Surrey County Council Property Plan

Opposition councillors on Surrey County Council have brought to light that Surrey County Council is secretly negotiating a proposal to enter into a joint venture property development arrangement with a private sector partner.

Plans kept secret

Opposition county councillors have found that Surrey County Council is in the process of planning with a private sector partner to provide housing and development across dozens of sites in a secret deal that could be worth over £1bn.

SCC is already and secretly in the process of tendering a contract for a “Joint Property Joint Venture Partner”. This is described as “a unique opportunity to offer development delivery and service expertise across a raft of property development projects”. The project would see Surrey County Council, along with a large number of public sector partners, releasing land and vacant sites currently owned by the County Council and others into the Joint Vehicle.

The value of the project is estimated to be between £250m and £1.5bn, over a 15 year period with 32 sites currently identified but with potentially 100 more under consideration.

The procurement document states that “The Council aims to secure delivery expertise, and bring capacity and pace to a development programme that ensures optimal performance and returns from investment activities”.

So far, not so bad?

Done properly, this is could be very positive for Surrey, especially as the County holds property that has been empty for over a decade. The concern of opposition councillors on Surrey is that thay have no idea as to the details of how much a potential private sector partner would be looking to make in profit and what the margins or rate of return are for the county council. There is no information as to what kind of housing will be provided, tenure and whether it meets the needs of local residents.

Lib Dem Leader, Cllr Watson, has said “These plans deserve the highest level of scrutiny and public engagement, which is the exact opposite of the Conservative administration’s approach so far to its management of its own assets and the culture of secrecy which is prevalent at County Hall.”

Cllr Watson calling for the release of the full list of potential development sites so that councillors and residents can play their part in scrutinising these highly complex and secretive proposals.”

Other concerns raised by opposition councillors include: no mention so far of affordabilility of housing to be provided or the long term sustainability of developments undertaken by the Joint Venture.

Councillor Jonathan Essex, noted that there have been similar joint venture development vehicles in Haringey and Southwark, which have come under intense criticism after public scrutiny has revealed the flaws within the small print of these highly complex contractual arrangements.

He is calling for the County Council to engage with its own residents and present the full financial picture so that well-informed scrutiny can take place regarding this hugely important matter.

Cllr Watson and Cllr Essex have today written to the Leader of Surrey County Council, urging to share more information on these proposals with all county councillors.

What next for Weybridge Hospital site and services

In July 2017 fire destroyed the two GP practices, the walk-in centre and many other health facilities, offices and a pharmacy in Weybridge town centre. At a meeting late in July – attended by more residents than the hosts expected – the gathering was informed that, when the site was redeveloped, there would be, could be, no promise of restoring all the services which were lost in the fire.

Currently, residents of Weybridge believe that the two GP practices on the site will be restored but we do not know what else will happen with the town centre site.

We want to do our utmost to ensure that the residents of Weybridge are properly engaged in decision making about the future of health and care provision on the Weybridge Hospital site.

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Thames riverside enhancement and maintenance

Thursday 5th October 7.30 for 8.00
Small Hall St James Church Centre

Come and find out how the Thames Landscape Strategy is working to improve riverbank management and enhance the overall riverside environment along the stretch of the Thames from Weybridge to Kew.

Don’t know anything about the Thames Landscape Strategy? Take a look here

http://thames-landscape-strategy.org.uk/who-we-are/

Jason Debney, Co-ordinator Thames landscape Strategy, will give an overview of TLS projects with local impact, including an update on the proposals for the Weybridge Point car park, a TLS project that secured funding of £70k+ from Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) funds in March this year.

Let’s be sure that proposals do actually enhance the riverside scene. Click on the PPDRA Newsletter below to see how things do not always work out for the best

Doors open at 7.30 pm, with the talk starting at 8.00 pm.

Grotto Road junction – Weybridge

The Grotto Road, Thames Street junction in Weybridge is notorious for road danger – the pedestrian risk and traffic around school times is horrendous. What makes it really dangerous is that there is no footpath by the fence in Grotto Road. Many primary age children walk by themselves or with their parents either alongside the fence in the traffic or have to cross Grotto Road twice to get to school.

So, what can be done about it?

Cllr Andrew Davis lobbied Surrey county to build a path – with an estimated cost somewhere between £20,000 to £60,000 but Surrey hasn’t the money. However, Weybridge has. Weybridge councillors have £500,000 to spend on such projects. All okay then? Well, actually . . . No!

Here is the bizarre thing. Any such project has to have a feasibility study, but Weybridge’s £500,000 may not be spent on such studies. And Surrey cannot even afford the study to demonstrate the cost effectiveness and benefit of the project!

Fortunately, Cllr Davis has managed to get Surrey to consider making a bid to Weybridge councillors to pay for the project, based on the upper estimate of £60,000, if the project is shown to have a good level of local support.

The Weybridge Liberal Democrat team have set up a survey to canvass support from local people who are concerned about the danger of this junction.

Weybridge residents, find out more and add your support here and watch this space for updates.

Local Plan – consultation results

The borough has published a preliminary report based on the responses it received to its local plan strategic option consultation. You’ll find the full report on the borough website.  There were 3,436 responses all in all from Elmbridge residents and the majority of those came from Cobham (1,800) and Ditton (1,299). Unsurprisingly, not many came from Weybridge.

GREEN BELT IS SACROSANCT

The vast majority of responses opposed any amendment to the Green Belt boundaries in order to meet housing needs. Green Belt was considered sacrosanct and respondents did not see any exceptional circumstance for tampering with its boundaries. A minority supported the borough’s view that there needed to be a balance between protecting Green Belt and meeting housing needs. A number of sites were put forward in both urban and Green Belt areas where development could take place. Many opponents of the release of Green Belt felt the borough had not done enough to identify opportunities for much higher densities in existing towns and centres. However, people living in densely developed areas opposed further development.

ASSESSMENT OF HOUSING NEED

A large number of respondents disagreed with the borough’s assessment of housing need and felt it did not take account of insufficient infrastructure and environmental constraints. Many also suggested that the impact of Brexit had to be considered.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING

Many recognised that housing in Elmbridge was unaffordable. But the majority did not consider this an exceptional circumstance for developing in the Green Belt. Significant
doubts were expressed about whether the borough had enough power to secure affordable housing and many felt it was not for the borough to intervene in the market in
high value areas.

INFRASTRUCTURE IMPROVEMENT

Many suggested that impact on infrastructure should be comprehensively assessed before any new homes are built. What’s more, a majority argued that improvements to existing infrastructures should be made regardless of possible development. The borough is grateful to residents for the many substantial and thoughtful responses received and the borough is now considering their impact on the local plan regarding housing in Elmbridge.

Surrey residents tell the Tories – keep our tips open!

Thousands of surrey residents have responded to the county council’s consultation on whether to close four community recycling centres (CRCs) in Dorking, Bagshot, Cranleigh and Warlingham, as well as slashing opening hours and increasing charges at those centres which remain.

The consultation generated 13,637 responses, one of the biggest ever, and now proceeds to the conservative cabinet who will make a decision at a meeting on 26th September.

Qver 90% of the users of the four threatened recycling centres wished to retain the CRCs and over 75% of those who responded wished to retain the daily free waste allowance currently permitted by the county council.

As well as encouraging residents to engage with the consultation, Liberal Democrat county councillors handed in a petition of 3,245 signatures calling for the CRCs to remain open, for the opening hours to be protected and for the daily waste allowance to be retained.

Cllr Stephen Cooksey, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson on Environment, said today:

“I am pleased that so many residents responded in such strong terms to the County Council’s consultation, sending them a clear message that the CRCs should be retained and these unpopular proposals dropped. On top of this, my colleagues and I collected thousands of signatures across the county on a petition which will now have to be considered by the Conservative Cabinet.

“Previously, the Conservatives at County Hall have ignored the results of consultations or already decided what the outcome will be regardless of what the residents of Surrey think. This consultation has generated one of the largest responses ever and I am calling for the Cabinet to respect the wishes of the residents of Surrey and maintain these vital services”.

The results of the CRC consultation can be found at:
https://mycouncil.surreycc.gov.uk/documents/s39577/Annexe%202%20to%20EISC%20Report%20on%20CRC%20Changes%207%20Sept%202017.pdf

Public workers’ pay cap

We believe that the government should end immediately the public sector pay cap and allow public organisations to arrange their own pay structures. For example, Elmbridge borough does not follow national pay agreements simply because we could not recruit the staff we need if we kept pay within the British government’s guidelines. Since the recent dramatic fall in value of the pound the pressures on living standards have been even greater. The English health service is under strain as service demand increases and fellow Europeans begin to leave in anticipation of Brexit. Hospitals are put into the perverse position of having to hire agency nurses because so many full-time nurses are leaving. The British cabinet loves controlling everything. It has jettisoned Europe, it is now attempting to override parliament and it has long since emasculated local and provincial government. The health, fire, education and police services have their own
budgets so why not let them pay what they want and deliver in the way they want without being second guessed by Westminster.

Surrey Heartlands – the next five years of Health and Social Care in Elmbridge

What’s happening to health and social care in our area?

Quite a lot actually!

The NHS has launched a programme to improve joined up working across health and social care services and is seeking to improve community provision for vulnerable groups – especially the frail elederly.

The mechanism for achieving this is locally based Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (STPs).

Citizens of Elmbridge come under the Surrey Heartlands STP, which includes Surrey County Council, the two CCGs covering Elmbridge, and other healthcare providers.

As Surrey Heartlands has a much larger than average older population, there is a focus in the plan on improving serrvices for this group. Just to paint the picture, over the next 10 years the number of people aged 85+ will go up by 36% and by 2025 more than 20% of the population in our area will be aged 65+.

Public Engagement is also a key feature of the partnership working that is central to the new approach. This is seen as a way to involve citizens in “defining the priorities and trade-offs that will be needed to achieve this service transformation, within the resources available locally.”

A further feature of the plan is to trial devolution of powers and budget to Surrey Heartlands (see p10 in the plan). This is designed to enable “full integration with Surrey County Council, integrating health and care delivery with the wider determinants of health in our population”

If anyone is interested in getting involved as a community stakeholder, there is a stakeholder reference group meeting on 18 October at Leatherhead Leisure Centre, Guildford Road, Leatherhead starting at 2 pm. There is also a Surrey Heartlands Newsletter.

The contact person for both of these is: glynis.mcdonald@nhs.net

The Surrey Heartlands Sustainability and Transormation Plan can be found at http://www.nwsurreyccg.nhs.uk/surreyheartlands/Documents/Surrey%20Heartlands%20STP%20October%202016.pdf

The Devolution Agreement document can be found at
http://www.nwsurreyccg.nhs.uk/surreyheartlands/PublishingImages/Pages/News/Devolution%20Agreement.pdf