Interview with BBC Surrey this morning

BBC Surrey Breakfast with Nick Wallis. Interview with Nikki Barton, Haslemere Action Group Against Parking Proposals this morning. (The interview is 1 hour and 50 minutes into the programme. Available seven days). Follow Nick Wallis on Twitter, here. Follow BBC Surrey on Twitter, here.

Nick Wallis (NW): Right, we’re going to stick with cars (Editor’s note: interview follows McLaren news item) but of an altogether different nature this morning when we say good morning to Nikki Barton whom we spoke to yesterday morning on BBC Surrey. Hi Nikki.

Nikki Barton (NB): Hi. Good morning.

NW: Are you in a good mood this morning?

NB: I’m, yes, I’m in a pretty good mood actually, thank you. I sort of have mixed emotions.

NW: Do you want to explain why?

NB: I have mixed emotions.

NW: Oh. Mixed emotions today. Well, yesterday, we were talking about the decision that was going to be made by the Surrey Local Committee, which is made up of Surrey County Councillors and Local Borough Councillors, about the proposals to introduce Pay & Display car parking in Haslemere town centre. Now the meeting was at 2 oclock yesterday afternoon and I got a very excited message on my Facebook page from Alix Alcott saying they’ve decided to can it. Could you explain a little more?

NB: That’s right. Well, they did announce yesterday that they have decided, due to real concentrated pressure from the community, to actually drop Pay & Display throughout Haslemere, which is great.

NW: So, not just in the retail areas but in residential areas as well?

NB: On the residents’ streets as well, which is absolutely fantastic.

NW: Well, why have you got mixed emotions then? I sense there’s a *but* coming…

NB: Yes, well, I think what has been so disappointing is that we don’t really come out of the meeting with any confidence in Surrey County Council from a democratic standpoint. The meeting was quite extraordinary. It was a packed meeting. I think the public became very angry with the way the meeting was chaired. Pat Frost said she was listening but she seemed quite determined to ignore the public that were there. We feel that this decision has really only come about through such a huge effort from the community to actually challenge proposals that were so flawed in their formulation. They should never really have come to the table.

NW: But you did get the result you wanted.

NB: Oh absolutely. No, absolutely delighted about that. Absolutely delighted but, for example, when the meeting continued to discuss residents’ only permits and double yellow lining in the rest of the proposals that remain, and the report (which I said yesterday was full of inaccuracies), it was only the intervention of members of the public that actually stood up much to Pat Frost’s great annoyance to actually point these inaccuracies out. I actually stood up because I’d received a letter from the Treasurer of the Parish Council about one road which would be affected by the proposals and his objection hadn’t even been included in the report.. I stood up with the letter and I said, “Please, this is not the truth. This church has not been included.” And I was asked to sit down, which was fine. And then they were going to continue as expected without actually going back to the church and talking with them again. I then stood up again and said, “Please defer and then have some more consultation.” I was then actually asked to leave the meeting.

NW: Goodness me. Are you a political animal, Nikki?

NB: No, I’m not!

NW: So, you’ve only come to this whole thing through your objection to the parking proposals.

NB: Absolutely!

NW: What are your conclusions about local democracy because Waverley, I wouldn’t describe it as a rotten borough, but it’s one of the few councils where the opposition parties don’t even bother fielding candidates? It’s a Conservative walk over, every time.

NB: I know. I think that out of that total majority comes a great complacency. I think we have been utterly utterly shocked at every level by somehow a lack of willingness to engage with the public and the community. Our politically elected representatives are supposed to be representing us and, I mean, at the meeting yesterday there were 18 (9 Surrey County Councillors and 9 Waverley Borough Councillors) and there were only one or two actually engaged in the debate at all.

NW: But, Nikki, you do get the politicians you deserve. Maybe the people of Waverley need to wake up and start either persuading the other political parties to start fielding candidates or start creating their own parties and doing the same thing.

NB: Well, I do think that may be the way forward because it is such a concern that this process has been so flawed. If our community hadn’t come together in the most wonderful way – and that has been one of the great outcomes of this that actually we have collectively come together and all worked so hard – basically to highlight how this would have all just been foisted upon us. And localism is just being shown to actually fail us because when our local representatives don’t actually take our interests to heart and actually listen to us and want to represent us positively… Actually real harm can be done…

NW: Thank you so much for coming on this morning…I think the campaigners can feel rightly proud of what they have achieved.

NB: No, we are absolutely delighted…

NW: …I’ve got no axe to grind with any political parties but I do find it odd that Waverley has so many unopposed seats. I don’t think that’s healthy for democracy.