Mayor encourages us to welcome new families coming to live in Sevenoaks – especially if they only have one car
The recently appointed new Sevenoaks Town Mayor, Roderick Hogarth, is no stranger to the role having already served as Mayor five years ago. My Sevenoaks Community caught up with Cllr Hogarth for a Q&A session to discuss what he would like to achieve in the next year, the challenges facing the town and some of the important dates on his calendar – including a possible Royal Visit
Q. How long have you lived in the Sevenoaks area?
A. I grew up in Sevenoaks and have lived here most of my life although there was a gap when I worked in America for about 15 years in the late 70s. I went to school at the former Freston Lodge on Oakhill Road, then The New Beacon followed by Sevenoaks School.
Q. What do you do for a living?
A. I am a management systems consultant, although nobody seems to know what that is! It is to do with organisational efficiencies and I work for a company based in Wiltshire. It is a global business and I used to do a lot of travelling but I am now UK based as I am the development leader for Greater London.
Q. What made you want to become a Town Councillor?
A. I had always wanted to be a councillor even from my younger years. I have always been interested in the local government process and I have seen many of my parents’ generation become involved, so when I had the time for it I decided to give it a go. I am in my third term and in my 12th year. Next year is election year for us in Sevenoaks – this happens every four years. This makes this year a little more political which is a bit unusual as the Mayor’s role is not political.
This is my second time as Mayor, the last time was in 2013/14. It was quite an interesting prospect to become Mayor again because my wife Mary and I have often discussed all the things we didn’t do or would have liked to have done better if we had another chance. I think if I had been offered the opportunity to do another year immediately after my first year I would have jumped at the chance. Five years on, the role of Mayor has evolved a great deal as we have had a succession of really innovative Mayors, including my predecessor Maxine Chakowa, who have consistently raised the bar of expectations for what the Sevenoaks Mayor does.
Q. You are also a Sevenoaks District Councillor. Does this cause any conflict?
A. I am the town councillor for the St Johns Ward and a district councillor for Seal & Weald. It is an interesting relationship but there are several dual-hatted members and so where we can we make sure things move on a parallel course. People often don’t understand the difference between the two councils and what they are each responsible for. And if you include Kent County Council as well this can cause even more confusion. But Sevenoaks residents are all our constituents so if we get approached about an issue we will try and find answers for them whatever the level of local government it concerns.
Q. Is there anything in Sevenoaks you feel strongly about or would like to change?
A. The pace of change is actually faster now plus the population is changing with an increase in younger families moving into the area. Some of the events the Town Council has put on has put us in touch with parts of the community we had not been reaching before.
It is important to communicate with new residents and one of the things I have been discussion with town clerk Linda Larter – and was part of my opening remarks when I took over – is to be as welcoming as possible and that means getting in touch with these new arrivals.
Plus, there is a group called Sevenoaks Welcomes Refugees and I am warmly supportive of its actions. Broadly speaking Sevenoaks has always been somewhere you can make your way and there are plenty of open doors, but you can also lead your own life.
People were telling me that there was a lack of play areas and seating, so I thought this was something the town council could also take a closer look at.
Q. What are the challenges facing the town in your opinion?
A. In terms of traffic problems, all the challenges that were there back in the 60s are still there. The A21 by-pass alleviated some of the problems when it was built, but we are now back in the situation where the traffic issues need to be thought through again.
One of the interesting initiatives I am backing in the St Johns area is that it is going to have an Enterprise Car rental outlet in the St Johns car park. The St Johns ward and the neighbouring Northern Ward are going to be the growth areas for population in years to come. We want to encourage people living in those areas not to have two cars. Having a car rental agency which offers the right vehicles in a convenient location may inspire residents into a different mode of thinking when it comes to car ownership.
When I first lived in America I had a vehicle for three months and then sold it. Owning and running a car is quite expensive these days and the savings I made through getting rid of the car enabled me to rent a car whenever I needed one or I used a taxi. But I do realise this won’t be for everyone and I don’t want people to think we are trying to take their cars away. The plan is to offer people choice and help people make informed choices. Plus of course people may prefer bicycles and one of the things we are building in to the Bat & Ball Station redevelopment is the idea of making electric bicycles available.
Q. What other major activities are on the calendar for your year as Mayor?
A. It is 100 years since the cessation of World War One hostilities. We have historians helping us gather information and we will be organising various events in the build up to 11 November which is recognised as the date the war ended. I feel very privileged to be Mayor at the time of such an important centennial.
We may also have a Royal Visit for the opening of Bat & Ball Station once the renovations have been completed. We don’t know who this will be yet, but we are hoping for a senior royal, so fingers crossed. We want to echo the time when Queen Victoria used the station during her visits to the area. Events like this help to show Sevenoaks at its best – not only what it can do, but how it honours the past and well as looking to the future.
Q. What is your Mayor’s charity going to be this year?
A. It is the Sevenoaks Powerchair Football Club. The players are people aged from 11 up to mid-20s who have severe physical disabilities. They use specially adapted electric chairs to play and the team is part of the Sevenoaks Town football club and so it is a very locally based charity. Just before I became Mayor, the Sevenoaks Powerchair Football team became champions of their league and so now move up to the Premier League. We are hoping some of the players may go on to represent GB at the Paralympic games in Paris in 2024. But it’s not just a fund-raising exercise. Part of my support for the charity as Mayor will be to help raise awareness of the sport.