Wishing you a safe, healthy and happy Christmas and onward into 2019

We are indeed fortunate in our community of Farncombe and Godalming to have so many great local volunteer groups and organisations providing support and care.

These photos show just a few – the Farncombe Day Centre offers a welcome, advice, companionship and hot food, as does the Denningberg Centre.

The Lions collect funds for others all year round as well as contribute to emergency situations.

The Meath is a centre of excellence of care and a home with real warmth for those who live there

And one of the highlights of this Christmas season  for me was the choir from Broadwater School singing, “O Holy Night”, at the Town Carol Service.

By working together we can do so much more – may we never take our community for granted but accept the gift of those who give so generously and that includes the volunteers from Churches Together who give many hours of Christmas Day itself to the Lunch for those who would otherwise be on their own.

Statement from Cllr Chris Botten on the HMICFRS report

December 20, 2018 11:09 AM

Chris Botten Large

Responding to the publication of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services report into Surrey Fire and Rescue, Cllr Chris Botten, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group at Surrey County Council said:

“Yet again we read of a Surrey Service which has been judged Requires Improvement or Inadequate. Perhaps the report’s most troubling criticism is that the service doesn’t have a robust operational model and needs to ensure it has enough resources, (people and equipment) available to respond to risk in line with its risk management plan.

This concern chimes with issues raised directly with us by the FBU, and will worry residents of Surrey. I note that a response since the Inspection has been to recruit 30 full time firefighters with another 16 to be recruited by the Spring, which will give some comfort, but yet again residents are having to read that a vital service is not of the quality they have the right to expect.

I set the new Council Leader a challenge at the last council meeting, that Surrey County Council must be competent and trustworthy. The Fire Service is another area which fails that test. Cuts in service are having to be reversed because poor judgements were made and the Fire Fighters themselves not listened to.

Let’s hope that the new leadership at SCC turns this service round quickly- dedicated fire fighters and residents deserve no less.”

Dear Prime Minister

Dear Prime Minister,

Thank you for your letter.

I remain unconvinced by your approach and with your deal. Until and unless you and your Government tell us that this country and every citizen will be better off economically than we are now, then in my opinion there is no way that anyone could support your way forward, let alone unite behind you.
As a Surrey County Councillor, will I be able to reassure residents that potholes will be filled and that, for instance, libraries and Sure Start centres will stay open? Surely the way to renew and reconcile the whole country is to invest in and massively improve public services.
You wrote to us which must mean that you want to hear what we think. If you are sincere in this, then please give us a People’s Vote on the terms of your deal.

Yours sincerely,
Penny Rivers

More cuts to come, have your say!


As you will read in this link, the Conservative Government has cut the core grant to the Conservative-led Surrey County Council by £200million since 2010. SCC has already made £500million reduction in expenditure on vital services and now it seeks to “save” a further £85million expenditure over the next year and has launched a public consultation on this range of services:

  • Family Resilience: Children’s Centres
  • Concessionary bus travel
  • Special Educational Needs and Disabilities
  • Libraries and Cultural Services
  • Community Recycling Centres

Have your say online and/or at:

Wednesday 12 December 10am – 12pm Wilfrid Noyce Community Centre (Wyatt Room)
Crown Court car park, Godalming GU7 1DY

Lib Dems, Labour and Green Party and some members of the Residents Association have consistently voted against cuts. But even combined and numbering 17 we are massively out-voted

Canadian War Memorial Event – 7th September 2018

It was a pleasure and a privilege to have been invited by the Mayor of Waverley to mark the occasion of the unveiling of a new war memorial on Milford Common to commemorate the Canadian soldiers based there during both World Wars.

The engraving reads, “In gratitude to all Canadian soldiers based in the area during WWI and WWII. We will remember them.”

History of the Canadians and Milford/WitIey Common

Canadians had an integral role alongside the British and the Allies during the Great War. Throughout 1914-1918, about 7 percent of the Canadian population served in the Great War. The Canadian Army entered and fought as part of the British Empire’s Dominions and Colonies. As such, Canadians spent a significant amount of time in various areas of Britain, including Surrey, before heading to the front.

In January 1915, orders were issued for the setting up of a camp on Witley Common for training British and Canadian soldiers before they were sent to France. The camp straddled the Portsmouth and Haslemere roads, extending into Milford Common and beyond to Bowlhead Green. The Surrey countryside provided an ideal landscape for artillery training, with rolling hills, sandy soil, as well as good roads and villages. The camp provided the soldiers with housing, medical attention, recreation facilities, and shops, also known as ‘Tin-Towns,’ found on the edge of the camp. Part of Milford Common was also used as a baseball pitch for the troops and one of baseball’s most famous players, Babe Ruth, played there.

Today Witley Camp is the site of archaeological digs, where finds are revealing more about the life of soldiers during the war, including items such as Canadian hockey pucks. In fact during WWI the Canadians played ice hockey on Broadwater Lake.

During the Second World War the camp was purely for the training and housing of Canadian Troops. The camp was rebuilt on Rodborough Common for WWII and expanded to the size of a small village where it contained a chapel, hospital, parade ground, garrison theatre and brick buildings for living quarters. Three Canadian soldiers  arrested a German fighter pilot shot down in the area in January 1944.


Boarden Bridge wins Civic Design Award

How fortunate is our community to have the time and talents of the Godalming Trust! The Trust organises Heritage Open Days and casts a watchful eye over developments in our Town.  They also give Civic Design Awards for buildings that are worthy of note.

This year it was my privilege to accept a Godalming Trust Civic Design Award for Boarden Bridge. 

The bridge is a delight and is thanks to co-operation between Surrey County Council and Godalming Town Council and funded by a gift by Zadie Caudle on behalf of the Peter Caudle Memorial Trust.

The Boarden Bridge was designed and made by Richard Northrup of Barnwood Carpentry and will be enjoyed by townsfolk young and old for many years to come.

Another day at the rock face

It was the meeting of the Planning and Regulatory Committee – 10:30am on 8th August 2018.
The agenda alone was 253 pages in length! And there were many more pages to read from local residents about the proposal for:
MINERALS AND WASTE APPLICATION MO/2018/0444 – Brockham Wellsite, Felton’s Farm. The application is for retrospective and on-going permission to drill for oil and gas for three years.

As well as concerns about traffic, air and noise pollution and the industrialisation of the Green Belt, there are real worries about the recent cluster of earthquakes in Surrey. I am no geologist and accept that earthquakes have natural causes but the fact that 12 earthquakes have been recorded  in 6 months while drilling was happening, while no earthquakes had been recorded in the previous two centuries, should make all of us ask searching questions about risk and safety. In my opinion, unless this company can prove that their works did not cause the earthquakes, then permission should be deferred.

Both Lib Dem councillors – Stephen Cooksey and I – voted to defer, two  Tory councillors, Mary Angell and Edward Hawkins joining with us,  but we were out-voted and permission was granted. The vote was 7:4 to grant permission (with conditions) to drill.

There are more applications pending to drill for gas in the Surrey Hills.

Statement from Cllr Chris Botten on Commissioners in Surrey

Reacting to the news that Government Commissioners will be overseeing Children’s Services in Surrey for 3 months, Cllr Chris Botten, Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Surrey County Council, said today:

“I welcome the decision for Commissioners to work in Surrey over the next 3 months. The County Council needs a laser-like focus in improving these vital services for the children of Surrey and the work of the Commissioners will aid this process. The Leader of the Council and the Cabinet Member have rightly spoken about the need for urgent change and I share their passion. But this most recent judgement from Ofsted means that my patience for change is at an end. The children of Surrey deserve the highest standard of services and Liberal Democrats councillors will play their part in holding the County Council, and its leadership, to account”.


– A copy of the Ofsted Report can be found here:


Surrey’s Conservative Councillors award themselves a pay rise but promise huge cuts to County Council services

Liberal Democrat County Councillors in Surrey have heavily criticised the Conservative-administration at County Hall after Conservative Councillors awarded themselves thousands of pounds of extra allowances in a vote at Council yesterday. The vote means that 4 new Deputy Cabinet positions will be created, at a cost of £40K a year, as well as extra allowances for committee vice-chairs.

Liberal Democrat County Councillors opposed these increases and voted against them at County Hall.

Cllr Chris Botten, Leader of the Liberal Democrats at Surrey County Council, said:

“At a time when residents are looking to Surrey County Council to increase its cost effectiveness, and at a time when severe cuts in services are proposed, the Conservatives should not be looking to award themselves a pay rise. Many of our residents have had no real increase in their income for ten years and they will be appalled to see these increases voted through. The overall cost of allowances for members should be capped for three years and any adjustments made by moving money within the existing budget.”

Cllr Fiona White, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats at Surrey County Council, added:

“I told the Leader of the Council yesterday how I disappointed I was with his proposals to pay thousands of pounds of additional allowances to Conservative Councillors, whilst at the same time proposing huge cuts to essential services. The County Council is telling residents that difficult decisions need to be made on spending but at the same time is able to find extra money to keep backbench Conservative councillors happy. I am calling for the Conservative-administration to reverse this decision and instead put this money into front line services.”


A webcast of the meeting can be found here (with the Item on allowances starting at 1:39:00):


A copy of the Leader’s response to the Independent Remuneration Panel report can be found here:


The Council papers for this item can be found here (Item 15):