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In early December 2015, Surrey County Council launched an on-line consultation exercise designed to elicit responses from the Surrey-wide community as part of the policy review on the future of rural Surrey to be embodied on a Rural Strategy.

Normandy Action Group has submitted their view on the Rural Strategy by completing the on-line questionnaire and adding supporting comments to their responses to each "Vision".

The Mechanism

The consultation was delivered in the form of a self-completion on-line questionnaire.

The questionnaire was divided into three sections

1. People & Communities
2. Services & Infrastructure
3. Economy & Environment

Each section had a number of topics, each presented with a "Vision" statement and a series of illustrative examples provided by the council. The "Vision" statements were capable of a wide range of interpretation but mostly they were worded in a way to prompt the respondent to view the "Vision" favourably.  The questionnaire was structured to enable the respondent to use a 5-point semantic scale to rate the vision, ranging from "Strongly Agree" to "Strongly Disagree", accompanied by an expandable text box for further comment and/or support for the rating chosen.

The Context

In December 2015, Surrey County Council received a visit by Prime Minister, David Cameron MP accompanied by Deputy Chief Whip and member for Guildford, Anne Milton MP. The Prime Minister congratulated Surrey County Council on implementing savings of £330 million over five years against an annual revenue budget of some £1,700 million in 2015. As a consequence, Surrey County Council is attempting to find ways to deliver services previously provided directly by encouraging volunteering and the creation of social enterprises.

This is the motivation behind this consultation. As a rural-only strategy consultation, this exercise might also suggest a retrenchment by Surrey County Council to delivering services funded by their own budget to their core urban locations.


The Questionnaire Sections

1. People and Communities

The first part of this questionnaire is about people and community issues in rural Surrey.                                                                                                                                                                      

* Community Representation and Engagement
* Older People
* Young People
* Affordable Housing
* Transport
* Health, Wellbeing and Social Care
* Schools
* Crime

2. Communities and Infrastructure

The second part of this questionnaire is about services and infrastructure issues in rural Surrey.                                                                                                                                                                   

* Village and Community Buildings
* Libraries
* Broadband, Mobile Connectivity and Digital Inclusion
* Social Enterprise
* Rural Towns
* Planning
* Highways
* Energy and Fuel
* Emergency Services 

3. Economy and Environment

The third part of this questionnaire is about the economy and environment in rural Surrey.                                                                                                                                                                          

* Farming
* Woodland
* Food and Drink
* Visitor Economy
* Landscape and Habitats
* Historic Environment
* Outdoor Recreation and Access
* Environmental Education and Learning
* Climate Change


1. PEOPLE AND COMMUNITIES: Community Representation and Engagement

VISION: Active and effective Parish and Town Councils and other community organisations have the visibility, ability and capacity to engage local people to secure resources for the delivery of local improvements.

This could be achieved by:

* Parish and Town Councils playing a leadership role in rural communities to identify issues and find solutions
* More capacity, willingness and ability to secure funding and deliver local improvements
* Wider recognition of the ability of organisations to provide services in response to local needs
* More co-operation in the delivery of services

_________________________________________________________________

Answer – Disagree

Many Parish and Town Councils have difficulty finding residents willing to stand for election and often members are co-opted. Why? Because the role is onerous and as constituted under current legislation these bodies have no power over the dominating issue of planning in their community. Neighbourhood Plans are prohibitively expensive and pointless as if they do not concur with the local authority Local Plan they can be rejected first by the local authority and then by PINS even if the local authority approves. If a 'local improvement' is to be forced to accept hundreds of new houses and roads that the local community doesn't want that is not 'local engagement'. You can't have it both ways.

There are many residents associations that seek to co-operate in protecting themselves from the exigencies of inappropriate local authority policies for which there was no meaningful consultation. Consultation isn't just a matter of asking for input from communities and then ignoring it if the policy maker disagrees. More 'co-operation' is a two-way process.

It is important that any organisation (Parish Council, Town Council or borough or district councils) has the ability to reject or refuse applications as well as promote development.  Community backing is important for any major decisions reached and this should be demonstrable; it is important that protection of existing facilities is a right as well.  

Sources of funding are diffuse and the process of applying and drawing up plans and documentation time consuming. In some cases, funding from some bodies can be withdrawn after initial approval as they themselves have sources of funds withdrawn from them. Community participants are not professional salaried employees or experts and lose motivation and ultimately lose interest.


1. PEOPLE AND COMMUNITIES: Older People

VISION: Older people in rural Surrey are able to live in, and contribute to, their community and have access to health, care and other services.

This could be achieved by:

* Improved access to services such as primary health care and food shops for older people
* Initiatives to address those isolated and vulnerable including befriending schemes
* Community transport provision that meets local needs
* Voluntary sector initiatives which help older people in rural communities
* Social enterprise being supported to play a role in the provision of local services

_________________________________________________________________

Answer - Agree

The vision is attractive and older people are definitely able to live in and contribute to their communities. However, in practice it is not implemented at present.

For the frail elderly, access to health care and other services is strictly rationed. For those suffering from strokes, for example, there is a statutory obligation to provide up to 6 weeks' re-ablement care but Surrey chooses not to offer this, at times offering 2 weeks re-ablement and at other times offering no re-ablement care at all.

Reliance on the voluntary sector or "befriending" schemes is a fig leaf to cover the inadequate provision of actual care that will facilitate older people being able to contribute actively to and remain within their communities.  Improved access to health care should be a priority.  Better provision of care and support for care staff would be helpful.

For the energetic retired members of the community, their value in the community should be appreciated, since they are the main backbone of most voluntary services and they should be supported, not just taken for granted


1. PEOPLE AND COMMUNITIES: Young People

VISION: Young people have access to learning, employment and housing, and are able to make an active contribution to their local communities.

This could be achieved by:

* Initiatives to address isolation and social exclusion
* Access to careers advice, employment and  training, including jobs with a rural focus
* Youth facilities and activities
* Transport initiatives to enable access to training, employment and services

_________________________________________________________________

Answer - Disagree

Initiatives to address isolation and social exclusion should not just be addressed at young people. Currently there are many services and support networks that are targeted at younger people.  However, there should be equal opportunities for all and age discrimination should not play a part in providing most services.

Young people should have access to careers advice, employment and training, and youth facilities and activities should be promoted.  However, transport should not be directed only at younger members of the community.  The elderly and the disabled also need both transport if isolation and social exclusion is to be addressed.


1. PEOPLE AND COMMUNITIES: Affordable Housing

VISION: Affordable rural housing in Surrey’s rural communities that enables people to live near to family and rural employment opportunities.

This could be achieved by:

* A range of housing types and options for rural Surrey
* Safeguarding existing affordable homes in rural areas from right to buy
* Exploring alternative finance models to ensure rents remain affordable
* Ensuring robust mechanisms are in place for assessing cross subsidy on rural exception schemes
* Continuing commitment to the Surrey Rural Housing Group and Rural Housing Enabler

_________________________________________________________________

Answer – Disagree Strongly

There is a need for a range of types and options of housing, but there is no necessity to ensure that development within the rural communities must lead to endless expansion of those communities. In villages that are often separated by only one or two fields, expansion of the villages will lead to coalescence between communities and will destroy the very community spirit that is supposedly being supported.

Surrey is a highly developed county under enormous development pressure. It is not just a development zone and this should be recognised as part of the planning agenda. Protection of the countryside is as important as addressing the relatively limited problem of providing rural affordable housing. 

“Affordable housing” defined in current planning guidance is 80% of average market price (in Guildford circa £500,000); a family with two “average wages” from local employment in Guildford is unlikely ever to afford such a property as first time buyers. If on the other hand what is meant is “social housing” then the stock in Guildford is down to 5,000 properties directly owned by the council and this should be protected against right-to-buy as should local housing owned and administered by housing associations.  Local surveys of local “need” for “social housing” are based on a poor methodology as it tries to take a snapshot of a moving target of members of the local authority general housing list and in the local experience of Normandy, many of those who ultimately occupy such properties have no local connection to the community whatsoever.

The Surrey Rural Housing Group and Rural Housing Enabler are not explained. Without explanation, we  would not support any commitment to either entity at all and in fact would withdraw all support to either entity unless explanation and publicity are first provided.

Rural exception schemes are often used as justification for developments on 'green' sites on the edge of small settlements.  There is very limited justification for such schemes, especially within otherwise protected areas such as Green Belt, AONB, AGLV or the Thames Basin Heath SPA.  We would not support any particular subsidy for rural exception schemes.


1. PEOPLE AND COMMUNITIES: Transport

VISION: Effective transport for rural communities that is based on assessment of community needs and community involvement in the delivery of transport services.

This could be achieved by:

* Communities supported to work together to understand their local needs and develop innovative local solutions
* Recruiting more volunteers onto voluntary car schemes and community transport initiatives
* Sharing good practice from other rural areas
* Supporting local bus operators to grow the market
* Ensuring better travel planning information and a better journey experience for passengers

_________________________________________________________________

Answer - Disagree

Voluntary transport schemes are inherently limited, both in terms of scope and in terms of funding.  In practice, they are unlikely to be able to offer enough capacity or range to replace any other form of transport.  Replacing public transport with voluntary schemes will not promote public or effective transport, but will result in increased car use, poorer air quality, disadvantaging the elderly, the young and the disabled and increase transport congestion. It is not a solution to anything other than reducing public costs. Supporting local bus operators through local authority subsidy promotes better public transport.


1. PEOPLE AND COMMUNITIES: Health, Wellbeing and Social Care

VISION: People living in rural Surrey have access to health, wellbeing and social care services that are responsive and meet their needs.

This could be achieved by:

* Co-ordination of services across health and social care
* Community solutions that enable people to remain in their home and community for longer
* A focus on prevention and early intervention
* More good neighbour and village agent initiatives
* The use of technology, including telecare, to provide solutions and reassurance

_________________________________________________________________

Answer - Disagree

Generally, we agree on the use of technology and telecare which should be widely promoted.

We agree that community solutions that enable people to remain in their home and community for longer are desirable with a focus on prevention and early intervention being desirable.

However, we disagree that people living in rural Surrey currently have full access to health wellbeing and social care services that are responsive and meet their needs. 

Coordination of services across health and social care should not mean that health care services are (as at present) mis-described as social care in order to ensure that the cost of such services is borne by the individual rather than the NHS. Lack of co-ordination between NHS health care and local authority social care should not be used to force private individuals pay for their own care.

Again there seems to be an implicit suggestion that the voluntary sector can provide without consequential cost implications. In practice, this is likely to mean that services will diminish and become less widely available. 


1. PEOPLE AND COMMUNITIES: Schools

VISION: Vibrant rural schools that deliver high quality and accessible learning for local people.

This could be achieved by:

* Community involvement in local schools to overcome issues, including transport
* High quality facilities for rural schools
* Support for shared use of school premises
* Initiatives to enable students to walk and cycle to local rural schools

_________________________________________________________________

Answer - Neither agree nor disagree

Small rural schools are desirable. Good teaching and good academic results do not necessarily depend on major facilities or large infrastructure. Most schools have active parent associations but their constitutions do not allow them to co-ordinate informal transport services for children.

"High quality facilities" for rural schools need to be considered carefully. Does this mean floodlit sports grounds? This could be very inappropriate in a rural setting.  A rural school may benefit from having adjacent woodland, which may provide a benefit which cannot be quantified on a checklist, but the rural environment for the wider community may be damaged  by the desire to provide standardised facilities across all schools.

Initiatives to enable students to walk and cycle (provided they are safe) are welcomed. However, Surrey has one of the highest number of affluent multi-car households in the UK, many households in the 2010 Census in Guildford rural wards claiming to own up to 5 vehicles. The complete absence of local policing and flouting of local speed restrictions on narrow rural roads is a severe safety concern and potential threat to this aspiration. This is exacerbated by the increasing use in rural areas of 44 tonne HGVs to carry out deliveries (due to 'consolidation' practices by hauliers) and ignore HGV GPS routes.

It is important that economies of scale do not make small rural schools non-viable, and do not mean the suburbanisation of the rural environment in order to provide school facilities that are appropriate for a large school.


1. PEOPLE AND COMMUNITIES: Crime

VISION: Rural businesses, communities and agencies work together to reduce crime in rural Surrey

This could be achieved by:

* Promotion of community safety measures
* Support for community marking schemes
* Community led plans playing a role in identifying issues and need
* Parish and Town Councils providing information, advice and local solutions

_________________________________________________________________

Answer - Disagree

Again there seems to be a presumption that communities can replace the functions of the police.  It should be noted that while all of these initiatives are to be welcomed, police involvement within for example neighbourhood watch schemes is extremely important. 

To ask local people to pay council tax to provide services, and then to ask them to pay for those same services by providing them themselves on a voluntary basis is an abnegation of local government responsibility. 

Our Parish Council has given up asking the current of many disappeared PCSOs to come and give a crime report in person or expect even see them carry out an occasional community visit at all.


2. SERVICES AND INFRASTRUCTURE: Village and Community Buildings

VISION: Village and community buildings that are well used hubs for community activity and services including social, business, service and retail activities.

This could be achieved by:

* The use, improvement and development of community buildings as community hubs
* Enabling local community and volunteering activity
* Supporting community building advisors
* Operating the Community Building Grants Programme

_________________________________________________________________

Answer- Agree

Community buildings should be listed as community assets so that they cannot be lost to the community at a future date.  Access to community buildings for the local community (by safe walking routes etc) would be desirable.  Safe crossing points are vital.  Normandy is fortunate to have a relatively new village hall run by trustees and many active community groups.


2. SERVICES AND INFRASTRUCTURE: Libraries

VISION: Enhance rural library provision through more active community involvement and the development of service hubs of co-located activity.

This could be achieved by:

* Increased rural community engagement and volunteering in providing library services
* Better understanding and mapping of where rural library services are needed
* Developing more volunteer run ‘community link’ libraries in rural communities
* Building awareness, changing perceptions and improving skills to expand electronic library provision
* Developing co-location hubs for local services, advice, business support and cultural festivals

_________________________________________________________________

Answer - Disagree

Again there is a desire to replace the functions of local government with voluntary services. Librarians - who have a role in terms of information provision, and education - are not just volunteers but are trained professionals. They are needed.  Funding cannot be ducked by just finding volunteers to keep libraries open.  This seems to be a justification for cost-cutting. Libraries are vital to all members of the community, particularly the elderly, the poor and the young, who are most vulnerable within the rural community.  They also need efficient internet facilities for those few members of the community who do not have access to the internet.


2. SERVICES AND INFRASTRUCTURE: Broadband, Mobile Connectivity and Digital Inclusion

VISION: Improved broadband and mobile connectivity and digital inclusion to ensure that residents and businesses in rural Surrey can take advantage of the opportunities that it offers and are not disadvantaged by ‘digital by default’ initiatives.

This could be achieved by:

* Identifying broadband and mobile ‘not spot’ areas in rural Surrey
* Identifying possible community solutions where market failure exists
* Creating programmes to support digital inclusion for rural Surrey communities and business

_________________________________________________________________

Answer - Agree

Improved broadband would be desirable, but it is not in place at present. It needs to be managed effectively to identify where there is failure in current provision. Part of this aspiration should result in  pressure from SCC, that has already committed £20 million to the Surrey-wide roll-out of “super-fast” broadband, onto the Department for Culture, Media & Sport to force BT to solve the rural “not-spot” problem from their own profits rather than continually put its hand out for more subsidy.


2. SERVICES AND INFRASTRUCTURE: Social Enterprise

VISION: Thriving social enterprises in rural Surrey where communities actively provide shops, pubs and other services to meet their needs.

This could be achieved by:

* Active rural communities identifying local service needs
* More community social enterprise shops, pubs and other ventures
* Co-location of rural services

_________________________________________________________________

Answer - Neither Agree Nor Disagree

Village shops, pubs, post offices and similar services are much needed.  Whether these are best provided by stimulation of "community social enterprise" is questionable. Village shops are most likely to thrive where there are no local supermarkets within a short distance, so planning constraints on new supermarkets would be desirable. Restrictions on local provision should not be onerous and incentives for say post offices within cafes are desirable.  In 1990 Normandy had two sub post offices, three convenience stores, two small petrol stations and two pubs, now we have none. All major supermarkets are within a 6 mile radius (15 minutes drive-time) and home-deliveries make the possibility of a small social enterprise convenience store meaningless.


2. SERVICES AND INFRASTRUCTURE: Rural Towns

VISION: Rural towns that are vibrant hubs of enterprise and services, with the housing, business premises and skills to ensure viability.

This could be achieved by:

* Business and civic communities developing a better understanding of issues, needs and opportunities in rural towns
* Maintaining and expanding hub services in Surrey rural towns
* Building community capacity and local volunteering in rural towns
* Greater co-ordination, collaboration and sharing of knowledge and good practice across towns in Surrey
* Funding opportunities for rural towns, including Local Enterprise Partnership support

_________________________________________________________________

Answer - Strongly disagree

This seems to be an indirect justification for commercial and physical over-development of small towns or large villages so that they become larger ones - which is presumably not the wish of their current residents, or they would have chosen to live in a larger town.

When does a "large village" become a town and where does the problem of rural coalescence between settlements get addressed?

Most of rural Surrey is Green Belt, agricultural land, woodland or protected areas. It should not be regarded merely as development land to permit additional building. 

Local Enterprise Partnership hubs are not necessarily desirable as far as members of the community are concerned and should not be imposed on those communities.


2. SERVICES AND INFRASTRUCTURE: Planning

VISION: Planning polices and approaches that support locally appropriate rural development to ensure that rural communities and economies are vibrant in the future, while ensuring that the countryside and character of Surrey is protected.

This could be achieved by:

* Neighbourhood Plans that engage local people to identify issues and opportunities
* Positive planning to enable rural Surrey’s communities and businesses to adapt and thrive, while protecting what makes it special
* Greater local authority planner awareness and understanding of rural issues
* Ensuring that development respects and complements local character, especially in Surrey's Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty
* Developing a Green Infrastructure Strategy for Surrey
* Securing Community Infrastructure Levy funding to deliver improvements to connect people with local green space

_________________________________________________________________

Answer - Strongly disagree

Every single step above indicates a pro-development, pro-building agenda that is not supported by the people of Surrey.  The votes to protect the countryside and for local protection of the Green Belt are being implicitly set aside.

Neighbourhood Plans can promote development opportunities, but there is no option to use them to resist development.  There is no reference here to protecting the countryside, except in the surprising suggestion that development should only respect local character in the AONB areas.  Local character should be respected everywhere as a key component of all planning decisions, and there should be a presumption against new development outside settlement areas in the AONB or in areas overlooked by it, in accordance with NPPF.

We do not necessarily want rural development.  The countryside and character of Surrey are of paramount importance to almost all people who live here and protecting that countryside and character should therefore also be of paramount importance to all public servants, officers and elected representatives. Anything else is a dereliction of their social responsibility and a breach of faith with the electorate.


2. SERVICES AND INFRASTRUCTURE: Highways

VISION: Local rural highway issues are responded to effectively, traffic speed on rural roads is addressed and sustainable transport alternatives are promoted.

This could be achieved by:

* Prompt response to highway issues on rural roads
* Traffic speed being tackled including through Community Speed Watch campaigns
* Promotion of sustainable transport alternatives
* Quiet Lane initiatives to enable more shared use of rural roads by all road users

_________________________________________________________________

Answer - Disagree

Surrey is congested, suffers poor air quality; building in rural areas will make traffic much worse. We need to concentrate all building within towns and cities, not expand into Surrey's Green Belt.  Surrey has some of the highest levels of car ownership per household and an affluent population that can choose to ignore any effort to take them out of their cars or promote someone else's right to use a country lane if not in a large 4x4.

The local rural highway issues are not currently responded to effectively, traffic speeds on rural roads are much too high and sustainable transport alternatives are not promoted at all. We had a Community Speed Watch but it was withdrawn after volunteers were threatened by motorists and there was no police support presence.  We have tried for axle weight restrictions to reduce HGV 'rat runs' but the SCC Highways department allowed themselves to be swayed by the arguments of the police on road safety grounds. Our community experience suggests this Vision to be mere window-dressing with no substance as SCC do not have the resources to back it up.


2. SERVICES AND INFRASTRUCTURE: Energy and Fuel

VISION: Improved energy and fuel options and efficiency for those in rural Surrey, so that ‘off-grid’ residents and businesses are not forced into fuel poverty.

This could be achieved by:

* Energy efficiency measures in new and existing properties
* More wood fuel energy solutions
* Energy solutions that provide economic, environmental and health benefits
* Better renewable energy infrastructure
* Community led energy projects to help them address particular needs
* Support for fuel buying groups

_________________________________________________________________

Answer - Neither agree nor disagree

The current government has removed subsidies for home insulation; its reduced the need for house builders to implement high standards of insulation in new homes. It has been suggested many new properties being built now will have to be retrofitted with energy efficiency measures, no doubt at the expense of the householder. This totally undermines the suggestion that energy efficiency measures should be introduced in new and existing properties. Further government changes to the planning regulations for wind farms and solar farms makes it less not more likely that these forms of renewable energy will become available.

We don't want to cut down all our woodland to promote more wood fuel energy solutions.  Energy efficiency is desirable.  We need better renewable energy, but we don't want to cover Surrey's countryside in wind or solar farms; solar panels on factory roofs and all new school buildings would however be a sensible constraint.

Communities are not experts in energy projects. Is SCC, who has just been congratulated by the Prime Minister for saving £330 million, going to suddenly find a package of grants to pump-prime community micro-generation projects? We think not.

Why is fuel poverty only an issue for "off-grid" residents? It concerns all residents. The apparent long-term reduction in world oil prices should make middle-distillate much more affordable for the relatively small number of off-grid households in isolated rural areas. That is of course unless SCC are prepared to come up with grants for expensive trenching by power companies to put such households “on-grid”.


2. SERVICES AND INFRASTRUCTURE: Emergency Services, Planning and Response

VISION: Community engagement, local knowledge and an integrated agency response to ensure that emergencies in rural Surrey are dealt with effectively.

This could be achieved by

* Emergency planning to deal with emergencies in rural Surrey
* Local community involvement to identify need and find solutions
* Parish and Town Councils play a role in communicating with local people
* Education and awareness to reduce risks

_________________________________________________________________

Answer - Disagree

This seems to be yet more avoidance of local government responsibility and its associated cost.  Parish and town councils already play a major role in dealing with communication but in the event of disaster relief or emergencies then the emergency services should be prominent and coordinate issues. 

Flood prevention is not the business of parish councils but needs holistic response across a wide area, as does reaction to flooding.  It would be inappropriate that parish councillors or borough councillors and officers have responsibility for making decisions in such circumstances.


3. ECONOMY AND ENVIRONMENT: Farming

VISION: Farming and horticulture that is viable, successful and resilient to contribute to the rural economy and landscape.

This could be achieved by:

* More sharing of knowledge, good practice and innovation
* Improved public awareness of farming and food issues
* Skills development in farming including technology, IT and apprenticeships
* A better appreciation from local authority planners of the need of farmers
* Expansion of local food production, markets and public procurement
* More co-operation and co-operatives for producing, marketing and selling

_________________________________________________________________

Answer – Agree

It is not the role of local authority planners to be supportive of farmers and promote their interests exclusively. We have seen in the last few weeks floods caused by excessive run-off from fields being farmed for corn that goes either as animal feed or to the worldwide automotive bio-fuel market. It is not the job of SCC to act as commercial 'cheer leader' for farmers. 

The major supermarkets have created a situation where more than 50% of UK food is imported and over two-thirds of land needed for UK’s food is based abroad. So why are we proposing in Normandy to build houses on over 70 hectares of historically farmed Grade 3 agricultural land in the Green Belt and build 3,000 executive dwellings on Blackwell Farm where Grade 2 and 3A agricultural land exists?

Normandy already has an organic meat business. In our area, the north slopes of the Hogs Back are already intensively contract farmed and are about to be included in the Surrey Hills AONB.

Who determines what is "good practice"? If we mean the Soil Association, or other bodies who have responsibility to the wider environment, the community and to public health, then yes; if it means more development of solar farms on farmland, then emphatically no.  With a growing population, farmland that is sustainably farmed and that can provide simultaneous flood prevention for towns and settlements, is of crucial importance. We would imagine any form of co-operative organisation would not chime with current government polemic.


3. ECONOMY AND ENVIRONMENT: Woodland

VISION: Surrey’s woodland management and use is enhanced for sustainable economic production, recreation and ecological benefit.

This could be achieved by:

* Woodland recreation through improved marketing and infrastructure
* Forestry skills development and apprenticeship programmes
* Ecological networks and flood alleviation works created in partnership with landowners
* Enhanced effectiveness of Woodland Management Plans
* Improved infrastructure, supply chain and marketing of wood products including timber and fuel
* Developing the market for wood fuel and wood products

_________________________________________________________________

Answer - Neither Agree Nor Disagree

Strong support for ecological networks and flood alleviation, for woodland recreation.  Less support for infrastructure and marketing of wood products - the supply chain is not infinite and some ancient woodland has already been badly damaged by over cutting and aggressive clear felling.  

We have extensive stands of historic Ancient Woodland in Flexford and Normandy that are home to local deer but large parts are threatened by being part of the Green Belt earmarked for future housing development in the draft Guildford Local Plan and are likely to disappear.  This is not sustainable woodland management and will remove rather than create an ecological network.  

Woodland should be managed primarily for environmental benefit, including flood prevention and air quality enhancement as well as ecological and recreational benefit.  Economic production should be a by-product, not a primary focus of woodland management.

Management resources for both environmental departments and links with the Forestry Commission and DEFRA must be adequate and enable enforcement of policies.


3. ECONOMY AND ENVIRONMENT: Food and Drink

VISION: Develop the food and drink sector in Surrey and encourage its expansion to create jobs and economic growth in the county.

This could be achieved by:

* Identifying opportunities for improving collaboration and co-ordination across the rural food and drink sector in Surrey
* Expanding the range of local food and drink produced and improving distribution and marketing
* Procurement of local produce by public and private sector
* Development of a Surrey Food and Drink Plan to understand the issues, barriers and opportunities of the sector
* Supporting the development of Food and Drink hubs and festivals

_________________________________________________________________

Answer - Strongly Agree

Local food production is of major significance and has the capacity to enhance the environment and also to generate rural economic well being.  Organic foods, craft beers, local food manufacture are all of considerable significance. They are not enhanced by over-development of other industry or by increased congestion and traffic.


3. ECONOMY AND ENVIRONMENT: Visitor Economy

VISION: A vibrant visitor economy that maximises the potential of Surrey’s attractive countryside, rural towns and accessibility to visitors for overnight stays and day visits.

This could be achieved by:

* Support further development of Visit Surrey to ensure better definition, planning and delivery of the tourism offer
* Better understanding of visitor markets, needs and provision
* Building resident understanding and support for the visitor economy
* A flexible and supportive approach from local planning authorities
* Promoting local food and drink as part of the visitor appeal
* Support development of farm visitor facilities, equestrianism and cycle tourism

_________________________________________________________________

Answer - Agree

Longer stays would be better.

Traditional buildings should be protected and used - e.g. the existing Museum in Guildford, rather than a modern building.  

Over-development of the countryside would be counterproductive as far as tourism is concerned.  Protection of our historic countryside and our history is more important than further development and much more important than planning for more buildings.


3. ECONOMY AND ENVIRONMENT: Landscape and Habitats

VISION: Conserve and enhance the landscape character of Surrey and its associated habitats, whilst ensuring their sustainable management.

This could be achieved by:

* Production of a baseline State of Nature for Surrey report
* Development and maintenance a register of habitat creation opportunities across Surrey to contribute to a resilient ecological network
* Co-ordinating bids and funding for landscape scale activity
* Support management of habitats to return them to favourable condition
* Better public understanding of the need for conservation management
* Striking the balance between conservation, access and recreation use

_________________________________________________________________

Answer - Strongly agree

It is indeed unfortunate that this laudable Vision is being promoted in the face of SCC declared intention to remove nearly £1million of funding from Surrey Wildlife Trust and the introduction of car parking fees at Newlands Corner. There is no point producing expensive baseline reports unless there is a funded action plan that lies beyond it.  There appears little appetite by this government to protect the countryside, rather build houses all over it.  They lobbied hard in Brussels to weaken the Habitats Directive in favour of industry and commerce having a freer reign to destroy our environment; luckily other European states had more sense.

Therefore, we need to protect the countryside and habitats that we have.  We do not need over-development and too much infrastructure. SANGs are a case in point – even 'artificial' countryside is not enhanced by the provision of car parks.

A large proportion of Normandy contains part of the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area. This part of the Natura 2000 network of habitats and protects endangered bird species such as the Dartford Warbler.  We need to carefully protect all SSSIs, sites of conservation importance and all our existing countryside, woodland, water meadows and farmland. It is a priceless treasure that cannot be risked for short term economic gain.


3. ECONOMY AND ENVIRONMENT: Historic Environment

VISION: Historic activity often shapes what we value today in rural Surrey. Specialist advice and information is important to promote understanding and legal responsibilities of the historic environment.

This could be achieved by:

* Understanding rural heritage assets, and those which it is most important to conserve
* Ensure that local planning authorities have access to available information and expert advice
* Use of the Historic Environment Record to inform and influence decisions
* Initiatives to increase public knowledge, interest and awareness in Surrey’s history

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Answer - Agree

Public awareness and conservation are vital.   These should be promoted.  We need to understand but we also need a presumption that we should protect and preserve rather than exploit and damage as a default.  We should seek to conserve all rural heritage assets, not only those deemed "most important" by a bureaucrat.


3. ECONOMY AND ENVIRONMENT: Outdoor Recreation and Access

VISION: Outdoor recreation and accessible green spaces that have a positive impact on people’s physical and mental health, and provide income for local businesses.

This could be achieved by:

* Maximising the economic and health benefits of outdoor recreation and access
* Upgrading existing routes to create new multi-user routes
* Volunteers assisting with the maintenance and enhancement of the rights of way network
* Delivering improvements through funding bids, generating income and car park charge revenue

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Answer – Disagree Strongly

Why should outdoor recreation have any link whatsoever to providing income for local businesses?  These should be separate initiatives. This is a thin veneer to justify such schemes as charging people to park at Newlands Corner or any rural facility.

SCC has already reduced its commitment to maintaining PROWs and has produced a policy where all responsibility will pass to Parish Councils who will be faced with either raising volunteer teams from residents to maintain PROWs or increasing their precepts to employ labour directly.  The long-term effect will likely be loss of some PROWs.

In addition, great harm might be done if PROWs and bridleways have their status changed to become BOATs. Off-road vehicles and motorcycles can make rights of way dangerous and impassible. The west of Normandy parish beyond Flexford supports one of the most extensive set of BOATs in Guildford borough and its hard enough to preserve them from encroachment by off-road activities as it is. To give automatic rights to such activity is a real threat to a safe and peaceful countryside.


3. ECONOMY AND ENVIRONMENT: Environmental Education and Learning

VISION: Inspire people in Surrey to actively engage with their natural environment, encouraging appreciation of and respect for wildlife, habitats and conservation.

This could be achieved by:

* High quality formal and informal environmental education for all ages
* Making information easily accessible
* Effective collaboration between organisations delivering environmental education
* More sharing of best practice in the field of environmental education
* Collaboration across providers on projects, funding and campaigns

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Answer - Agree

Engagement with the natural environment is important for all ages.  It is not just information but the environment itself that should be easily accessible. Surrey countryside access should be free for all residents, not chargeable at every access point and car park. It is important that organisations who advise Councils and their planners are absolutely impartial and are true experts.


3. ECONOMY AND ENVIRONMENT: Climate Change

VISION: Ensure that rural Surrey is resilient to climate change, effective in responding to climatic events and plays a role in reducing carbon emissions.

This could be achieved by:

* Improved energy efficiency and increase in renewable energy use in homes and businesses
* Ensuring that new development is more sustainable and has a lower environmental impact
* Land use and management practices that contribute to a reduction in carbon emissions
* Effective adaptation and response to climatic events

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Answer - Agree

This is not an exclusively rural issue.  All development should have a lower environmental impact.  Land use involving building new development in towns is most sustainable, reduces traffic and therefore carbon emissions, improves air quality and is the best possible way forward. Reinstate real time monitoring and increase resources to enable further monitoring of the 12 Parish Councils that have requested but are still waiting for monitoring to establish whether their perceptions of pollution are valid. Make it a requirement that all local authorities in Surrey have an active and well-funded AQMA.


On balance, do you support this Surrey Rural Strategy?

Answer - No

There should be an acceptance that the functions of local government include a responsibility for providing services including libraries, running or administering bus services, providing good quality and effective social care etc.  That is what local government should do; avoiding costs/promoting economic development is not its primary function.

Rural heritage, both in terms of the built and the natural environment is of key importance and it must be treated with respect.  Our history and our heritage is of huge importance both to the residents of Surrey and to people everywhere (look at the international importance of Box Hill or Runnymede).

Our countryside is beautiful. It is also very fragile, badly threatened by economic development, pollution, environmental degradation, fracking, deforestation, mismanagement, overbuilding and gross neglect.  This must be addressed as part of the planning process so that we continue to protect that which is of overriding importance to most of the community.

Representatives need to protect our countryside on behalf of those who elected them, as they have, in large part, previously promised to do. Any agenda driven by central Government is inappropriate, since local government should exist independent of central Government and its party agenda.

Saturday the 16th - Published by Normandy Action Group, 11 Glaziers Lane, Guildford GU3 2DD - funded by Keith Witham, Surrey County Councillor - Hostgator Coupon Template