CLAYGATE TRAVELLER ENCAMPMENT FRI 3rd AUG 2018

Claygate residents are well aware of the recent traveller incident on the Recreation Ground. Here is my first hand account of what happened:

At approx. 5pm on Friday 3rd August 2018, I was driving down Church Road towards the Parade when I was halted by a caravan that was right across the road! A young man, accompanied by a boy were opening the gates that lead onto the Claygate Recreation Ground. I dialled 999 as I was telling them to stop but before I knew it I was surrounded, I returned to my car dialling 999 again as I felt so insecure. During that police call I could hear the sirens in the background and a number of local residents had also begun to arrive at the gates.

OVER 200 TRAVELLERS AND 30+ CARAVANS

As far as I could see down the road there was caravan after caravan. Already two caravans and trucks were on the land. Brave residents attempted to prevent further travellers gaining access and the situation got extremely intense. This is a ‘Civil Trespass’ and the police are not the lead agency. Private landlords and local councils are responsible for removing such groups from their land. The role of the police is to keep the peace.

The police superintendent that was present, then informed the local residents that in order to avoid an escalation of the dangerously unpredictable situation, the travellers were to be allowed onto the ground. After an hours stand-off residents eventually complied with police requests and indignantly witnessed over 200 travellers and 30+ caravans, access their recreation ground. 

POLICE AND BAILIFFS REMOVE THE TRAVELLERS

As the Claygate Recreation Ground Trust lease the land from EBC, it is, in the eyes of the law, private land therefore a more expedient action was agreed to get them removed. On Saturday morning bailiffs were instructed to come on site and remove the travellers. They arrived at midday but were unsuccessful as the travellers were resisting removal. Their second attempt with increased manpower and support from Surrey Police meant they successfully started removing the travellers and by 8:30pm on Saturday 4th August all the travellers had left our Recreation Ground. Various padlocks were found or borrowed to secure the gates once again.

FANTASTIC WORK BY VOLUNTEERS

The next morning more than 100 volunteers came to help clear the rubbish which was everywhere, even though some clearing up had been done the night before! At one stage a line of volunteers walked across the rec like a police forensic unit. This fantastic effort by the Claygate community meant the recreation ground could be opened again for the residents and by 11:15am the Church Road gate was re-opened by myself so the waste could be collected by EBC contractors.

DAMAGING BUSINESS AND TRAUMATISING RESIDENTS

The impact on the community, the local shops, pubs and restaurants was damaging as there were numerous thefts, businesses had to close and residents were genuinely traumatized. Money has been lost by all these local services and added to that is the cost of the police, welfare checks, court orders and the instruction of the bailiffs.

However the use of the law did not solve the problem as they simply moved a few miles down the road to Long Ditton. Neither is it a cause for celebration as this immensely expensive social problem will not change until the law does. We should be looking to Parliament to do something to protect us all from such threatening and criminal behaviour that currently goes unchallenged.

INTERIM PROTECTIVE INJUNCTION GRANTED

On Thursday 16th August EBC was granted a three month interim protective injunction at the High Court. This order bans the setting up of unauthorised encampments and fly-tipping on over 150 car parks and green spaces within Elmbridge. Officers are also working hard for a longer term proactive solution to this state of affairs, as are all of your Councillors and Surrey police.

IMMENSE COST!

This year Elmbridge has sustained large scale fly-tipping and funded the immense cost of clearing it all up. There has been damage to gates and barriers, lost parking income and large increases in the size and number of unauthorised encampments. Since April 2018 there has been a total of 27 encampments on public parks and open spaces, as well as others on privately owned land such as Painshill and the Birds Eye offices in Walton Upon Thames. The impact on our communities (as we witnessed here in Claygate) is substantial, as is the loss of our community facilities.

The Elmbridge Liberal Democrats have written to Dominic Raab MP. I have written to David Munro Police and Crime Commissioner and I also met with Superintendent Any Rundle to express residents very real concerns about this ongoing difficult social issue.

CLAYGATE TREASURE HUNT

Part of my remit as an Elmbridge Borough Councillor is to promote our shops and businesses in Claygate. This is an ongoing responsibility supported by the Elmbridge Business Network (that supports businesses and start-ups in many ways throughout the Borough).

On Saturday 21st July we had our annual Claygate Treasure Hunt. Twenty exotic birds were placed in participating shops. Entry forms could be collected from Ceramica or from Nathans Bakery and every child participating received a free lollypop. Colourful balloons were placed along the Parade and so the hunt began, bringing parents and children into the village shops.                                                                                    From 10.00am – 4.00pm they could search for the colourful birds and discover what a wonderful Parade of shops we have in our village.

The winning family were the Winterfloods who won £50.00 to spend in one of the participating shops of their choice. Dexter (7) and Maxwell (6) along with their mum Sarah chose Fruit World, where mum has been buying their fruit and vegetables from Mick since her boys were babies.

YOUR PLASTIC FREE PARADE

Boomerang bags, have reached Claygate! All thanks to two local working mums, using fabric scraps and volunteers, Pippa Moody and Maxine Falconbridge have created shopping bags and are helping to reduce single-use plastic in our village of Claygate.
It’s a huge community effort, volunteers make the bags to supply the shops which are given free to their customers to return or re-use.
A small grant from Claygate Parish Council, means the duo have bought a Claygate Boomerang Bag stamp, as well as printed leaflets, instructions and tags.
They have harnessed the enthusiastic eco drive of Elmbridge Borough Councillor, Mary Marshall, who further helped the pair engage with the already motivated local shopkeepers.
Mary has also managed to source an excellent fabric supply in the process.
These ladies still need more volunteers but you don’t have to be able to sew! Needed are fabric donations, washing fabric, cutting out, ironing and making up kits.
The bags are helping people to chat, make friends, up-cycle materials and shift our society’s poor throwaway mentality towards re-use.
Please visit www.boomerangbags.org for more information. Find them on twitter @bagsclaygate and Instagram: claygate.boomerang.bags or contact Pippa Moody pippakmoody@hotmail.com

40 Acre Field Claygate Planning!

It is with great trepidation that I write an article about 40 Acre Field as it is indeed a complicated and controversial subject for the residents of Claygate and the respectable owners or renters of this plot of Green Belt land.

This blog is to provide a clearer picture to the edited version that has been published in the Claygate Focus.

In 2013 after being elected for the first time, one of my earliest issues was the sale, division and consequent devastation of 40 Acre Field. This quiet backwater nestles between the A3, Bridleway 34, Common Lane and Holroyd Road. It is possibly one of the last pieces of green belt which separates the village of Claygate from the London suburb of Chessington! This once beautiful tranquil setting soon became a subject of immense concern to Claygate and especially the residents of Common Lane.

Little did I know what a long, difficult and emotional journey this would be!

These pictures are taken from the end of Common Lane at the junction with Bridleway 34

1.Pre 2013

2. March 2015

3. May 2015

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Local Green Spaces are protected from inappropriate development unless ‘VERY SPECIAL’ circumstances outweigh potential harm. Ref:  DM20

Since 1963 there has been a deed between Barwell and Elmbridge borough that does NOT give full right and liberty to the Landowner or his successors to pass and repass with or without vehicles down Common Lane.

Common Lane is a private road owned by Elmbridge Borough Council (EBC). The constant toing and froing of vehicles to the numerous plots on the field via this access point, that had previously been closed for many years, has inconvenienced other users and residents. Common Lane is little more than a dirt track directly adjacent to Claygate Common. Despite the efforts of EBC countryside officers to maintain the surface and keep it free of potholes and flooding, there has been considerably more damage to this lane in the last few years. This has substantially increased the financial maintenance costs to EBC.

Access alone is not the only issue, burnt out cars, fly-tipping and various forms of anti-social behaviour eventual led to the decision of EBC to close the small car park to the public in 2017. This decision is not related to the legitimate users of 40 Acre Field that own or rent plots to graze their horses. The perpetrators of these problems are simply exploiting this relatively quiet secluded backwater but also create further costs to EBC.

The individual purchase of the plots has seen, what many consider, a detrimental transformation of this field. Access remains difficult due to the poor drainage which for most part of the year leaves it almost impassable because of flooding, unless you have a four wheel drive vehicle which inevitably causes further damage to the land.

Two planning applications for plots 11 & 12 (2015/3788 & 2016/1567) were refused by East Area Planning sub-committee (EAPS) and have resulted in a costly High Court Judgement and a Judicial Review. As the applicants failed to appear at the latter on Tuesday 11th July 2017 it was decided that all the evidence would be taken into consideration and a final decision would be returned by early September 2017. The decision is that the appeal against EBC has been dismissed. The applicants now have to remove their caravans from their plot within the agreed allotted time. Costs were not awarded to either the applicants, the borough or Claygate Parish Council (CPC).

Application 2016/2062 which has 100 objections was discussed at EAPS on Monday 4th September and a personal permission was suggested by myself and CPC. This will now be decided at the next borough full planning meeting in October.

As things now stand we have what was once an open field divided into numerous plots by fences for the individual landowners. Although many consider this unsightly, there is not a simpler less intrusive method to divide this field. Multiple shelters were added (before any sale was made) and these are absolutely permissible as long as they are on skids that ensure they are easily moveable. Many trees were also removed from the field (before its sale) opening it up to increased noise from the A3 and making it vulnerable to strong winds blowing across the land as well as flooding which has always been a problem.

Routes have been cut across the field so owners can access their plots and their livestock. Original gateways have also been re-opened for the same reasons although there is some controversy over access rights. Local residents may not like the changes that have taken place but the owners do have a right to protect and graze their animals within their plots.

However a large barn like structure has been erected. A retrospective planning application 2016/2062 is under consideration and the plight of an ailing hose has been considered with much empathy.

Travellers in two caravans have been residing on their two plots and have undergone retrospective planning applications (2015/3788 & 2016/1567) Along with other distressing issues residents have been extremely concerned about this long term complicated situation. These issues have impacted not only on the local residents but also on the people who legitimately own or rent the land to graze their horses.

Change has inevitably occurred with the sale of these plots, fences have been erected, there are numerous shelters and inevitably more vehicles. Some changes must be accepted following the sale of this field but EBC have and will deal with any aspect that is not permissible.

There has however without doubt been a detrimental effect on the flora and fauna of this once much more beautiful and tranquil area.

Notice Board for Claygate Village.

A new notice board for Claygate has been erected at the end of Coverts Road today. This was created for the benefit of the local residents (who live some distance from the centre of the village) as well as the many visitors that come here. Since living in this part of Claygate, I have noticed that many pedestrians, riders and cyclists are completely confused where they are in relation to the centre of Claygate when they exit the track at the Holroyd Road end of Coverts Road. The track known as the ‘BOAT’ which has no vehicular access, is used by the public mainly for hiking, running, cycling, dog walking or horse riding. This track links Claygate with Esher and also comes out on Fairoak Lane between Oxshott and Malden Rushett, depending on the route you take. Claygate village centre and train station is some distance from Coverts Road so the new board has a detailed map showing your exact location.

As you stand in front of it, you can clearly see what can be discovered in the surrounding area. There are numerous footpaths and bridleways, flora and fauna as well as directions to the village itself. Claygate is full of restaurants, pubs, cafes and village shops. It is surrounded by beautiful countryside views, walks and rides. It is well worth a day out, whichever mode of transport you choose. With the financial help of Surrey County Council, Claygate Parish Council and with a personal contribution of my own, the board has been created, developed and finally delivered on site today.

Thanks must go to Sarah Kingsley from Eclipse Creative for her patience and wonderful art skills. Also thanks to Elmbridge’s Countryside Officer Dave Page. Dave originally helped me to create the map, adding to my ideas with his in depth knowledge of the local countryside due to both his keen interest and occupation. Dave and his co workers from the Elmbridge Countryside Team put the board in place this morning. Residents will now have the benefit of seeing at a glance what is going on in their village community. Horse riders, dog walkers, cyclists, runners and hikers will find new tracks, wildlife and plants as well as discovering a little about the local history of Claygate. Thank you to everyone that has helped this community idea finally come to fruition.

Please click here to see the map: Claygate Coverts Road Map (004)

Coverts Road Notice Board

Coverts Road Notice Board Claygate

 

Claygate Horse Crossing

Horse Crossing3On the afternoon of Saturday, 14 June 2014, following a collision with an unsuspecting motorist there was the tragic death of a horse. It was spooked by selfish fly-tipping, lost its experienced rider and in fear bolted straight out into the road. I have managed with the help of the Claygate community, the Equestrian Community, Claygate Parish Council and SCC Councillor Mike Bennison to raise enough money (£5,000.00) to rebuild with improvements the dilapidated horse crossing in Woodstock Lane South. A road safety audit determined what measures were required to implement the new crossing and it is now in place, improving the safety of everyone that uses this fast and busy road. There is now a large pen for horses to enter, secure and separated from the road. Site lines and signage have also been enhanced and the pedestrian footpath which runs alongside the track has been cleared so pedestrians and horses no longer share the same path. Thank you Claygate for trusting in me to deliver this project for the safety of our community.

Horse Crossing2