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Previous entry: The Oxted Quarry

Thursday, 08 May 2008
Local planning meeting: Chalkpit Lane issue

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I went to the local council planning meeting last night which discussed the Chalkpit Lane issue. Unfortunately, as it was a district meeting, Pat “two votes” Frost of the Surrey County Council was not there.

The cavalry arrived at the beginning of the meeting, in the form of riders from the Tandridge Priory Riding School, to register their protest at the situation. The increased lorry traffic on Barrow Green Road affects them. We the public were also asked to pose outside by photographers from the local rags.

The meeting began and early on it emerged that the different residents’ groups were divided. The Oxted group want a one way system introduced which will force the lorries from the quarry to exit up Chalkpit Lane onto the ridge where their onward route would take them to Woldingham, Limpsfield or Warlingham but would avoid the Oxted residential areas.  The residents from those other areas were against the plan, and the councillers fell into one of the two camps (or abstained).

The majority decision of the Council was to ask for further investigation of the “one way proposal”, including more details, costs, and an environmental impact analysis. At the same time they are making preparations so that this decision could start being finalised next month when they prioritize local road works. It could be done as a temporary, experimental, measure to start off with. It is a magnificent way of not doing anything concrete to actually resolve the core issue, but allows the Council to be seen to be responsive to the most dissatisfied group (while still keeping all future options open). I can see this is attractive to the councillers who have no ideal solution at hand but only a choice over which is the “least worst option”. Either they alleviate the situation of the Chalkpit Lane residents and antagonise the Woldingham and other groups, or visa versa.

The Council’s pattern of behavior seems to be to avoid doing anything for as long as possible. In this case they are forced to do something because of the anger of the Chalkpit Lane residents that has built up over the past year of inaction. Another pattern of behaviour on their part seems to be to blame central government for their own inability to act effectively. I wondered if this was to detract attention from their own culpability in rubber-stamping the quarry operations the last time it came up for approval. Only one counciller, Lisa Bangs (Lingfield, LibDem) made a passionate argument against the mealy “we have few powers so can’t fight on behalf of our constituents” mentality. Indeed if they aren’t supposed to fight on behalf of the people who elected them then who is?

A spokesperson for the Woldingham group made an apt observation during his submission that the council’s inability to act over the past year to resolve the Chalkpit Lane residents problems has caused the conflict between different resident’s groups.

I fear for the unintended consequences of a weak-willed council that takes the least difficult decision:

Posted by bigblue on 08/05/2008 at 07:41 AM
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