Fringe Box



Opinion: Don’t Pave Over Our Green Countryside

Published on: 8 Apr, 2021
Updated on: 25 Apr, 2021

Continuing our election opinion series…

By Sam Peters

Green party candidate for the Shere division in the Surrey County Council elections on May 6

Since I began leafleting for the Surrey County Council elections, I have had countless conversations, calls, and emails with local residents. They cover a range of topics – from cuts to public services to the recent attempt to stifle local democracy with a unitary authority. But the majority have focused on the relentless attempts to pave over our local countryside.

In Shere division, from Send to Peaslake, green spaces are being razed for offices and new estates, often on protected land or areas completely unsuited to development.

Even the Conservatives are now rubbishing the Local Plan implemented by….. the Conservatives, just before the 2019 elections.

Our local area consistently tops “best place to live” polls, with developers keen to cash in, but they risk destroying everything which makes the area so special in the first place.

Particularly in a post-covid future with increased home-working, development must first focus on refurbishment and building on brownfield land.

Removing green belt protections for local villages makes a mockery of this system.

A key example is Garlick’s Arch in Burntcommon [Ripley] where hundreds of homes are planned on the green belt, wiping out a wildlife corridor and natural buffer alongside the A3. In common with many nearby residents, I am concerned local facilities and infrastructure cannot support this development.

Sam Peters (centre) on a litter pick at Newlands Corner (photo by John Powell).

In the wake of the pandemic, with a climate crisis looming, our ways of working and living will inevitably change. And planning must change with it.

More Conservative councillors will simply continue the status quo. If we want real change in Shere division, led by councillors working hard for local people rather than career politicians toeing the party line, there is only one choice – the Green Party.

The Conservative slogan for Shere is “make a real difference”. Have they forgotten their party has long controlled SCC, and that Shere has had Conservative councillors since 1973?

The only differences we’ve seen are more cuts to public services, increased taxes, more destruction of the greenbelt, and further attacks on local democracy.

Sam Peters with Guildford’s first Green Party councillor, Diana Jones.

Across Surrey, it is Green Party councillors and other progressives at the forefront of driving genuine change. The Liberal Democrats have stood down in Shere (in return the Greens are not standing in South-West Guildford) to avoid splitting the environmentally-conscious vote.

So a vote for the Green Party here is the best way to fight for residents over developers.

As another Green voice on SCC, I will also hold the Conservatives to account on more than just the green belt. As an intensive care researcher, I have seen the devastating impact of cuts to public service, and am particularly concerned with provision for adult social care.

As our population ages and the climate and ecological emergencies deepen, the need for public services like transport, childcare centres, community care and more will only increase. The relentless cuts to these vital lifelines must be reversed. We need policy fit for the future, rather than just papering over ever-widening cracks.

When Greens are elected, we deliver the change that people voted for. Our county and local councillors in Surrey have been instrumental in pushing councils to declare Climate Emergencies, fighting fossil fuel drilling locally, preventing over-development and deforestation, reducing carbon emissions (by 21% in just one year at Godalming Town Council), opening community support centres, tackling traffic and fly-tipping, making roads safer and public transport more accessible, and much more.

Whether as single councillors or collaborating in governing partnerships, Greens listen to residents and fight for the changes they voted for.

It’s time people across Shere division had a county councillor who will do so. That can only happen here by electing a Green Party councillor.

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