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.

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.

Flexible Parking in Churchfields

This summer much needed improvements will be brought to you by the Liberal Democrats. The first to arrive will be flexible parking in Churchfields car park.  The changes are part of the investment in quality and innovation programme across Elmbridge, which will bring five benefits:

  • Stay for as short or long a time as you like – no need to decide beforehand
  • Total refurbishment of the car park, bringing a new layout -improving capacity – and total resurfacing, with a solid foundation
  • Free pop-in parking: to pop into the library or pick up a prescription
  • Park and go – where you lock up and walk to the shops – no need for a ticket
  • No more penalties for overstaying

This is just the first step – greater flexibility will follow.  We want the car park to be well-used but also to always have some spaces available.

Using the parking surplus for our town

Elmbridge’s car parks make a surplus each year and up till now this has gone into the borough’s general fund for spending on our services, from meals on wheels to parks and recreation grounds.  Weybridge generates the highest surplus in Elmbridge so would gain most if some of the surplus was used to pretty up the town.

In fact this is one of the initiatives brought in by the borough’s Liberal Democrat/Residents administration last year for action this year.  The plan is to set up a fund for each town, based upon the surpluses from car parks in that town.

The council agreed this policy on 19 July 2017 to begin in the year starting May 2018 from funds accumulated in 20217/18.  This extra funding will be made available to support local sustainable transport and highway improvements, or extra townscape improvements. The precise figures are not ready yet, as the year is not complete. Our plan is for the proportion of parking surplus dedicated to these projects to increase year by year.

We would really be interested in you views on what you would like to see.

Investing in our car parks

For the last ten years Conservative administrations have left our car parks to rot just like our roads. The new Liberal Democrat/Residents administration in Elmbridge is not going to let our borough car parks go the way of of the county’s highways, so we have undertaken a review of the state of the sites and have set in place a programme of works to restore and maintain the quality of surfaces and to reconfigure parking spaces.

We will also be introducing barriers and licence plate recognition so that cars can be parked for as long as needed rather than having to rush back for fear of being fined.

Installing a planned maintenance and improvement programme is just the beginning.  We have also begun to put funds aside each year to ensure that the programme will not be affected by the unhelpful, capricious, attitude of the national government in the nontransparent way it funds local government.

Working with residents on parking

You may not know this, but one of the reasons I stood as a councillor originally was to help find solutions to the parking problems that are faced in some parts of the town.  

As a consequence, I have talked to nearly everyone in the town and if you have not yet spoken with me yet, it is not for the want of my trying!

Lib Dem colleagues and I have been speaking with residents in streets with particular concerns – often using a survey.  Sometimes we revisit because conditions and options change.  We have worked with residents to propose solutions that work for their street and those surrounding them.

On-street parking is the responsibility of the county council and this means that any change has to be agreed by them.  This has been difficult for at least three reasons:

  • Surrey lacks coherent principals underlying its approach to on-street parking
  • The process that Surrey uses for making decisions is flawed
  • Surrey has insufficient funds to provide a speedy delivery of change

These three problems were compounded by the Conservatives’ drive to undertake parking reviews in each area only once in three years – to save money (Surrey has been governed by one party for nearly all of the last 140 years).  This policy of under- investment has been used for highway maintenance over decades, to disastrous effect.

And to cap it all Surrey’s policy is that controlled parking should not cause displacement.  Such a policy is internally inconstant.  The introduction of parking controls will cause displacement unless the new controls are so negligible that no displacement occurs – then what’s point.

As controlled parking inevitably leads to displacement the smart thing to do is anticipate and plan for it, all the time ensuring that no new stress is introduced. This is the approach that we are taking currently to a number of roads in the town centre.

Give Us your Views

As the Liberal Democrat/Residents’ administration in Elmbridge, we want to be more informed about your priorities.   One of the current methods of consultation involves a residents panel; although often additional consultations take place.  However, the mix of responses do not match the population as a whole.

Recent consultations have shown that the older the person, the more likely they are going to give their views.  For example, there were no responses from people under 25 and even people aged 26-44 years old were half as likely than the general population to state their preferences. Retired people are five times as likely to make their views plain than the average person: that’s 600% higher.  Older people are ten times as likely to speak up than younger people. This gap is likely to affect policy outcomes.

Age Population Responses Propensity to respond
 <25 29% 0% 0
26-44 36% 15% 0.4
45-64 25% 34% 1.4
65-74 8% 36% 5
>75 8% 14% 2

To get your view heard more clearly register for the borough’s residents’ panel here.  There are 136,000 people living in Elmbridge but only 1,240 are members of the panel.

You can also register to get information from the borough on a regular basis, see your accounts, be notified of palling applications in your area and automatic notice of changes to your refuse collection.

More services will be added later.