The Conservatives have won the Maybury & Sheerwater by-election, which was called following the disqualification of sitting Liberal Democrat councillor Mohammed Bashir for electoral fraud at the last local elections in 2012. Rashid Mohammed, the winning candidate, took a clear lead with 1,057 votes, fending off competition from the Labour candidate Stephen Tudhope who received 833 votes. The Liberal Democrat candidate Norman Johns came a poor fourth with 252 votes, a collapse in their previous support and putting them behind UKIP.
The poor showing by the Liberal Democrats was obviously the result of public disgust and outrage at revelations about the corrupt and illegal practices used to win the Maybury & Sheerwater ward in 2012, such as adding false names to the electoral register, falsely registering postal voters and forging the votes and signatures of others without their knowledge or consent. While Rashid Mohammed won a clear, decisive and fair victory last night, credit is also due to the Woking Labour Party, and in particular their previous Maybury & Sheerwater candidate Mohammed Ali, who uncovered the fraud and took a petition to the High Court to have the 2012 result overturned.
Rashid will be an excellent councillor and a strong advocate for his community. At the same time, voters in Woking will expect assurances that with a General Election just eighteen months away, the integrity of the electoral system in the borough is sound. This is an issue that I intend to look at in more detail, and I will be calling for this sorry incident to be examined in more detail by the Overview & Scrutiny Committee in due course.
Earlier today I went to see residents on Maybury Hill who have complained about the building works taking place at Noel Cottage. Having viewed the site for myself, I agree the state of the pavement and front driveway at this location is unacceptable, with rubble strewn everywhere and dust from the works covering cars and front gardens in neighbouring properties. I have also been told that the building work has been going on at weekends and through the night, despite conditions being put in place that state such activity should be restricted to the daytime and through the week.
I’ve been in touch with Environmental Health who tell me they have already been out to to see the premises and spoken to the builders regarding the times they are allowed to start working on site. I’m told that the council has also given the builders advice on how they can improve the situation with the dust, including using a hosepipe to dampen down materials. Residents have been given some diary sheets to record any further incidents. These will allow the council to gather evidence in relation to the noise and dust and will support any formal action that may be taken against the developer, and can also be used to demonstrate that the situation is ongoing.
If residents have any further complaints, they should record them on their diary sheets and return them to the council. If the council does not receive any written complaints, they will not be able to take action against the builders if the problems carry on. Should Environmental Health receive diary sheets back, the council will assess the complaints and determine whether there is anything further it can do, such as serving enforcement notices.
I recently met with the principal of the Harven School of English to discuss concerns about noise disturbance made by residents in Heathside Gardens, including complaints about children screaming and shouting while playing during breaktimes, loud conversations and heated arguments amongst older students, and footballs being kicked against neighbours’ fences. While residents accept that there will be a degree of noise from the school, it was felt that the situation has deteriorated in the past few weeks and was spoiling the tranquil and peaceful character of Heathside Gardens during the summer months.
Following my intervention, the school has agreed to move the sports equipment away from the boundaries of the neighbouring properties and to have a word with their older students about the need to be considerate of others during study breaks. I am now told that there has been a marked improvement, and that the principal has been in touch with neighbours to talk through any issues.
I am pleased this matter has been resolved constructively and that the school authorities are making a positive attempt to control the noise. Future issues could best be resolved by direct contact and communication between residents and the school, and a willingness to show tolerance and flexibility on both sides.
Residents on Oriental Road and Maybury Hill will have noticed ongoing roadworks over the last few weeks. This work is being done as part of Surrey County Council’s Project Horizon, a programme of maintenance that will see £100 million spent on essential pothole repairs over the next five years.
Some people have expressed annoyance that the work is being carried out during the night and over the weekend, as this is creating noise disturbance for those living in Maybury Hill. I have also received complaints that the workmen are parking their vehicles inconsiderately in front of people’s driveways in Little Riding.
I have taken these issues up with the County Council and been advised that the reason for allowing the work to carry on through the night was to ensure the minimum amount of congestion on Oriental Road and the least disruption to businesses trading in the Lion Retail Park. While this may create a degree of noise nuisance for residents, it was felt that a balance had to be struck and hence a decision was taken to carry out the work while the roads would be quieter. The fact that the repairs are being done outside normal working hours also means they should hopefully be finished more quickly than might otherwise be the case.
The County Council tells me that, following my representations, they have spoken to their contractors and been given assurances that they will no longer park their vehicles on Little Riding. However, if residents have any further complaints then please do get in touch and I will be happy to raise them with the relevant authorities.