Town Council finances all about? Bullying we hear? No surely not!

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Does ‘Godawfulming’ have its own Bermuda Triangle?

A £3 cost for every Godalming resident, to have the Town Council mismanaged by the incumbent Conservatives?

 

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Is the mucky brown stuff about to hit ‘Your Waverley’s 2018 fan?

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Have the Police been called in yet? The answer is YES!

According to a few  Farnham-based air quality experts ‘Your Waverley’ has miscalculated two crucial ‘bias adjustment factors’ used to counter discrepancies between the council’s monitoring equipment.’ What monitoring equipment?

Now, we all know that the accuracy of ‘YW’s air quality data has been under the microscope for some considerable time – but the silence on the subject from the acting chief executive, now newly appointed Chief Executive Tom Horwood, has been quite deafening! So what is going on?

Perhaps because the audit is being carried out is by his previous employer, East Hants Council, or perhaps the council has not seen hide nor tail of the Air Quality Officer for over a year, or perhaps because the man who pays the bills Wen-am-I-leaving has left? Or because the other Waverley Wally, (The Omen) was also culpable has also left. 

It is now almost six months since the ‘independent’ review was commissioned of the 2016 Air Quality Annual Status Report. This came after the report was criticised for grossly under-estimating Farnham’s air pollution problem!  

  •  It came after Farnham-based air quality expert David Harvey submitted a ‘Level 3’ complaint to Waverley’s acting executive director Tom Horwood, the final stage of the borough council’s complaints procedure, demanding Waverley acknowledge and rectify its mistakes.

To recap.

Waverley’s latest Air Quality Annual Status Report, published in May 2016, claimed air pollution – and specific levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) – only “slightly exceeds” the national objective at three monitoring stations in Farnham; two elsewhere in The Borough and one in Wrecclesham Road.

However, this was challenged by Mr Harvey, a director of West Street firm ADM Ltd, who believed Waverley has dramatically under-estimated the problem after miscalculating two ‘bias adjustment factors’ used to counter discrepancies between the council’s monitoring equipment.

This makes the difference between there being an “overall improvement in air quality across the borough’ as claimed by the council, and the air quality has actually deteriorated.

In correspondence between the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and Waverley, DEFRA has asked Waverley to explain “potential discrepancies” in its data!

Waverley’s head of environmental services, Richard Homewood,  confirmed in an email to Mr Harvey that the council had “engaged an independent consultant to review our 2016 data, calculations and the 2016 report”.

Mr. Harvey said: “As air quality is very much in the public eye at the moment it makes Waverley’s inability to publish correct data and its woeful response to my representations inexcusable. It is now over a year since DEFRA acknowledged that there was an error in the 2016 Air Quality Annual Status Report which is yet to be corrected or even acknowledged by Waverley.

“The failure by Waverley Borough Council to calculate, prepare and submit accurate and correct figures to DEFRA and also preparing an Annual Status Report for the public on air quality in the borough based on these inaccurate figures is serious and represents a failure of service by the local authority.

“Because the 2016 annual report is not fit for purpose Waverley Borough Council are not fulfilling their statutory duties under Part IV of the Environmental Act 1995 to review and assess air quality.”

Mr. Harvey has also complained about the conduct of Waverley’s officers, who he says have questioned his credibility and accused him of lying, and has accused the council of frequently moving its monitoring equipment “to get lower numbers”.

He has issued seven demands to Waverley, including that it withdraw the offending 2016 report, correct and re-issue it, investigate why no record of the bias calculation was kept, and put in place procedures and training “to ensure mistakes of this nature do not happen again”.

He wants Waverley to acknowledge its mistake in public and provide a full report to both the executive committee and full council.

A Waverley spokesman said last September,  ‘Mr Harvey’s complaint about the accuracy of the report is being taken very seriously and we are currently working with DEFRA to review the 2016 report. At this stage, DEFRA has not confirmed to the council whether the data is flawed.

“Mr Harvey’s complaint about the collection of data used in the Air Quality report and the conduct of Waverley employees is being dealt with in accordance with the council’s complaints policy.

“As the complaint has now reached Stage 3, a review of the complaint under the previous stages is in progress and Mr Harvey will receive a response soon.”

Waverley is duty-bound to submit an annual air quality status report to DEFRA after three Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs) were declared in Farnham, Godalming and Hindhead in 2004, following the discovery of excessive levels of NO2 which has been linked to as many as 40,000 premature deaths every year in the UK.

• It also comes after another unitary authority, Cheshire East Council, admitted ‘falsifying’ air quality figures, requiring hundreds of planning applications to be reviewed and prompted a police investigation.

  • According to the BBC, Cheshire East Council said “deliberate and systematic manipulation” took place from 2012 to 2014, which made the council’s air quality data readings appear lower than they really were.

An internal review by Cheshire East’s auditors in 2016 found the air quality data submitted was different to the original data provided by the laboratory that analysed readings from the council’s monitoring equipment.