Jennifer Morris wrote this article, published today, for the Surrey Advertiser: Haslemere parking protesters mount election battle
A DISILLUSIONED core of Haslemere residents who feel let down by their elected representatives are preparing to front an independent Surrey County Council (SCC) candidate in May’s local elections.
An action group set up over the past 14 months to challenge the county council on planned parking changes is behind the proposition.
The group criticised the local area committee, made up of county and Waverley borough councillors, saying it failed to listen to the community’s fears after resident parking permits and other charges were given the green light.
The original plans had 382 letters of objection and more than 200 people attended the committee meeting.
Nikki Barton, spokesman for the group, which has not yes announced who will run for councillor, said: “We need someone who understands this town and has a holistic vision for us.
“We are very privileged to live in Haslemere but its location and affluence bring unique problems, such as over-subscribed commuter parking and a pressure on housing stock.”
The town borders three counties and Mrs Barton says many residents feel they are left on the margins.
She added: “We feel the councillors and council officers assume because we are an affluent town on the edge of the county we can look after ourselves.”
The parking campaign has lasted almost two years. During last month’s local area committee meeting councillors systematically worked through the agenda of proposals, considering a small number of streets at a time.
Details of the proposals were published last October and the majority of officers’ recommendations for parking controls to be introduced were approved.
There were residents who were satisfied with the outcome for their areas but the campaign group fed back that it felt council members had failed to grasp the bigger picture of parking.
Mrs Barton said: “We still have huge concerns about the displacement effects of their proposals and they ignored the opportunity to bring more creative parking solutions to the table.”
Steve Renshaw, the current county councillor for Haslemere who was elected in 2009, said: “I can well understand why some individuals do not envisage going into politics as an elected member has the responsibility of making decisions, in full knowledge that not everyone – and often the most vocal – will be satisfied, as opposed to simply taking the opportunity to criticise those that do in the press,” he said.
“Nevertheless, I would encourage anybody to take an active involvement in politics at any level, where, if elected, there is the opportunity to engage in constructive debate, based on facts, and the merits of the different points of view, weighed.
“However, it is a complex role, exercised over a range of services for the benefit of residents, extending well beyond single issue policies.
“There are a lot of residents in Haslemere who are of the strong belief that their local councillor and SCC has listened and are appreciative that the SCC local area committee has not been swayed by well organised, self appointed interest groups, some of whom believe localism stops with them.
“With regards to parking, SCC recognises only too well that the steps they have taken in introducing residents’ parking schemes in the roads worst affected by antisocial parking are not a final solution – but it is a start. This is why they will be considering the wider issues later this year, under Phase 2.
“Although I am not standing for re-election, the successful candidate for Haslemere will be 1 of 81 county councillors at Kingston, with the responsibility of delivering services to the residents of all of Surrey, rather than just their own ward.”