The Parish Council met on Monday 9 March which turned out to be yet another very wet and wild evening, the sort that keeps most people at home. Nevertheless, there was as always a good crowd of Newdigate residents in attendance to hear the proceedings and ask questions about items on the agenda. The police report for the 4 weeks since the last meeting was very short, with no serious incidents reported. However, a councillor said there had been a break-in at a property in Mill Lane a few days earlier which was serious enough to merit the attention of the police and a forensic investigation team.
The Chairman said he was still in negotiation with the Surrey Wildlife Trust about the Brickworks Nature Reserve and was expecting to receive the Trust’s 5-year plan, following which it would be possible to sign the joint management agreement. A resident complained about the dangerous state of the boardwalk. It was pointed out that the fishing club has an agreement to use the area where the damage is most apparent and although the general public are permitted to use it, it is not a designated public right of way. The Trust has been doing work on other areas of the Nature Reserve together with local volunteers and I have been asked to follow up our earlier request for urgent repairs to the damaged boardwalk. Residents using the boardwalk should be extra careful and if unsteady on their feet should avoid it altogether until repairs are carried out.
It was decided to postpone the New Residents Evening until September/October because of the possible dangers of contamination from the coronavirus, the eventual spread of which is currently unknown. I’m getting dizzy with all the things that “those who know best” insist we should be frightened about, climate change, climate emergencies, leaving the EU, winter flu. Surrey County Council have issued a 3-page leaflet which says the risk of contracting the virus in Surrey is very low. If you would like a copy of the leaflet, please let me know.
10 March 2020
There were several interesting items on the agenda for the 10 February meeting and a good turnout of residents. The Regional Development Manager from English Rural Housing gave a helpful talk about the work they do to provide affordable housing in rural villages. They run several different schemes, according to the needs of the area, and are typically involved with small developments of 6 to 8 homes in a village. The time scale from the initial point where a parish council starts talking to English Rural Housing about a housing project up to final completion can be around 3-4 years, depending on several factors. The first step of the process is to find a suitable site. The good news is that a suitable site in Newdigate is likely to become available shortly. It was agreed that a small group of Parish Councillors would look at how to develop this as a mixed development site.
Conversations between Surrey Wildlife Trust and Parish Councillors have continued with a view to restoring the Newdigate Brickworks Nature Reserve to its former glory which would enable more people to visit and enjoy the walks and wildlife. A representative of the Trust will be attending next month’s meeting of the Parish Council to give an update about the work that needs to be done. Local volunteers including members of the fishing club have carried out maintenance work on the pathways over the years but more in depth work is now needed to improve paths and cut back undergrowth.
The Traffic Calming project is under way with residents in the 30mph area of the Village placing speed warning stickers on their wheelie bins. It was reported that there had been a good response to the Newdigate Village Road Safety Consultation. The most popular suggestions were to extend the 30mph zone and introduce a 20mph zone in the centre of the village. Once those changes are made, vehicle activated speed signs may be introduced. Several other suggestions are under consideration and the full report is on the website. If anyone who is not on the internet would like a copy of the report, please let me know.
A new local Youth Club will be starting soon and will take place at the Village Hall. Volunteers are currently making all the arrangements and the Parish Council agreed to donate £250 towards set up costs.
The Keep Britain Tidy Campaign starts on 20 March and runs until 13 April. This is also known as the Great British Spring Clean. We call it litter picking. 28 March was suggested as a convenient day to do this in Newdigate and it would be helpful if we could have some more volunteers. Please let us know if you can help.
The next Meeting of the full Parish Council is on Monday 9 March 2020 at 8pm in the Village Hall.
11 February 2020
The Council had a very good response from residents of Newdigate parish, over 150 detailed responses were received. Residents were asked to consider and rate in order of importance the following items that were key to the 2020 Consultation prepared in 2018. They were also asked to suggest further items for the Parish Council to consider. These will be summarised in a later report.
1) Extending 30 mph speed limits in particular to Broad Lane and Parkgate Road.
2) Permanent 20 mph section in Village Street and Trigg Street.
3) Vehicle activated speed signs.
4) 7.5 Tonne weight restriction.
5) Formal pedestrian crossing in Village Street.
6) Improvements to the junction of Henfold Lane and Village Street.
7) Traffic calming with street lighting.
1 Speed Limit Revisions
The response to the consultation, as anticipated, rated revised speed limits both to extending the 30 mph zones and new permanent 20 mph area as the highest priority.
Many people in and around the centre of the village favoured the 20 mph zone whilst those living along Parkgate Road and Broad Lane favoured the extension of the 30 mph zones.
To ensure that both the centre of the village and the Parkgate area given fair consideration we recommend that both these items are taken forward as one item. Adding a 20 mph zone to the centre of the village will frustrate the rat run drivers and probably increase abuse of the 40 mph zones.
2 Vehicle Activated Speed Signs
Vehicle activated signs were the next most popular item. However, further in-depth investigation is required on the siting and style. We would propose these after the extended speed limits are in place, in particular Broad Lane as it very similar to the Strood Green/ Brockham straight. We will obtain advice from Brockham PC about the effectiveness of their own sign.
3 7.5 Tonne Weight Restriction
Imposing a 7.5 tonne restriction was favoured by some, but it must be recognised that it is probably unenforceable. In a situation where major construction projects are being carried out, then we are sure it is possible to obtain special restrictions for large projects not part of the village. The large housing estate North Horsham is of particular immediate concern. This should be discussed with Rusper PC.
4 Formal Pedestrian Crossing in Village Street
Only some support for this item and it would only benefit the centre of the village. It would have a disproportionate cost. Its only location would be outside the school which already has a lollipop lady for school hours.
5 Henfold Lane Village Street Junction
Limited support for this proposal. Whilst it is a dangerous junction, realigning the layout as suggested is probably unaffordable with limited improvement in safety.
6 Traffic Calming with Street Lighting
Speed humps in any form together with chicanes and other road narrowing under current legislation can only be installed with street lighting with speed limits 30 mph and above. If, however, the centre of the village was reduced to 20 mph then speed humps are allowed without street lighting. There was limited support for street lighting as it would destroy the village environment. The cost of street lighting would not be realistic for the village.
Shere Village now has a permanent 20 mph limit.
The other suggestions made were as follows and will be considered further in a later report:
1) Parking outside Bob’s Shop including making parking spaces on the corner of the Brocus.
2) Parking on the brow of hill by the church.
3) Reduction in cycling events.
4) Get Surrey Police to actually carry out random speed checks.
5) Fixed speed cameras.
Newdigate Parish Councillors will continue attending meetings with other neighbouring parish councils and Surrey CC Highways. These meetings are held regularly and arranged by County Councillor Helyn Clack to try to arrive at a common solution, although some of the issues are unique to Newdigate and can be lost in committee discussions. We also need to meet with our friends in Rusper Parish Council as we share much of the through traffic.
Thank you again to all the people that have responded, your input will be of great assistance when we discuss all these points with Surrey CC.
Newdigate Parish Council
With the assistance and advice of Surrey Community Action, and a grant to cover start-up costs from the Parish Council, this much needed voluntary transport scheme will be starting up soon to help people who are no longer able to drive. Voluntary drivers will be available to take people to appointments or to visit relatives and friends. There are 120 similar schemes already in existence throughout the County and contact details to access the service will be issued when the scheme is ready to go live.
As I drove along the dark winding country roads toward the Village Hall on Monday 13 January, carefully avoiding all the new potholes and large puddles of water, along with numerous tree branches scudding across the road in the high wind and torrential rain, it occurred to me that attendance at the first meeting of the Parish Council in the new decade might not be so well attended as usual. I underestimated the hardiness of Newdigate residents – there was a very good crowd indeed!
The first meeting of the evening was the planning committee which considered the several new planning applications received since the December meeting and this was followed by the normal Parish Council meeting. Villages in Bloom was on the agenda. At a meeting last year a resident had suggested that if Newdigate wished to take part in the Villages in Bloom scheme then very early planning would be needed. However, there was no interest shown by anyone at the meeting in taking on this project.
The draft emergency response plan was agreed by the Council and this will be available on the website shortly. Assisting recovery to normality in the aftermath of an unusual event is largely a matter of common sense, but forward planning is needed so that responders know what to do should the need arise.
An important item on the agenda for the Council this month was to agree the precept request for the coming year. It was decided to keep this as low as possible and a 5% increase will therefore be requested to cover expenditure for the year 2020-21.
Mole Valley Local Plan has been published for consultation and residents are encouraged to make their views known. The only site proposed for housing in Newdigate is the area behind the Six Bells pub. Gatwick expansion plans continue, with further meetings and plenty of opportunities for the public to express their opinions. The flight routes review is continuing. Changing the routes to better suit one area may well impact badly on a neighbouring area, so it will not be possible to make everyone happy. However, the Parish Council has taken part in this consultation and suggested the wider swathe route which will create the least disturbance to residents.
The results of the road safety survey have been analysed and an initial report has been produced. I can email this to anyone who is interested and it is also available on the website. Further meetings will now be held between Parish Councillors and Surrey Highways to decide how best to proceed in light of the findings in the report.
The next Meeting of the Parish Council is on Monday 9 February 2020 at 8pm in the Village Hall.
15 January 2020
A sparkling Christmas tree shone over proceedings in the Village Hall as the Parish Council met for its monthly meeting on Monday 9 December. Several new people were among the regular group of residents gathered to hear proceedings and take part in the question and answer session at the end of the meeting.
The agenda followed its usual format. The police report for the previous month showed very little criminal activity in the area recently. The Home Office has recently issued a new consultation on strengthening police powers to tackle unauthorised encampments. There is always a risk of unauthorised encampments in rural areas such as ours and Newdigate Parish Councillors will take part in this consultation on behalf of residents.
The proposed outdoor gym was on the agenda and it was reported that this will be up for discussion by the Community Centre trustees at its meeting next week. It will be necessary to get the views of residents as to whether they think an outdoor gym would be a good idea. Nearby villages have outdoor gym equipment which was funded from several different sources. The project to improve Newdigate Brickworks Nature Reserve is ongoing with several meetings taking place. An indication from the current District Council as to their thinking on the subject of making pockets of land available for low cost housing development is awaited. The English Rural Housing Association will be asked to attend the February meeting to give a presentation about how rural housing can be developed.
The subject of Parish Council support for a proposed judicial review by a local resident into Surrey County Council’s decision to permit drilling at Horse Hill was again on the agenda. The Parish Council wrote to Surrey CC in April asking them to halt drilling at the Horse Hill site and refuse a planning application until the reasons for the earthquakes could be established with scientific certainty. Mole Valley District Council also wrote to Surrey CC in February asking them to consider several matters, including the potential impacts on surrounding residents and communities. However, Surrey CC approved the application for four additional wells at Horsehill. £25,000 is needed to launch the judicial review and the Parish Council decided by a vote of 5 to 4 to contribute £250 towards the cost of the judicial review, which is being undertaken on the basis that proper consideration for residents’ concerns was not given by Surrey CC before it made its decision. No doubt the varying opinions will be aired at great length and expense by the lawyers on the day.
A very good response to the Road Safety Survey has been received from residents. There is a lot of support for a reduction in speed limits in some areas to 30 mph and 20 mph, as well as support for other traffic calming measures. A full report is currently being prepared and it is hoped this will be available at the next meeting. Councillors have been attending meetings regarding the Gatwick flight path consultation and the planned expansion of airport activities. Even without using the emergency runway, a significant increase in flights using the main runway is planned and arrangements are under way. The meeting ended with several questions from residents, followed by festive mince pies and cups of tea. Best wishes to everyone for a happy and prosperous New Year.
The next Meeting of the Parish Council is on Monday 13 January 2020 at 8pm in the Village Hall.
12 December 2019
The Parish Council meeting on Monday 11 November was well attended as usual. The police report this month was quite brief with nothing major reported, although even minor crimes can still have a significant impact on the peace of mind of those affected. Residents can sign up online to the “In the Know” emails from the Police, which contain details of some of the criminal activity in Surrey. It was reported that the proposals for future spending put forward by the Council at the last meeting had been well received, with the exception of the suggestion of a roof over the seat near the Church.
There was an interesting discussion about the Surrey Brickworks Nature Reserve and the work that needs to be done to bring it back to its former glory. The paths need attention and there is a lot of cutting back of overgrown vegetation to be done. Local volunteers are doing their best currently to keep the overgrown undergrowth at bay. If you have not visited it yet, it is well worth seeking out. There are pleasant walks, including a circular one around the big lake and some lovely views. It is a good place to take Fido for a walk and is well used by other dog walkers.
The entrance to the site is so well hidden that unless you learn about its exact location by word of mouth you will have difficulty finding it without an ordnance survey map. I had one and still got lost on my first attempt to find it. I was lucky enough to meet a fisherman there on my first visit who showed me around and said you get an excellent view of the lakes and the whole Nature Reserve if you are on a plane coming from Gatwick airport. If you are a walker, go along Hogspudding Lane and on the left there is a footpath at the entrance to the Mulberries. If you are driving, turn into the Mulberries and bear left. You will see a large gate which you can open to access the good-sized parking area. There are noticeboards with interesting information about the various birds and other wildlife which inhabit the area.
The road safety survey was distributed with this month’s issue of the Village Magazine. There has been a good response so far and the replies will be analysed at the end of November, in time for the December meeting of the Parish Council. There was a discussion about setting up a Speedwatch scheme, which seems to work quite well in other areas. One of the Parish Councillors produced a large sticker showing a suggested speed of 20 miles an hour which residents in Rusper are placing on their wheelie bins. It was agreed that this was a good way to draw the attention of drivers to their speed, even though the bins are only placed on the edge of properties once a week, and a supply of the stickers will be ordered for use by Newdigate residents.
The next Meeting of the Parish Council is on Monday 9 December at 8pm in the Village Hall and you are welcome to attend.
12 November 2019
The Parish Council meeting on Monday 14 October was well attended as always. The police report this month details a few minor events none of which resulted in injuries to people, fortunately, although the deer hit by a vehicle may still be feeling a little sore. The government has recently increased police funding and Surrey Police are on a recruitment drive. By the time you read this newsletter a police careers event will have taken place at Dorking Halls. Who knows, maybe one day we will again see a police officer riding a bicycle around the village, keeping in touch with residents on a regular basis.
The road safety survey was discussed. This asks for residents’ views and preferences about several proposals. The survey will be delivered to all residents shortly and everyone is encouraged to complete the form. The forms may be returned to collection boxes at various places, including Bob’s Shop and the Surrey Oaks pub, or emailed to me. One of the measures that can improve road safety and reduce speeds is a Speedwatch scheme. At least 6 volunteers would be needed and training including the necessary equipment is provided. The police must also ensure that the various locations chosen to set up and monitor speeds are safe.
Allocation of extra funding received by the Parish Council from the Community Infrastructure Levy was discussed by the Finance Committee at its meeting the previous week. These suggestions were agreed by the full Council as follows: (i) set-up costs for a voluntary car scheme to help villagers no longer able to drive; (ii) funding to restore pathways at the Newdigate Brickworks Nature Reserve which has fallen into a dilapidated state in recent years; (iii) outdoor gym equipment for the Community Centre; (iv) traffic calming measures; (v) a roof over the seat outside the Church.
A report was given about the Trig Street footpath upgrade to a bridleway. Agreement about who would be responsible for upkeep of a new bridleway is currently presenting an obstacle rather more challenging to overcome than the obstruction created by overgrown vegetation. Ways forward are under active consideration and it is hoped that the project will be able to proceed once the administrative difficulties are overcome and sufficient funding is raised. In the meantime, the training session by Surrey County Council for volunteer footpath wardens took place in September and several local people have now signed up as official volunteer wardens equipped and authorised to cut back overgrown vegetation and replace way signs on footpaths.
Gatwick expansion plans were discussed. If you wish to express your views about Gatwick Airport’s extension plans you can take part in a survey at https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/R9N2WTV. CAGNE together with the Gatwick Environment Group are currently touring around with information about the expansion plans. If you see this newsletter in time, you could attend an event being held at Rusper, outside the village shop, on 26 October from 10 to 11am. On 2 November there is an event at Warnham, also outside the village shop, and from 9.30 to 11am on 9 November there is an all day stall at Horsham on the Carfax.
The next Meeting of the Parish Council is on Monday 11 November at 8pm in the Village Hall and you are welcome to attend.
Lesley Bignell, Clerk to the Council 15 October 2019
This letter was sent to Surrey County Council on 16 April:
SCC Ref 2018/0152 – Horse Hill Oil Well Site
We write to express the deep concern of our community in Newdigate Parish regarding the ‘swarm’ of earthquakes – totalling 23 in number so far – that have been registered by the British Geological Survey in and around our Parish area since Easter Saturday 2018. This initial tremor registered 2.6 on the Richter Scale, with the strongest so far registering a magnitude of 3.1, occurring at 03:42hrs on Wednesday 27th February 2019; this tremor was significant enough to rate a prominent position on national news bulletins.
There is a strongly-held belief in our community that these earthquakes are being triggered by the drilling that is taking place at the Horse Hill Road site near Hookwood, Surrey operated by UK Oil and Gas. The earthquakes commenced soon after drilling started and the belief is that these continuing events are related. When one considers that the last significant earthquake in Surrey was felt in the mid 18th Century it is clear that the community is justified in their current concerns. The question that is rightly being asked is: ‘Are we heading towards a devastating earthquake?’
The British Geological Survey and the Oil and Gas Authority have reported their findings concerning the earthquakes and both have concluded that these are natural events unrelated to the drilling at the Horse Hill site, ‘no evidence of a causal link’ as it was reported officially. However, a group of academics at the University of Edinburgh led by Professor Stuart Hazeldine, have reached a different conclusion, and report that, in its view, there is a causal link.
We, as a community, have limited scientific knowledge of the drilling process and the geology into which this is taking place. We do, however, have very real concerns that there are groups of professionals and academics in this field that are in complete disagreement and we need to know, definitively and in very short order, what the answer is to the question of a causal link.
Our demand, on behalf of our community, is for a halt to all drilling at the Horse Hill site until it can be established, with scientific certainty, what the reasons are for the earthquakes. Having professional groups in complete disagreement on the causes is extremely worrying to us all; a halt to drilling to ascertain the precise causes is surely a small price to pay compared with the possibility of a significant earthquake occurring that would be damaging to both life and property over a wide area.
Thus the residents would object to the approval of this Planning Application until such research has been conducted.
Yours faithfully, Newdigate Parish Council