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Letter: Councillors Should Keep Promises

Published on: 21 Apr, 2022
Updated on: 21 Apr, 2022

Surrey’s AONB

From David Roberts

See also: Send AONB Pledge is a Tory Election Illusion Strictly For Unicorn Fans

In last May’s county council elections, a central plank of the Conservatives’ platform was to extend the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) to include Send.

Advertised in their election literature as one of the Tories’ top three priorities for Send, this pledge was widely mocked at the time (see my letter of 27 April 2021, “Send AONB Pledge is a Tory Election Illusion Strictly for Unicorn Fans”). But Bob Hughes, the Tory candidate for Shere division which includes Send, strongly defended the idea, attacking his critics on social media for being negative and promising not to “give up on Send so easily”.

Thanks perhaps to these boosterish assurances, he was duly elected to Surrey County Council, narrowly beating Julia Osborn, his GGG challenger, by just 82 votes.

It is reasonable for residents to hold councillors to account. Since nearly a year has now elapsed since the elections, I therefore hope Cllr Hughes will list exactly what concrete steps he has taken to make his dream come true. What letters has he written, what meetings has he held and, most importantly, and what actual progress, if any, has he made?

We already know that a process has been underway for many years to consider extensions to four AONBs, including the Surrey Hills, but that Send has never figured in any of the discussions in which GGG councillors and many residents have been actively engaged.

Send is not one of the Evaluation Areas currently being considered by Natural England, nor does it appear to fit the relevant location or assessment criteria. I am not aware that Cllr Hughes features among the authors of 2,117 submissions collected as evidence by Natural England by 31 January 2022 but, if by any chance I’ve overlooked it, I’d love to study his contribution.

Despite our current government’s best efforts to degrade it, integrity in politics still matters. Not all promises can be kept, but they must be realistic and sincerely put forward. If, however, the Tories’ AONB pledge was just an empty election ploy, could Cllr Hughes please now apologise with good grace and beg the public’s forgiveness?

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