THE MASTERMIND of the Farnham Neighbourhood Plan and twice mayor of Farnham, Councillor Carole Cockburn, was presented with the British Empire Medal (BEM) by the Lord Lieutenant of Surrey, Michael More-Molyneux, at Loseley Park last Tuesday (March 29).

Cllr Cockburn was first elected for the Conservatives in 1999 in a very different era for the town council. There were none of today’s events to speak of, no farmers’ markets, and Madge Green was still in charge of Farnham in Bloom.

The meetings involved “lots of talking, with agendas like old telephone directories – not fun”, she recalled.

However, over the years she worked with others to get the town council to “look beyond the council chamber”, helping build strong relationships with other volunteers in the town and provide events.

The town council has consequently been transformed over the past 20 years, culminating in it being named the Council of the Year in 2021.

Cllr Cockburn served as town mayor in both 2003-04 and 2007-08, and was leader of the council for many years up to the last election.

She spearheaded development of the Farnham Design Statement in 2010, which is currently being updated under her leadership.

And she chaired the group which wrote the Farnham Conservation Area Management Plan (2012).

She is perhaps best known, however, for masterminding the Farnham Neighbourhood Plan, first adopted in 2017 and again after a review in 2020.

For these efforts she was even mentioned in Hansard on October 8, 2020, after lobbying MP Jeremy Hunt about the “lack of respect for local democracy” in the government’s planning reforms, now rejected by the new secretary of state Michael Gove.

Cllr Cockburn is still lobbying Mr Hunt, Mr Gove and ministers from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities “to get neighbourhood planning strengthened and Farnham better protected”.