Letter from Claire Coutinho – May 2023

Residents, churches, community groups and local businesses are putting finishing touches to their plans for the coronation of Their Majesties King Charles III & Queen Camilla.

For most of us, this will be our first coronation. It’s a wonderful opportunity to meet friends, family and neighbours, and to share in the joy of such a glorious occasion. Do check in on those who might feel lonely over the bank holiday weekend, to see if they would like to get involved in your celebrations.

I’ll be taking part in as many Big Lunches, street parties and volunteering events as possible. I hope they mirror the fantastic community spirit I saw during the late Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee last year.

Many of us know Sir Richard Stilgoe from his collaborations with Andrew Lloyd Webber, but for 25 years he has been helping the fantastic Orpheus Centre in Bletchingley to boost the confidence, skills, and self-esteem of young people with disabilities.

I recently saw first-hand how much it means to its students, who often need extra support with their learning. Sir Richard mentioned that when the students perform in shows they beam with joy, and walk off stage feeling ten inches taller – what a wonderful mark to leave on the world. I couldn’t be more proud to have such a stellar organisation in our community.

I also visited the UK’s premier bonsai tree nursery, on Lingfield’s outskirts. Over the past forty years, Peter Chan has developed Herons Bonsai into an oasis, now complete with a community room for hire which looks out onto their perfectly pruned Japanese garden. Peter has also become somewhat of an internet sensation over the last few years by sharing his expertise with millions of people on YouTube. I couldn’t resist taking a bonsai away, but whether I can keep it healthy is a different matter…

This year’s bidding round for the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) is now open, closing on 12 May. The CIL is a charge on new development, in order to fund infrastructure improvements and reduce their impact on the area. Local groups can submit an expression of interest form to apply for a portion of the £2m available. All details are on the Tandridge District Council website.

Finally, the campaign against the ULEZ had its first big win, when the High Court ruled there is sufficient evidence that the mayor of London’s expansion plans may have been unlawful. This came after Surrey County Council united with four other councils to launch a legal challenge against the scheme. Surrey residents were not consulted on the scheme yet could face a daily charge of £12.50 just for driving to hospital or doing their weekly shop. I will be following the outcome of the trial closely.

The mayor has also announced plans to scrap day travelcards from Surrey, which would cost residents hundreds of pounds a year in extra train and underground costs. Surrey commuters spend money in London’s restaurants, bars and shops: this will only drive more people to work from home, damaging the city’s economy in the long-term.

There is a consultation at haveyoursay.tfl.gov.uk/travelcards. I encourage you to share your views.

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