UK Oil & Gas application in Dunsfold – Refused…for now?

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What an amateur outfit Surrey County Council’s virtual remote planning meeting turned out to be yesterday – Monday – when councillors narrowly refused UK Oil & Gas PLC’s bid to appraise a well site on High Loxley Road near Dunsfold aerodrome.

The proposed site sits almost on the doorstep of Waverley’s highly acclaimed Government backed garden village – soon to boast circa 3,000 new homes. In fact it appeared that if approved the garden villagers – could literally have oil/gas wells in/under their back gardens.

Whilst we have provided the link at the bottom of the post to enable you to listen to the meeting – this comes with a health warning!

DON’T unless you have a strong stomach for a buffering, during an often incoherent webcast – and a decision-making process of a never-to-be-forgotten variety, which was at best amateur and at worst unconstitutional. Councillors at one point sought to dump the reasons for refusal onto the rapidly slumping shoulders of the very same planning officers who had recommended approval of the scheme.

 Cranleigh  and Ewhurst county councillor Andrew Povey put up a strong show giving over-riding reasons why UKOG should be sent packing; He had the backing of almost every town and parish council in the area – including ‘Your Waverley’ tucked under his belt.

  • SCC highways had erected signs in the road – ‘Unsuitable for HGV’s.’ So while its own professional highway engineers had deemed the road unsuitable, others proposed giving the green light to more HGV’s!

The road – by nature of he chevrons around its 90 degree bends was – according to county engineers – very dangerous.

  • The area was in an Area of Great Landscape Value – which by Surrey’s own definition was to be treated as AONB – An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty 

(The site nestles against a backcloth of the Hascombe Hills.)

  • County council officers had described the proposed works as posing a ‘seriously incongruous feature’ in the countryside.
  • Development would have a serious impact on the rural economy.

How, he asked, could a nearby wedding venue with a multi-million turnover running public  events which used flares operate at the same time as the proposed search for gas? The idea is ‘quite preposterous’ to site such an operation, strongly opposed by everyone locally including Waverley Council and the developers of the new Dunsfold Garden Village.

Although backed many of his colleagues, -Cllr Ernest Mallett the member for Molesey argued the council would be shirking its responsibilities if it refused officers’ advice – which included approval of highway engineers.

“If we make a decision here today that does not have some very solid reasons then we could be in for £200,000 worth of costs. We will be very vulnerable at appeal and in my 15 years of serving on this committee I have always considered it a golden rule that you cannot base a refusal on highway grounds that goes against highways’ advice.”

*SCC’s highways supported the application.

Cllr Mallett said: ‘It seems to be the view in this part of Surrey that you can use oil and gas, but not be subjected to any inconvenience! Weddings and events can take place here with upwards of 80 cars and lorries ferrying equipment to and from the venue – for which the council has given permission, without controls. But 10/20 lorry movements are a danger, despite traffic controls and enforceable conditions. Should this go to appeal the county council will be decimated.”

He warned his colleagues by refusing  what he described as “an insignificant operation” the committee would be in danger of dealing with it on a ‘special basis’ – or in a way that no other oil or gas application had been dealt with by the authority. It was not near other buildings, was 300 metres away from the Gipsy sites and the wedding events buildings. To believe that the wedding venue would disappear  was fanciful – when two huge areas had permission for ‘clear fell’ using large tree-moving vehicles on the same road?

‘How are you going to defend that when you go before an Inspector?” he asked? “We could be slaughtered at appeal.”

Stephen Cooksey (Dorking South & Holmwoods) said the threat of an appeal would not convince him to support refusal – which was in line with all the parish and local district councils. Why? he asked weren’t the gipsies consulted – when the impact on them and the new garden village would be critical.

It was then – after the application was refused by six votes to five – a muddled and confusing counting procedure followed – that the streaming of the meeting was halted – to give time for the actual grounds for refusal to be agreed upon.

This statement from UK Oil & Gas PLC (London AIM: UKOG) followed:

“We note that Surrey County Council (“SCC”) has today refused consent for the Company’s Loxley-1 appraisal project. The company is carefully considering its position but has concerns over the validity of the decision given the meeting’s conduct, the lack of specific reasons for refusal and reasons why the planning officer’s recommendation was overturned. It is likely that UKOG will appeal the decision via the planning inspectorate.

Stephen Sanderson, UKOG’s Chief Executive, commented:

” We are obviously disappointed by Surrey County Council’s refusal of planning consent for our Loxley-1 appraisal project. The refusal was by a narrow 6-5 decision and against the Planning Officer’s recommendation. Unfortunately, the precise reason or reasons for refusal and why the Planning Officer’s recommendation was overturned, remain unclear, which is less than ideal. The meeting’s general structure and conduct also opens up further questions on the validity of the decision. We also note that the Environment Agency granted the scheme a full environmental permit on 26 June covering all environmental aspects of the proposed scheme.

Furthermore, we note that the meeting’s main discussion centred around a possible highways issue regarding the suitability of the Dunsfold road adjoining the site to accommodate the envisaged traffic flows. However, the County Highways and Planning Officers supported this aspect of the application, stating that the traffic mitigation plan would permit safe use of the road during operations.

 

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https://mycouncil.surreycc.gov.uk/mgConvert2PDF.aspx?ID=68181

Here’s what Alfold villagers think. Strange though – the Hon Angela opposes and the Hon Jeremy stays schtum! 

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View the webcast.

Top marks to our Waverley MP’s for their utter hypocrisy.

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On Friday 331 Conservative MPs opposed a motion that would have led to weekly testing of NHS workers and care staff and guess who was among them… yep, you guessed – our MP’s Jeremy Hunt and Angela – ‘how high would you like me to jump Boris – Richardson.’

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, alongside Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, Jon Ashworth and Liz Kendall had brought a motion to Parliament calling for greater protective measures to be rolled out in the health system.

But it was voted down by more than 300 MPs, including Jeremy Hunt who had called for a weekly testing himself on the same day.

So Jeremy and Angie its OK to join us all clapping for carers – but when it comes to voting – your careers are more important?

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At the start of the pandemic, we were told MPs were to receive a huge boost to their expenses allowance when IPSA raised their monthly credit card limit to £10,000; allowed items to be claimed for without proof of purchase, and increased office budgets by £10,000. Since then, IPSA has also changed rules to allow MPs to claim for taxisWe can’t expect our representatives to catch the plague-ridden public transport like the rest of us voting fodder – can we?

Yesterday, a further boost was announced, in the form of a £312 annual homeworking bonus for MPs’ staff, to cover their home telephone usage, internet, electricity and gas – all tax-free. If every parliamentary staffer – none of whose incomes have been hit by Coronavirus – claimed the allowance, it would cost the taxpayer £1.1 million…

MPs will also be able to request up £18,270 extra for their staffing budget to deal with “a rise in workload for their offices as a result of coronavirus” – up from the £10,000 allowance rise announced at the start of the lockdown.

Responding to the neverending parliamentary pandemic pocket-lining, The Taxpayers’ Alliance Duncan Simpson told the Waverley Web:

“MPs and their staff should not be getting budget top-ups for working from home when everyone else is being expected to just get on with it.

“Millions have been stuck in the house, looking after kids and cracking on with their day jobs – where’s their £312 annual homeworking bonus? 

Parliamentary authorities need to get a grip and stop pampering our politicos.”  

We wonder, is this is the last excuse for picking the pockets of the public we’ll see from IPSA before the pandemic is out…

“MPs and their staff should not be getting budget top-ups for working from home when everyone else is being expected to just get on with it. Millions have been stuck in the house, looking after kids and cracking on with their day jobs – where’s their £312 annual homeworking bonus? Parliamentary authorities need to get a grip and stop pampering our politicians.” 

Before long Jeremy & Angie – you may need those hard hats. Because the public are getting angry – very angry!tinhats

Its official – Fly tipping across Surrey has reduced.

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Tell the Truth

According to a Surrey County Council spokesman, the incidents of fly-tipping in the county have reduced.  So, perhaps everyone should go out with their cameras and phones and prove them wrong?

The Waverley Web has already found in one small area of the borough: One dismantled children’s pink playhouse; two single-bed mattresses; a burned-out caravan, a couple of crashed cars, and numerous other detritus bagged up and scattered around the borough of Waverley. But if Surrey County Council says fly-tipping has reduced then it must be right! 

 

 

Will The Cranleigh Society persuade the county council to go back to the blackboard and re-think its school strategy?

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The Society which speaks up for the people of Cranleigh has been campaigning for months to persuade Surrey County Council to drop its plans for two new schools on a new site near Glebelands School.

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The proposed new school is predicted to be too small to take the proposed intake. It cannot hold a full school assembly and lunches will have to be held in three sittings. Perhaps even more now the Coronavirus restrictions are in place?

The Parsonage Road green field site, adjacent to The Cranleigh Bowling Club and Cranleigh Sports & Social Club is a highly unpopular choice with local people and letters have poured into County Hall urging its as decision-makers to think again.
Cranleigh Parish Council was one of the first to oppose the school development, and several of its Waverley borough councillors also opposed the density of a proposed housing development on the two former school sites as ‘overdevelopment.’
Residents of the eastern villages led by the Cranleigh Society are urging education officials to go back to the drawing board, and consider refurbishing the existing schools on two sites – one in Church Lane and the other in nearby Parsonage Road. The Society has been campaigning for many months for a volte face by the county council, believing its combined bid to build new schools and housing in the same area will cause traffic chaos and a danger to children.
In addition to the huge increase in traffic expected in the area of the new development, in Parsonage Road the council is dependent on Waverley Planners agreeing to an application to build 91 homes on the vacated former school sites. Parking bays would be removed – causing further parking problems in an already highly congested area in the centre of Cranleigh.
Plans to ensure children walk to school has been rubbished by the residents of rural villages of Alfold, Dunsfold and beyond, where parents are forced to ferry children to Cranleigh as their primary schools were closed by Surrey. The rural villages in the east of the borough have little or no public transport. 
SCC recently held an on-line meeting with Cranleigh Society representatives, after responding to hundreds of comments, letters and emails objecting to its  plans for building the new Primary School.
The Society hopes that the strength of local opposition will ensure the scheme is fully reviewed in light of the county council’s recent Declaration of a Climate Emergency.
However, Waverley Planners could hold the key to the school’s development as the 91 new homes are required in part to pay for the multi-million pound school development.
Although the county council can give itself planning consent to build the schools, the housing development requires borough consent.
With water shortages experienced all over the Cranleigh area during the lock-down, residents are also wondering how much longer the water supply can stand up to the demands being put on it by even more housing.

Farnham’s Amy suffers shell shock.

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Missing Tortoise prompts the WW to break its rule of never advertising missing pets.

Sad souls that we are here at the Waverley Web we gave in to the impassioned pleading of one of our team to advertise that Amy Thopson’s tortoise has gone AWOL.

He says Amy’s appeal to anyone who may have seen her pet in the Lower Bourne area of Farnham pulled at his heartstrings – because 30 years ago his hard-hearted  tortoise did a runner and was never seen again! He tells us deep down in his oversized boots he believes his own pet is still running around in the Godalming area – near Priorsfield School? We didn’t mention we saw a tortoise-shell broach that looked just like the picture he showed us!  However, he should never have called his treasured pet  ‘Nifty!’

But spare a thought for Louise – and ring her on the number below if you see a tortoise haring around in Lower Bourne.  Perhaps someone can tell us why tortoises appear to run faster than we all think?

 

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It could be back to the drawing board for the Berkeley Bunnies on its Woolmead development?

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Waverley planning officers together with Surrey County Council highwaymen may be willing to roll over for one of the nation’s largest house builders – but the people of Farnham will not!

Berkeley’s bid to slash car parking at its proposed  Woolmead development in Farnham Town Centre by 61 spaces from 141 to 80 was UNANIMOUSLY refused. It’s bid was dubbed as trying to drive a coach and horses through both Waverley and Surrey’s planning and transport policies to the town’s detriment. 

The Western Planning Committee of 15 councillors from Farnham and elsewhere were in no mood to roll over and ignore their local authorities accepted parking standards to enable the BB’s burrowing for an underground car park to be halved. A bid by the developer that would leave residents of the one-bedroom homes to racket around the town looking for free parking or using spaces provided by the BB’s in the town’s  public car parks – but only for a year.

In other words- Farnham is being dumped on – yet again! said Farnham Society Spokesman David Wylde who asked the council?

“If this proposal had been a part of the original 2018 application to redevelop Woolmead – would it have been approved? And, why was this developer being given another bit of the cherry?

He warned that other developers would be smacking their lips at the wriggle room now being offered by Waverley officers’ recommendation that the revised scheme  with no parking for 61 homes should be approved. WHY In a county with the highest car ownership would the two authorities hypothesise such a reduction when it had no basis in fact.

He painted a picture of – 61, or more cars prowling around the Town looking for parking, in the nearby hunting grounds of Farnham Hospital car park, in Stoke Hills above Woolmead or in nearby residential roads. “About the bus service – do we have one? – As for public transport generally that is one of last resort. As for the BB’s need to make the reduction to maximise its profits, he described this as a cheek and blackmail that should be resisted. 

Councillors pondered how many more concessions would be wrung out of Waverley before the supposedly ‘shovel-ready’ project’ was built-out? Why should the residents of a town where parking was at a premium suffer from the loss of spaces it could ill-afford?

Why, they asked were officers in conjunction with Surrey- ripping up their own parking standards provisions, just because of Berkley’s misjudged risk and supposedly ‘shaky finances’ as it would now only make a £10m profit and a 20% return on its investment?

Farnham Town Cllr ‘Scottie’ Fraser said officers were deluded if they thought it would end here.

‘Berkeley’s should be told to abide by their undertaking, pick up their shovels and get on with the job – because the people of Farnham will not look kindly on them if they don’t. If they are going to sulk and leave boarded-up site – then so be it- and it will be  a stain and an embarrassment on the Berkeley Homes Directors.’

Berkeley’s  divisional director David Gilchrist claimed the proposed reduction was in line with Waverley’s Climate Change initiative to become carbon neutral by 2030 and the reduction in spaces would have a positive impact on Farnham town centre’s traffic congestion and air quality issues. The shift post-COVID was away from car usage to public transport, walking and cycling. He forgot to mention that the revision to reduce parking was made in December 2018 (BC) before coronavirus!

Cllr Brian Adams claimed the application had nothing to do with Climate Change Initiatives and everything to do with increased developer profit. By halving the  basement and improving the profit by £1.4m! 

 Councillors agreed Farnham Town Centre was no place to ride a bike, and the picture Carole Cockburn painted of riding her bike to Waitrose with her shopping hanging off the handle-bars was of the never to be forgotten variety. She claimed the scheme’s revision was just ‘Plum wrong’ and went against The Farnham Neighbourhood Plan, its Design Statement and the Local Plan.

In this newly regenerated town – opposite the White Elephant which was described as such by Cllr Kika Mirylees, she asked where exactly were visitors to Farnham expected to park? 

Cllr John Neale said:

“Does the developer really want  to risk damaging its brand by building a blot on the landscape in Farnham? It is a big concern that the site could go undeveloped, however the people Farnham would prefer to take that risk. The longer it is delayed, the more it will cost

Cllr Dear congratulated Mr Gilchrist, of Berkeleys, for being able to keep a straight face during his presentation, ‘as I sincerely could not understand the construction costs, or the Independent Viability Report – and that is with 35 years experience in the business.’ He said the developer was trying to drive a coach and horses through both Waverley and Surrey’s established planning and transport policies to the detriment of our town.

Cllr Peter Clark said:  “The very fact that Waverley’s planning officers could support this gives me great cause for concern.”

 

Surrey residents, including some in Waverley, have experienced a spate of phone and doorstep bank frauds.

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WATCH OUT THERE ARE SCAMMERS ABOUT!

Police are warning Surrey residents, particularly the elderly, to beware of bogus phone calls and phoney doorstop “couriers” in bank frauds.

In most cases, unscrupulous villains target the over 60’s.

The Waverley Web has heard of several possible victims who managed to steer clear due to police warnings.

But Guildford has not fared so well where there have been 20 reported crimes, with crooks impersonating police or a bank official. 

The phone caller usually claims that someone has been arrested and an investigation is underway as their debit or credit card has been used.

The caller says they need the resident’s help by giving their PIN and card details over the phone or handed to a courier they will send. In four of the recent Surrey cases, a courier turned up.

Fortunately in only six of the 20 recent attempts were successful. However, the personal total loss of £58,705 is huge. The highest single loss is believed to be £22,000.

Older people are particularly vulnerable and the ideal target. All victims were over 60, most over 75 and the oldest 94. Sixteen victims were female, most living alone. In one unsuccessful case, the victim’s husband had passed away just two weeks before.

Police are offering support and advising about prevention because victims can be targeted frequently.

PC Bernadette Lawrie BEM, the Financial Abuse Safeguarding Officer for Surrey Police said: “This is a heartbreaking crime that preys on the most vulnerable in our communities and often targets a generation who believe in helping police and want to do the right thing.

“It can leave victims feeling embarrassed, low in confidence and blaming themselves, which they absolutely mustn’t. The only people to blame are the immoral perpetrators of this crime.

“Remember, no police officer, or bank staff on the phone, will ever ask for your bank details, PIN or for cash. Don’t give your details or cash to anyone in these circumstances. Hang up the phone straight away.”

Top tips to help stop this type of fraud are:

  • Act with care if you get an unsolicited phone call;
  • Never transfer funds into a new account on the instruction of an unexpected caller, even if they tell you the account is in your name;
  • Always check your phone line has properly disconnected before making another call. Call a good friend first, wait five minutes or use a different phone;
  • Never share your PIN code or enter your PIN into a telephone;
  • Never withdraw money and hand it to a “courier” or “police officer”; and
  • Never give your bank cards to anyone who comes to your door.

For further advice and information on preventing this type of fraud, see the Surrey Police website linked here: https://www.surrey.police.uk/advice/advice-and-information/wsi/watch-schemes-initiatives/os/operation-signature/

The brilliant Farnham Herald wins coveted award.

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Three Cheers from the Waverley Web for this huge achievement. However, perhaps it is time to dispel the myth that our tiny team, also based in Farnham, is in any way linked to this giant of progressive local journalism.

However, what a great pity that it has recently lost some of its treasured freelance journalists that have served the newspaper for many years. Including their stalwart Haslemere reporter – the much loved and highly respected Bea Philpott.

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The newspaper of the year titles for 2019 was won by:

Daily Newspaper of the Year Above 400,000 Monthly Reach: The Yorkshire Post.

Daily Newspaper of the Year Below 400,000 Monthly Reach: Western Mail.

Paid for Weekly/Sunday Newspaper of the Year Above 50,000 Monthly Reach: Bucks Free Press.


Paid for Weekly/Sunday Newspaper of the Year Below 50,000 Monthly Reach: Farnham Herald. Sponsored by Camelot.


Free Weekly Newspaper of the Year: Islington Tribune.

Website of the Year award went to HullLive, Hull Daily Mail.

The Birmingham Mail was chosen as the joint winner for daily newspaper Campaign of the Year category for its focus on the Birmingham Pub Bombings. The judges also awarded top marks to the Power up the North campaign carried jointly by titles from publishers Newsquest, Reach and JPIMedia.

A full list of award winners can be found below and by visiting the event page where there is full coverage of all of the nominated entries in all categories.

In a video message of support, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden MP paid tribute to all who worked in the regional press. He added: “Particularly local and regional press has a unique role to play both in holding local politicians to account and in building a sense of community.”

Minister Robert Jenrick’s promises to local authorities.

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Will Government promises resemble Mary Berry’s pie crusts – easily broken? Or does ‘Your Waverley’ and Surrey County Council’s having nothing to fear for its future finances? 

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Speaking at the Daily Press Conference in May Communities Minister Robert Jenrick congratulated his Government on the money handed to local councils.

 A journalist said although Birmingham City Council had already received £250m – like other councils across the country its services including car parks, children’s services and leisure centres had been badly impacted by the coronavirus epidemic.  He claimed if the Government didn’t match its words with actions, all these services would be compromised.

In response, Mr Jenrick said:

“let me be very clear to all council leaders across the country. We will stand behind them and ensure they will have the resources that they need to carry out the absolutely critical functions they are playing in the national response to the CV. That was the promise that I made to council leaders, as did the Prime Minister early in the life of the emergency.”

We have already provided 3.2 billion of additional resources to councils in just the last two months. We are providing a further £4billion of cash-flow precisely so that they should not have to face the difficult choice that you describe responding to the virus in their communities and for the very important public services – like refuse collection and services to vulnerable children in their communities.

In the West Midlands, local councils will receive £374m to deal with the pressures of the CV, and that comes on top of a very generous settlement at the beginning of the Financial Year which has already increased its spending power by over £300m.

If further resources are required to meet the CV related costs we have asked councils to bear, then obviously we will take that into consideration in the near future. I have been working closely with local council leaders and the Mayor of the West Midlands, who is doing a fantastic job in leading the community forward during this very difficult time.”

Patrick ~Journalist: The key issue here S of S is to make sure the extra support gets through to ALL the local authorities immediately. Take Shropshire as an example. It says that the money it has received does not cover the costs it has incurred and Shrewsbury TC has been saying that money is not filtering down to them and they are the closest to the communities that actually need the help!

Robert Jenrick: “Firstly, in terms of ensuring their residents get what they need. “We are absolutely committed to doing that. Councils are receiving more money, so far, than they reported to us that they need to meet the COVID related costs. They are also seeing a significant reduction in their income because nobody is using car parks and leisure centres. That is a separate issue that we are focusing on.

Of the  £1.6m that we gave we are making sure that a significant amount did flow down to the lower tier councils so that your average district council in England will now receive in the coming days a futher£1m or more in grants to help them with their expenditure and also to stabilise their finances.

We have also asked that parish councils should speak to their principal councils who have received that £1m if they need more funding so that the money flows down if they are under financial pressure. We have to get through this together.”

So, fear not all you councillors, from the top to the grass roots of local government – you can rely on the word of Robert Jenrick – and your council coffers will runneth over?

How ‘Your Waverley’ fared in the Coronavirus ratings.

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Despite being one of the largest towns in Surrey – Woking has the lowest rate of COVID-19 infections in the county.

The number of cases in Woking 188. Rate of Infection 185.8

All the more significant as Woking has a large ethnic population, a group which has been badly affected by the virus around the rest of the country.

Why? We wonder. According to the local MP Jonathan Lord – Simples. The vast majority of his constituency had responded to the virus epidemic in an “exemplary fashion.”

However, what he didn’t say was how well the local nursing homes had responded in the early days of the infection when they refused to take in any residents from hospitals, ensuring they had the right PPE, closed to any visitors, and prepared isolation areas for any eventuality before the official lock-down began.

Mr Lord, who is a regular visitor to the town’s nursing homes, said he was extremely grateful to Woking’s residents and businesses, who had followed government, scientific and medical advice. He said the number of local infringements had been “vanishingly small,’

He was delighted that Woking has one of the lowest infection rates in the whole of Surrey, and I know we will do our best to keep it that way, even though we have now started the vital task of opening up our shops’ businesses and schools.”

Waverley did not fare quite so well. The number of cases 305. Rate of Infection 242.8

Farnham town centre 

There have been more than 300 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the borough of Waverley, which includes its largest towns of Farnham and Godalming. 

South West Surrey MP Jeremy Hunt said  “I think on the whole residents in Waverley have been very sensible and have followed and adapted to government guidelines which explain the relatively low infection rates in the borough.

“We’ve had a fantastic local response from the community and have also seen councils working together along with groups and volunteers to support those shielding or struggling. We are also very fortunate to have some amazing health and care professionals and brilliant neighbouring hospitals where the response has been first class.”

Guildford – number of cases 386. Rate of infection 261

Guildford High Street 

With just short of 400 confirmed cases of coronavirus, Guildford and its surrounding areas have the fourth-highest rate of infection across Surrey according to figures from the Health Service Journal (HSJ).

Guildford and Cranleigh MP Angela Richardson was contacted for comment but did not respond.  

A total of 96 patients have died within the Royal Surrey NHS Foundation Trust following a positive test for coronavirus, as of June 15.