After the first public meeting on 15th January 2013 we compiled a list of questions which we have done our best to answer here. This has been updated at the end of January 2014 following the consultation period for the Green Belt Boundary Review Report.
Questions about Ashtead Neighbourhood Forum (ANF)
Will the Ashtead Neighbourhood Forum include a council member?
Yes. In fact we havefour councillor members; Mary Cooper, Paula Hancock Chris Townsend and Chris Hunt.
The Forum is not elected, so how can it be democratic?
In order for the Forum to be designated by MoleValley it had to be representative of the whole community. This is why we sought volunteers of all ages, gender, house tenure, working, unemployed, ethnic group, disabled etc to come forward so that there is a broad cross section of people living and working in Ashtead on the Forum.
Who is on the Forum and who is on its working group, Ashtead Community Vision?
Members names and some details are on the website. The information will beupdated in early February 2014
The Forum is an un-elected body. Does this process detract from the responsibilities of the elected local council?
No. The ANF has been given a remit to provide a locally approved view of future land use planning, which will be adopted by the local council after a referendum. All other existing council responsibilities remain unaltered.
Do Forum members need to be qualified?
No. However general skills for producing a Neighbourhood Plan include leadership, project management and organisational skills, an ability to engage a diverse range of
members of the public and to listen, communicate and negotiate, apply analytical skills, and demonstrate an ability to work in a team. Additional skills and capacity are utilised through working with partners in the local area, including the local planning authority.
How is the Forum funded?
We received initial funding from Surrey County Council and Ashtead Residents Association. We have subsequently been granted funding by MVDC planning department, Surrey County Council Local Committee and the Department for Communities and Local Government. We have recently had an application for funding from the Thomas Flack Trust Fund accepted.
What drives the timescale for the activities of the ANF?
We are aiming to match the current MVDC (land allocation) planning cycle for Ashtead, which requires Ashtead’s input regarding the Green Belt Boundary Review and Site Assessments in Spring 2014 in order for our views to be taken into account. This is a very challenging timeframe.
What happens if we do not succeed in completing within the MVDC timeframe?
This is something that we have discussed with MVDC and constantly monitor. Were we to fall significantly behind the MVDC timescales then MVDC would step in and carry out the work.
Questions about the Ashtead Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP)
Will the NDP be effectively controlled by the council?
No. The council will ensure that the outcome is appropriate and consistent with higher level and district-wide plans, but will not interfere with the local process.
Will the NDP address both private and business use?
Will the NDP look at businesses and shops as well as housing?
Will the NDP address the infrastructure needs such as sewerage, schools and transport?
Will we be addressing the needs of the 65-90 age group?
Most certainly. According to current statistics, 27% of the Ashtead population is over age 65.
Will the NDP seek to maintain the existing character of Ashtead?
This is specifically one of the reasons that the group was formed and it is one of the issues that we shall be consulting on.
What time frame will the NDP cover?
The plan has to look forward for 15 years, with interim reviews.
Will the NDP ensure that new housing in the area is offered to local residents first?
No. Neither the Forum nor the council have the power to restrict who can purchase property.
Will the NDP have teeth?
The plan will form part of the MVDC planning policy and must be taken into account when planning applications are made.
What happens if we don’t do an NDP?
This is a oneoff opportunity. If we do not do this now MoleValley have to do similar work in order to update their plans, and they have started. That will be without anything like the local input we can achieve if we work together on it. If we are to have any influence we must act now. Bookham, Westcott and Ockley are all working similarly on preparing plans so we are not alone in this in MoleValley.
Will the planning appeals procedure be changed?
No. However an inspector will have to take the NDP into account in his deliberations.
Questions about surveying the community
Why do we not merely build upon the practices and results from the survey done by Bookham?
We have been talking to the Bookham team and have learnt from their experience. We differ in one respect in that Bookham decided to obtain answers to a questionnaire from every household. It was very time-consuming and expensive as it was all hard copy which took many person hours to analyse and we do not have the time or funds to do the same. Interestingly the analysis showed that sample sizes of 10%, 30% and 100% of the responses gave the same overall result. We will be mostly doing our surveys on-line and will provide for the completion of paper copies at open events when carrying out formal consultations.
General questions about planning and development
Are there a mandated target number of houses to be planned for?
There is no target for Ashtead. MVDC has a target for the whole district.
Are there any guidelines on recommended/ maximum density of houses?
There used to be a guideline figure of 30 dwellings per hectare but the number is now up to local interpretation. The average density for the built environment of Ashtead is 12.5 dwellings per hectare.
Are Housing Associations profit-making bodies?
No. Housing Associations are non-profit organisations, although they may have a surplus in one year that is carried forward to the next.
What is “affordable housing”?
Affordable housing is housing which is provided at below market rates generally through Housing Associations. It can be provided as rented or shared equity. New developments of ten dwellings or more must provide some affordable housing or in some cases make a contribution to funding such housing.
Questions about the Green Belt Boundary Review (GBBR)
Why is the Review being done around Ashtead when MVDC have had so many sites offered to them elsewhere in the District?
The review is being carried out around Ashtead as part of the review of all the Green Belt Boundary in the District. The Forum was requested to carry ou the review by MVDC instead of the council doing it themselves. The council is required to carry out the review in order to find land for housing because insufficient land is available within the existing built-up areas.
How was the GBBR process, Report and consultation process publicised?
Ashtead Village News, the ARA’s newsletter carried a front page article about the Forum and the GBBR in its Spring 2013 edition. A further article about ACV appeared in its Autumn edition. The Ashtead and Leatherhead Local, which is delivered to over 5000 homes in Ashtead, included full page articles in its April, June, July, August, October, November, December and January 2014 editions. A Newsletter giving information about the report and the consultation process was delivered to every house in Ashtead in early December. The Report was put onto the ACV website on 25 Nov 2013 and a copy is in the library. People who have registered with ACV on the website were sent an email and Active in Ashtead also sent emails with the details. Posters in Ashtead advertised the Open Morning. There have also been articles in local newspapers. The MVDC website refers readers seeking information regarding Ashtead’s GBBR to Ashtead Neighbourhood Forum. ACV has also used social media including Twitter, Facebook and Streetlife.com.
How did Area J come about?
The areas used in the surveys carried out in the first part of 2013 inadvertently omitted to include two small areas of Green Belt land which are in Ashtead. This was brought to our attention by the land owner. He accepted our apologies and we undertook to include the areas in all future work; something we are required to do. The two areas concerned became J1 and J2 and were shown to the Forum on a marked up map at the August meeting.
At about the same time survey work on the Green Belt Boundary Review was being undertaken by ACV members who decided that it would be far easier to describe the area of land now known as J3 by separating it from Area B which it was part of in the initial surveys. As all who know the area are aware the balance of area B is formed of AshteadPark and is visible and accessible to the pubic. We are aware that a section of J3 is also part of AshteadPark.
Why are nine sustainability criteria being used?
The criteria used are the same as those being used by MVDC in their Review as we wish to be as comparable and consistent as possible.
Will changes be made to the Report to reflect comments received?
All the comments have been read and are being considered.
Changes will be made where the published Report is either incorrect or has missed important information. Comments received through the consultation process are an important source of information from the community.
An amended Report was discussed at the February 2014 Forum meeting and subject to final changes agreed there it will be published at the end of February. It will be then be sent to MVDC along with all the comments received.
Is the ownership of land relevant?
The ownership of land is not a particularly relevant factor when considering the GBBR. In the event that there is a change in designation it is the land which holds the designation, not the owner. References to ownership will be removed from the Report.