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Dragon Interview: New County Councillor Julie Iles

Published on: 15 May, 2017
Updated on: 17 May, 2017

Julie Iles is the new Conservative county councillor for The Horsleys. She is stepping into the shoes of Bill Barker and seems keen to continue representing the views of her constituents, many of whom are less than certain over the borough council plans for green belt development in her division. Cllr Iles was interviewed by Chris Dick

Cllr Julie Iles, just after her successful election was declared

How did you become involved in party politics?

In 2009 I heard a television piece where David Cameron was saying he wanted to open up the Conservative Party to people who hadn’t been involved before. That struck a chord with me because I felt we needed people in Parliament who were more reflective of our general society – ones who had real life experience in the business world and public service rather than “hot-housed” in political think tanks and the like.

You have had some important roles within the Conservative party. Which of those roles would you like to continue to hold whilst with SCC?

You’re right I’ve taken on lots or different responsibilities and I think they’ve all contributed to my ability to take on the challenge of being a county councillor but you can’t do everything, or at least if you do you can’t do it all well.

I will not continue as deputy chairman political for the Surrey area as I think that may well lead to a conflict of interest and I won’t be able to continue with a full-time position at campaign HQ . That however is something to consider after the general election.

I will be staying in post as national chairman for the Conservative Women’s Organisation as I’ve been elected until March 2018 and I hope, the following year, to complete my three-year-term. It is important to me that we cut through the established hierarchies and make sure women’s representation is increased.

At the moment, Surrey County Council has the highest share of women in the Conservative group at 39% – but overall when women are 51% of the population that’s not really a good balance.

Do you have a particular interest in some aspect of the county council that you wish to pursue?

It’s early days yet and I need to find out which contacts, in which departments, cover which areas because residents deserve to have their issues resolved in a timely fashion. I would say though that my experience of being a magistrate and chairing the Youth Panel sparked my desire to ensure that all children were given a decent start in life so I think I could make a valuable contribution to Children’s Services.

What can you say about your personal ambitions in, and perhaps beyond, Surrey County Council?

It’s little secret that I have passed the [Conservative] Parliamentary Assessment Board so I’m deemed suitable to apply for parliamentary seats as they come up. I missed the boat for this general election as I was standing for the county council and I wasn’t about to walk away from that and move somewhere else in the country to fulfil that ambition.

Your predecessor Bill Barker, was clearly concerned about plans to build on the former Wisley airfield. What are your views about this matter as the appeal approaches?

At the earliest opportunity, back in 2015, I lodged my objection to this planning application. As part of my county council campaign I surveyed all residents in the Lovelace Ward, which covers Ripley, Wisley and Ockham, so I have objective analysis of their views to present to the Planning Inquiry, scheduled for September.

You live in Effingham and have a long history with EFFRA, the residents association. Do you support their concerns about building 295 new homes to fund a new 2,000 place school?

It’s a timely question with the planning enquiry starting this Tuesday.

I have worked at the school and I know how cramped it is for the number of pupils it now serves. I would love to see a brand new school with up-to-date facilities and on-site parking. That would at least free up Lower Road and remove some of the traffic issues. But I can’t support the school proposal at the cost of a 30% increase in the number of homes in Effingham. These would be homes that don’t serve the community – they would be large, expensive homes so the developer has sufficient profit to fund the “seemingly” generous new school build.

Our infrastructure would be unable to cope with the increased volumes of traffic and train passengers and any extra places at the new school would simply cope with the children moving in to those new homes and not serve the wider community, in say Ripley, where school places are a real issue.

Apparently GBC only plan to build on the green belt as a last resort. What are your views about them taking areas out of the green belt and then developing them?

I kind of get the sentiment that removing the settlement areas from the green belt frees up residents to make changes to their homes without raising as many issues but the minute you start manipulating the settlement boundaries I think there is a danger of losing the green belt.

And some feel GBC is at odds with the 2015 Conservative manifesto and the promises made regarding the protection of green belt. What are your views on this matter that you recently identified as being a core issue with the voters?

I was very clear in my five point plan for our Horsleys division. Right up there at number one was a promise to represent residents’ views on development so that it does not affect the character of our local area. This means working alongside borough councillors to guard against inappropriate building and protect our precious green belt. That is consistent with our Conservative borough councillors for the Horsleys, Jenny Wicks and Matt Sarti who have both voted against the Local Plan at certain stages.

I know our parish councils are working hard to make sure their Neighbourhood Plans are in place so that they carry weight in informing future development and the amended Guildford Local Plan.

You gave a five point plan in the run up to the election which was: development does not affect the character of our village;  roads and pavements are improved; flooding issues are addressed; every child in our area needs a place in a good school; our services offer value for money.” Could you say how you are going to achieve each of these points and how long they might take?

I don’t expect overnight fixes and I know that funding is very tight as the council tries to balance the care requirements of a population that is increasingly living longer and making greater call on social care services.

I have a business background so I can get to grips with the figures. I am also tenacious and I will be making sure that our division gets its fair share of taxpayer money.

How should those who did not vote for you view your election? 

My commitment is to this community and I am honoured that people have elected me as their representative. If there are any issues that I can help with as a county councillor I want people to get in touch with me – regardless of whether or not they voted and regardless of how they voted.


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Responses to Dragon Interview: New County Councillor Julie Iles

  1. Colin Cross Reply

    May 16, 2017 at 8:59 am

    Julie has said a lot of accurate and sensible things in her answers and this bodes well for the upcoming battle to save our Lovelace villages from the blight that the proposed former Wisley Airfield development will undoubtedly bring.

    I am happy to set aside any political differences and work with her to do our very best to overcome GBC’s intransigence in sticking with such a totally unsuitable site in spite of all the evidence.

    Only yesterday a Director of Taylor Wimpey, one of UK’s largest builders, told GBC that the the old airfield was not a sustainable site and questioned its inclusion in the Local Plan.

    There are none so blind as those who will not see………

    Colin Cross is the Lib Dem borough councillor for Lovelace

    • Jeremy Palmer Reply

      May 19, 2017 at 11:38 am

      Please can Cllr Cross provide details on who expressed that view to GBC and through what medium? Otherwise this is anecdotal evidence.

      If the director was speaking off the record or not in his professional capacity, then please indicate this as well.

      My polite point is that objections carry more weight if they can be backed up by facts, dates, names, meetings, etc.

  2. Julie Iles Reply

    May 17, 2017 at 2:32 pm

    Consistent with setting aside political differences, it’s worth noting that Conservative borough councillors Jenny Wicks and Matt Sarti last night voted against the latest version of the Guildford Local Plan going to consultation.

    They both also voted in favour of Cllr Cross’s proposed amendment asking for Wisley to be deleted from the plan.

    Defeated by majority the fight continues.

    Julie Iles is the Conservative county councillor for The Horsleys

  3. Colin Cross Reply

    May 22, 2017 at 12:01 am

    To answer Mr Palmer, the extract I quoted was from an open email sent to all GBC councillors, dated 15 May 2017, in relation to the Local Plan debate the next night.

    It came from Mr Frank Browne, a director based at TW’s London office and, de facto, was speaking in his official capacity and obviously on the record.

    I trust that answers all his questions.

    Colin Cross is the Lib Dem borough councillor for Lovelace.

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