Elmbridge gives back after waste contract problems

The Council’s approach

Not many people know, but after the problematic start to waste collection under the new contract this time last year, the contractor Amey has had to return nearly £500,000 to Elmbridge Borough.

The Council decided that the money returned should not go into the general Council fund, but should in some way go directly to the residents of Elmbridge.  Some was earmarked as direct compensation to people who had paid extra for garden waste removal services as they were most affected – as a group. These people received a two-month payment holiday – which took up £160,000.

Community Green Infrastructure Improvement Fund

Of the remaining money, £100,000 will be allocated to the creation of a Community Green Infrastructure Improvement Fund.  This is designed to enable community groups to bid for small grants, against pre-defined criteria, to carry out green infrastructure improvements. The scheme would allow one-off project funds to be spent in a way that encourages community buy in and ownership and ensures that the money goes towards initiatives important to the communities themselves.

It is proposed that criteria could include community involvement, volunteering, legacy, sustainability, biodiversity, more attractive and green borough etc. For example:

A community group could put in a bid to make environmental improvements to their local street scene, such as setting up an In Bloom scheme as at Cobham Station.  The likely amount of grant will be up to £15K per project, to allow communities to create projects with significant impact.

Examples of such activity can be found on page 46 of the Agenda reports pack for the Cabinet meeting held on 6th June this year.  .

Do let us know your ideas for Weybridge.

Churchfield Allotments

The Lib Dems in Weybridge have inadvertently stirred up a brouhaha by mistakenly placing a Social Housing label close to Churchfield Allotments in our April Focus!

This raised a concern among people living in neighbouring roads, who approached the owners of the allotments, the Weybridge Charity, to find out if there were any plans to build social housing on the allotments.

The Charity says there are no plans to build social housing, but it may seek to sell a small section of land for development.

It has told residents that it is “under increasing pressure to meet the needs of Weybridge residents who face hardship” and needs to raise funds. “The Charity has come to the conclusion this can be achieved by developing and selling the ‘Molyneux Road triangle’ … a little over 5% of Churchfields allotments”. It adds that “any rumours of providing Council or Housing Association accommodation are unfounded”.

Neighbouring residents are concerned about the impact of development on the quality of life in the area, particularly as this is an area of acute parking stress. However, residents have also shown a considerable interest in the Charity itself and its work and some are seeking to find ways to become more involved with the work of the Charity.

The Charity’s case for the sale and development of 5-6% of the area of Churchfields allotments is that it needs to secure its long term access to income from invested funds rather than deplete them. It is the earnings from these invested sums, plus any monies donated to the Charity, which are used to carry out its charitable objective – ‘the relief of persons resident in the area of benefit (Weybridge KT13 postcode area) who are in need, hardship or distress.’

According to the Charity, “The action will also provide much needed funds for investment in the remainder of the allotments: bringing new areas under cultivation, allowing a proper toilet to be built, creating a communal area and improving facilities, so that, retaining its unique character, the whole site may be used more effectively and attract new, long-term [allotment] tenants.”

The Charity states on its website that “It is the declared intention of the Managing Trustees of Weybridge Charity to retain Churchfields allotments as allotment land. This maintains the history of green land in the centre of Weybridge, and open views from Churchfields Park across the allotments towards St James’ Church“.

If you have never visited the allotments, do go and take a look.  This is a wonderful green area in the heart of Weybridge.

For those of you who do not know of the Charity and who have friends of relatives who may be experiencing hardship, more information can be found on the Weybridge Charity’s website.  And even if not, it is interesting to read the history of the Charity.

Finally, anyone interested in having an allotment, it would appear that there are currently unused allotments and a thriving community of allotment holders.

Weybridge Town Meeting

Weybridge is due to hold its first post-election Town Meeting – at the Weybridge Centre for the Community, Churchfield Road on Monday 2nd July at 7.30.

We will look at

  • The spaces we use.
  • How we get about.
  • How we support people and keep them safe.
  • Our local economy and business

The goals of this and future meetings is to encourage greater involvement from people in Weybridge with a view to giving them a voice in how the town develops physically and socially.  We know many people love our town, but without a proper vision we might not like how it develops in the future. So this is a chance to come together to create our own Better Weybridge.

Resident of Weybridge, all we need is YOU!

We need your ideas, your input, your voice and your help.

  • Shape what happens to the town.
  • Influence and support ideas and plans.
  • Get support from the others and the council for for your own ideas and projects.

This meeting is the realisation of one of Vicki Macleod’s election commitments.  Vicki is the newly elected Liberal Democrat Councillor for Weybridge Riverside.

She says “I would like this to be the first of many such meetings where residents and others with an interest in how Weybridge develops come together to share ideas and engage actively with shaping the future of Weybridge.”

 

Coalition

Elmbridge Council ChamberTwo year’s ago, the newly elected leader of the Elmbridge council, Stuart Sellick invited the Liberal Democrats to join the Residents Groups to form a coalition administration.

We had had three choices: support the Conservatives or the Residents on a confidence and supply basis;  join a coalition with the Residents (there was not an offer of a coalition from the Conservatives); or, remain separate from both.

The Liberal Democrats had, in 2015, come out of a coalition nationally and had suffered for it – despite our believing that in 2010 a coalition was the best option for the country.

The residents group was and is already a coalition so our joining it meant a coalition of a coalition.  But unlike the national coalition, in Elmbridge the Liberal Democrats were the largest party in the coalition.

At that time, there was much criticism, as well as speculation, that the new coalition would be short-lived and unable to achieve any significant changes to the borough but we in the Liberal Democrat felt it was the appropriate course of action for the smooth running of the borough.

We wanted to improve the planning enforcement function, begin a serious housing programme, move the car park policy from a money-making to a service basis and put the local plan process onto a firm footing – all this was achieved whilst maintaining our council tax below general local inflation and maintaining our financial reserves.

We met all of our targets and more but there is still more to do.  This was the first Liberal Democrat coalition in the borough’s history.  On our way to running Elmbridge by ourselves – in the not too distant future – we plan to work with councillors of all parties and of none to ensure the borough is well run and that Elmbridge remains the best place to live in England.

Elmbridge May 2018 Elections

The May elections the Conservatives gained four councillors but lost one, the Liberal Democrats gained one and the Residents lost four councillors.  The election did not produce an outright winner and therefore there is no overall control in the borough.  The Conservative Party ended up with 24 councillors, the Residents 15 and the Liberal Democrats 9.

Change in Party Success

Over the last few years in Elmbridge the Conservative Party and the Residents Parties have been losing seats and the Liberal Democrats gaining.

Elmbridge Change in Seats

Year on year, albeit gradually ,the proportion of councillors in the borough has been moving towards the Liberal Democrats.  The Lib Dems have risen from a tenth of the councillors to a fifth.

It looks even more dramatic with the numbers.of councillors.

Seats Change

If you were expecting the negative numbers to be balanced by the positive numbers, which is of course usual, then you might not have remembered that the number of members of the council was cut from 60 to 48 in 2016.

Changes next time

Elmbridge consists of a number of very safe wards and some very close contests.  The current position is as follows.

Swing by ward

The largest swing in the recent elections was 22% from Resident to the Conservatives in Walton Central ward. So the top half of the table above could all change hands next time.  Your vote in such wards will make a difference.  The world would have to turn flat before Oxshott changes hands.

Springfield Lane Flats

Springfield Lane Flats Weybridge

Does this look familiar? This is being developed by the same people who built the flats on the Grotto Pub site.

There are two outline applications (2018/0905 and 2018/0907) for detached five-storey building containing 22 flats with associated parking, cycle and bin stores following demolition of existing building (for access, appearance, layout and scale).

The proposal is for 22 flats – 12 one bedroom and 10 two-bedroom – on five stories.  Elmbridge has a lack of smaller properties.  Nine of the proposed flats will be for affordable housing but there will not be any social housing.

Parking

Unlike the previous site, where there was no parking, this development has sixteen parking places for twenty two flats.  Elmbridge planning policy is for a minimum of 22 parking places for such a development.  The key planning point here is DM7 b(i) of the borough’s development management plan.

Highways

Surrey, the highway authority, gives a green light in their report to the proposal and deems it to be in a sustainable location.

Design and amenity

This is often a matter of judgment.  According to the borough development management plan proposals should preserve or enhance the character of the area, taking account of design guidance detailed in the Design and Character SPD (section 3.1 on Springfield Lane area), with particular regard to the following attributes: appearance; scale, mass, height, levels and topography; and, the prevailing pattern of built development.

Carbon Footprint

Buildings are categorised for their impact on climate change with six levels – six being the best and and one the worst.  The borough’s policy is for new building to be a minimum of level three and building of this size being level four.  but any new building should ideally be six.  This proposed building is level three which is below the borough’s planning standard as mentioned in the Core Strategy CS27 on page 82.

Refuse

This is often overlooked in larger developments and this proposal seems to be no exception.  In their report environmental services says the bins site is too small.  If you look at the picture above the bins will be located on the green rectangle near the front gate.

Cycle storage

Cycle storage is at the rear of the property and contains space for 22 tightly packed cycles.  The storage is not secure so insurance is is unlikely to be available.

Community Infrastructure Levy

This development will produce a tax of £155,000 for the provision of new infrastructure in Elmbridge.

Alerts

If you did not know about this application perhaps you should try the new borough alerts.  See here.

Make your comments on this planning application by the end of May here and here.

Your Personnel Planning Alerts

Planning Alert

Registering your account

If you would like to receive alerts for planning applications in your locality simply click here. Alternatively, go to the Elmbridge borough website and click on the “My Account” at the top right of your screen.  On the next screen register your details. You will then be given the option of getting planning application alerts.

Choosing your planning alerts area

You will then be given the option of choosing the extent of the area that you will be given alerts – up to 500m.  I would recommend choosing the maximum area because you can always cut it down later if you find there are too many alerts.

You can also take up other options relating to changes to local services.

More Planning Information

If you would like more planning information at Elmbridge, for example to find a planning application to how to object to a planning application click here.

Green Belt in Long Ditton

Long Ditton councillors, Shweta Kapadia, Barry Fairbank and Neil Houston wish to dispute the statement made by Hinchley Wood/Long Ditton Green Belt group that they are doing nothing to protect the Green Belt.  All three of them are working hard and will continue to work hard to protect the Green Belt. All councillors recognize the need for housing but do not agree with building on the Green Belt.

Every single councillor in Elmbridge is against building on the Green Belt.  An application for over 1,000 homes in Green Belt in Walton was unanimously refused by the Residents’ Association (RA), Tory and Lib Dem councillors.  The borough has poured vast resources into defending the Drake Park Appeal last November to defend Elmbridge Green Belt. But the national government has ignored the will of the people and the borough and the application will now be determined by a Conservative Secretary of State – till recently Sajid Javid and now James Brokenshire. The Drake Park decision was however ‘deferred’ only a few days ago until after the Elmbridge Election.  Just weeks ago Sajid Javid allowed 300 homes in the Green Belt in Effingham, Guildford, although the parish and borough refused permission. There is an appeal still outstanding for Wisley (2,000 homes) which will similarly be determined by a Conservative government minister.

Are local Conservatives going to defy their national government and not build on the Green Belt or in fact not build the 12,500 homes this Conservative government wants to build in Elmbridge? Conservative councillors in other Surrey districts have allowed building on the Green Belt. Tandridge Council is planning a whole new village in the Green Belt. Guildford has released land in the Green Belt. Are Elmbridge Conservatives going to be the only ones in the country to defy their Government?

Only the Liberal Democrats and the Residents’ Association councillors can defy this Conservative government. The Residents’ Association / Liberal Democrat coalition administration has done just that: they have lobbied and put considerable pressure on Dominic Raab and Philip Hammond, Elmbridge’s two MPs. But being Conservative both of them are toeing the national party line and will not say that the Green Belt should not be built on even though they know the borough’s residents are against it. The RAs / Lib Dem administration has also protested to Sajid Javid highlighting the deficit in infrastructure provision in Elmbridge. The administration responded robustly against the large amount of housing that this Conservative government is attempting to force on Elmbridge.

Regards the Elmbridge consultation in 2016/17 on the new Local Plan and Green Belt review – the facts of the matter are: All Elmbridge councillors voted UNANIMOUSLY for the consultation on the Strategic Options which took place in December 2016. The minutes of the meeting of full council held in December 2016 clearly show that.

Until Tory politics on the Local Plan started, Tories, RAs and Liberal Democrats worked on this together. There are the Conservatives and three RAs and only one Liberal Democrat on the Local Plan Working Group so the Tories have a strong voice on this working group and they agreed to the consultation.

There is a large amount of mis-information circulating. Since the public consultation in December 2016 Elmbridge Borough Council has not produced any specific proposals in relation to the Local Plan and there has been no vote in the council on building on the Green Belt for the Conservatives to have opposed it.

Brexit lobby in the Netherlands

Dual nationality

On April 21st, one of our councillor candidates, Francisca Oxley, was invited with two colleagues to present to a Dutch parliamentary committee about Brexit. This was a good opportunity to push for EU citizens rights after Brexit via a local EU27 government.

Francisca says: “There was very limited time to drive home some key points, so we decided to start our session with a video about dual nationality. We discussed why becoming British without losing Dutch nationality is so important now with Brexit. If you want to watch the video, you can see it here (2.5 minutes).

Brexit

Francisca Oxley, Hedwig Hegtermans and Nicole Wevers with the director consular affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jan Willem Beaujean.

 Citizens Rights

The second part of the meeting was spent on explaining the difficulties with citizens’ rights (both for EU citizens in Britain and British citizens in the EU). The Windrush scandal (which has also been reported in the Dutch news) served to illustrate that there is no trust in the Home Office for good reason!

Francisca continues: “We mentioned groups that are in danger of falling through the cracks (think of housewives, carers, children turning adult during the Brexit process). Even though the home office promises to be generous and light touch, the Windrush scandal shows EU citizens need more than promises. We also discussed the fact that a five year limit on the right of return is not enough. It would make studying in Europe and then taking a first job abroad very difficult! We highlighted that EU citizens in Britain have mixed families. They could lose their Settled Status and have to try to get some sort of visa from scratch. This would reduce EU-UK families to Skype Families (as already is happening with non-EU people). We asked the Dutch government to not forget the citizens’ rights among the trade deals and other agreements.

We ended by asking for support for Dutch nationals returning to the Netherlands after Brexit. If you are interested or want to practise your Dutch you can read the position paper here (fifth paper down the end).

A nuanced approach to parking needs

Part of the work that the Liberal Democrats have undertaken in relation to parking is to examine the availability of parking space in Weybridge at midnight.  This time was chosen because the cars parked on-street would only be ours – just residents.  The shops are closed and the evening trade is over.  Shop and office workers have long gone home.  You can see from the map below that the pattern of nighttime parking stress varies widely across the town.  People living in streets next door to each other can have quite a different experience.  The key indicates what the colours mean.  The streets marked red had no available spaces at midnight and the streets in green indicate streets where parking spaces were freely available.   Some longer streets can have a varying experience along their length.

The overall picture is quite different at midday. It may come as a surprise but the parking stress if lower at midday than at midnight.  Again the parking experience can vary remarkably from street to street.

 

These maps only show two times in the day – midnight and midday.  Ideally, there would be a map for every minute or hour of the day.  We all know demand flows across the town at different times.  The drop off and pick up for schools has an acute impact for certain locations.

A street could be amber and not red simply because there is one space available – so the amber streets are under stress too.  As is yellow, with three spaces available for every ten cars.

The surveys were undertaken between 00:00 – 01:00 and 12:00 – 13:00 in private school term time because their terms are shorter.  Although that does mean that just like traffic in the holidays, parking is easier then this for over a quarter of the year.

The survey was taken from the perspective of a resident who does not have a drive.  If you imagine a street a mile long where all but one house has off-street parking on the drive but there is n place to park on-street because of the drive is is marked as red.  Even  though all but one resident has easy parking.