Maintaining your assets

The borough maintains 97 car parks across Elmbridge.  They ranging from our town centres through to our commons.

In becoming portfolio holder for transport in May 2016 Cllr Andrew Davis asked for a current valuation and maintenance programme for all the car parks.  Unfortunately, apart from Drewitt’s Court this had not been undertaken for many years.  Perhaps the previous Conservative administration thought the car parks could mend themselves.

A condition survey was undertaken in 2016 to identify the state of the borough’s car parks and the financial commitments for repairs over the next five years. The full cost to bring the car park up to standard is £13m.

The borough’s obligations relating to Drewitts Court in order to comply with the terms of the existing leases, require that a structural evaluation of the ramp be undertaken immediately and that the repairs be carried out as quickly as possible. It is likely that the full cost will be £1,500,000.

To catch up with the amount of maintenance required for the other car parks the borough plans to spend up to £6m over the next three years.

However, with the high need for social housing, the pressure to build over car parks is high. Not all car parks are suitable but those that are should not given comprehensive repairs until their housing status is known.

Naturally, the order of work and indeed what work will be done will be undertaken with full consultation with local councillors.  A full management programme will be produced for each car park for while they are being reconstructed.  Dewetts Court will take much longer so will have a special plan.  It is likely to begin in January so us not to clash with the Christmas season.

Social Housing

House building goes on apace in Elmbridge but most new homes are large and out of the reach of most people – even residents of Elmbridge. What we lack is suitable smaller affordable one or two bedroom homes, homes for rent and social housing.

The new Liberal Democrat/Residents administration has begun to put that right.  It sounds like a talking shop but the first stage is the setting up of the new Affordable and Social Housing Working Group reporting directly to cabinet.  Members are drawn from all parties. Its brief is to enhance the shaping of policy around social and affordable housing delivery whilst assisting the borough in meeting its strategic aims in this area.

A wide range of work is proceeding at the moment but non can be made public yet.  But when it can you will be the first to know.

Affordable Housing for Elmbridge

monopoly_housesElmbridge’s new Liberal Democrat led administration is developing plans to increase the number of affordable and social homes across the borough.  There is much planning to do before significant results can be seen.  However, the borough hopes to bring forward a scheme for 38 new affordable homes, subject to the agreement of the borough’s council on Wednesday, 7 December.

Osborne centralises England again

Increased rentWhilst setting the national budget Chancellor Osborne announced that boroughs will have to charge higher rents to people on higher incomes.  Why does he think that he has a remit to decide what the level of social rents should be in Elmbridge?  Surely it is up to us, the people of Elmbridge, what we charge. What do you think?

Worse still the national government has the arrogance to demand that the social housing providers in Elmbridge must hand over to Westminster any extra revenue gained from the increase in rents.  If we did want to increase the rents in Elmbridge then the extra revenue is ours to keep to invest in more social housing (or anything else that we fancy).

Just imagine how Chancellor Osborne would protest if Brussels made such a rule on housing and demanded money from him!

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

More housing control from Westminster

Housing benefitsNational governments often claim that they support local democracy; however, the evidence is often otherwise.

Take housing benefit – part of the £12bn in welfare savings is to be made by the national government instructing boroughs to reduce their rents.  This will save the national government £1.4bn in housing benefit by reducing rents paid to social landlords.  The Institute of Fiscal Studies estimates that this will mean a loss of £2.5bn to boroughs which could be made available for new housing.  Overall government loses out but the centre gains and localities lose.

This measure will have the net effect of reducing the provision of housing.  If we want more housing where it is needed than we need to look closely at:

  • Ensuring that all places have a duty to house their own in their area. A village would have to build houses to enable anyone born in the village to live there – a town likewise.
  • Replacing business rates and council tax with land tax. This would end the tax on improvements and focus the tax on the value of the land instead.
  • Removing stamp duty on house purchases and fund this change by reducing the capital gains exemption for domestic properties. This would allow people to move house more frequently and encourage people to spread their investments to the betterment of the economy.

If locals had to provide homes for their own the number of houses would increase without having to change the planning laws and/or the national government poking its nose into areas where it is not wanted or needed.

Vicki Macleod for Weybridge North

Vicki Macleod

Vicki Macleod lives in Weybridge and cares deeply about our community and local quality of life. Vicki has a strong understanding of issues faced by education, health services, social care and businesses — and she has a great record of getting things done.  Many people locally will know her as a contributor to the activities of the Weybridge Centre, or as a school governor.  She was Chair of the Friends of Weybridge Centre charity for five years, and is a governor of Heathside School.

Vicki’s background: work in education

Vicki is very familiar with the issues in education and care for vulnerable young people. She is a qualified teacher, lecturer and coach. She taught in a comprehensive and in a residential school for disadvantaged and disruptive pupils. She also worked for 5 years with all special schools in Surrey and secondary schools across Surrey, providing advice and support on vocational education. Vicki is a former chairman of the SE Region Special Educational Needs Network. She became a governor of Heathside School in 2010.

Business skills and organisational accountability

Vicki Macleod is firmly in touch with the needs of businesses, through running a small business, and through helping leaders and managers improve their management and skills. At the University of Brighton she set up the MA in Learning in Organisations, and at Middlesex University designed and ran the MA in Education – Leadership and Management. In recent years she has coached leaders and managers in organisations of all sizes. Vicki brings expertise in organisational accountability and leadership. She is a director of Performance By Design Ltd.

Vicki MacleodHealth and social care

Vicki has a strong awareness of healthcare issues in Surrey, through working professionally with GP practices on improving their practice management, and through family links. Her brother and sister-in-law have been GPs in Surrey for over 25 years. She has first hand experience of services for the elderly and carers, through providing care to her late mother in her declining years, and continuing support to her father who lives in Weybridge. She has been very involved in the activities of the Weybridge Centre for the Community, and was Chair of the Friends of Weybridge Centre for five years.

Action on issues

Vicki believes in the value of communities taking action to bring about improvements in the quality of the environment – locally and globally, and in encouraging individuals to behave responsibly. She has been an active member of the Portmore Park and District Resident’s Association, supporting campaigns to influence Surrey County Council on issues affecting the local community, including the Walton Bridge scheme. She has a strong interest in local issues, and an excellent understanding of how things can be achieved locally (in part through being married to someone who served as an Elmbridge Councillor!).

Building for the future

Vicki Macleod is passionate about helping people achieve the best they can.  She moved to Weybridge in 1991 after taking up the role of curriculum leader for special schools with the Surrey Technical and Vocational Education Initiative (TVEI). Experience tells her it is possible to raise aspirations and achievement of children, young people and adults with appropriate support, guidance and opportunities.

Vicki is committed to acting in the interests of future generations, believing in stewardship of the environment, provision of stimulating and engaging education, encouragement of a healthy local economy, and careful planning of services to meet the needs of a growing ageing population.

You can rely on Vicki to work on behalf of the people of Weybridge.

Things to fix:

  • Safer streets, speed limits more visible, and better enforcement
  • Improved parking for Weybridge, off-street coordinated with on-street
  • More activities for young people
  • Better community facilities, to help give Weybridge a more vibrant heart
  • More focused help for older people, disabled people, vulnerable children and their carers
  • Safeguard parental choice over local schools
  • Protect the local environment, safeguard the Green Belt
  • Improve local roads and pavements
  • Improve public transport
  • Value for money, good quality services!

At a county level, Vicki is committed to help achieve the Lib Dem goal of making Surrey County Council competent and responsive.

To see what Lib Dems in Surrey can achieve, see the Surrey Lib Dem Record of Action and Success

Grants available to the voluntary sector

Disabled peopleCommunity organisations have until 30 January to submit applications for Elmbridge’s latest round of voluntary sector funding.

Annual grants of up to £3,000 are on offer for use by voluntary, community and faith sector organisations from April 2015. Funding can be provided for equipment, project and running costs and in particular to support vulnerable groups.

Successful organisations have previously received grant funding to promote independent living amongst older people and carers, support people with physical or mental health issues, provide foodbanks and welfare advice, prevent homelessness and social exclusion, and offer access to healthy activity and food, family support, environmental improvement, ethical saving, plus counselling and mediation.

All applications must be received by midday Friday 30 January 2015. Applicants who are successful will be notified by April 2015.  Click here for the borough’s site.

Housing in the Green Belt?

Suburban spreadThe national government has changed its policy in relation to providing new housing and planning law (for England only – the other parts of Britain have their own policies). This has meant that Elmbridge has had to reconsider its approach to housing development.

Why is Elmbridge in this position?
Since  Elmbridge adopted its core planning strategy in 2011, the national government has made significant changes to the way local governments have to plan for new housing through the publication of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in 2012.  A number of decisions by planning inspectors and the High Court in 2014 have called into question plans that were adopted before the publication of the NPPF.

What are these significant changes that the national government has made?
The NPPF now requires all local governments to assess, and try to meet in full, the need
for new homes in their area including looking at the potential to accommodate them in the Green Belt.

Why does Elmbridge have to reconsider its approach?
Elmbridge’s core Strategy and evidence that supports it were produced before the NPPF and so are considered to be out of date. Specifically, the approach to housing development and the housing target are based on the assumption that the Green Belt
is ‘off limits’.

How will Elmbridge reconsider its approach?
The borough will have to: find out how many more homes are needed; identify where these new homes can and can’t go including looking at the Green Belt; work with other local authorities, particularly the boroughs bordering Elmbridge over the border in London, to identify and meet the need for new homes in our area.

What is happening to current work in progress?
Work on settlement investment and development plans is halted until work on the evidence review is completed.

What will be the benefit of Elmbridge reconsidering its approach to housing
development?
This work is vital to ensure that Elmbridge has a robust and defendable local plan, and one that is in accordance with the NPPF. Specifically it will: ensure that decisions on where housing goes are made locally and not by the national government; support us in working with other local governments to ensure they provide their fair share of new homes; send a clear message that we are looking seriously at options for meeting housing need; help us to defend planning applications for new development within the Green Belt ensuring that we get to choose where and when development happens; and, enable us to plan for the infrastructure needed to support new development.

What will happen if we don’t do this work?
If the borough doesn’t do this work it would face the following risks: other local governemnts and developers are likely to challenge our plans; future plans, such as settlement ID plans, are likely to be found unsound resulting in significant and unnecessary costs to the borough; developers will start to make applications for development within the Green Belt and these will become increasingly difficult to defend; and, without an up to date plan, the borough will lose the ability to choose where housing
goes and will not be able to plan for infrastructure.

Are all the boroughs in England going to be affected in this way, or is it just
Elmbridge?
Yes, those boroughs with plans adopted before the publication of the new national government policy in 2012 will need to reconsider their approach. This applies to
boroughs with and without green belt.

What will the work tell us?
Once the work is completed it will enable us to determine either: that the housing target in Elmbridge’s core strategy, evidence base and strategy for locating development are okay and provide an appropriate basis on which to continue preparing future plans, such as Settlement ID Plans; that the housing target in the core strategy, evidence base and strategy for locating development need reviewing and a new local plan needs to be prepared.

Does this mean that development will take place on the Green Belt?
No. The evidence base will determine whether or not we need to locate development
within the Green Belt. A Green Belt boundary review would be in accordance with the
NPPF, having regard to the intended permanence of the Green Belt in the long term, enduring beyond the plan period.  When looking at the potential to accommodate new development within the Green Belt we will need to ensure that it continues to meet its key aim – preventing the spread of the London conurbation.

How is Surrey involved in all this?  transport, infrastructure, education etc?
Once Elmbridge has an initial idea of how many homes can be accommodated we will need to speak to Surrey to identify what infrastructure will be required. If there are problems that cannot be resolved through the provision of additional infrastructure then
this may mean we need to reduce the amount of new housing we can deliver.

Why do we have to work with others to do this?
The NPPF requires us to identify and meet housing need across a wider area – called
our housing market area. We will need to identify our housing market area and work
with boroughs within it to undertake this work.

When will the new work/review start?
Work reviewing the evidence will start immediately. The borough will start by identifying the housing market area and work on identifying and meeting the need for new homes,
working with local government partners. Further information and a detailed timetable is
set out within Elmbridge’s local development scheme.

How long will the work/review take?
Elmbridge will have completed most of the evidence base by summer 2015.

How is Elmbridge going to keep the burghers in touch with progress?
Elmbridge will continue to keep its burghers up to date with progress at key stages though letters, emails and community meetings. Specifically, when the work is complete and the outcome.

Where can I find more information about the review?
On Elmbridge’s website or by contacting the planning policy team via email: planningpolicy@elmbridge.gov.uk

New Mayor for Elmbridge

Homestart website

Following his election as Mayor of Elmbridge at the annual meeting of the borough’s council on Wednesday, 4 June, Councillor Barry Fairbank has chosen to support Home-Start Elmbridge during his Mayoral Year.

 

 

Cllr Fairbank, erstwhile leader of the Liberal Democrats at the borough,  represents Long Ditton but now lives in Weybridge.

Councillor Fairbank has been involved with Home-Start Elmbridge for several years and wanted to offer more support with his fundraising during his Mayoral year.

One of the aims of the fundraising for his mayoral year is to be able to train more volunteers to give their help and support to the many families, with a child under five, experiencing difficulties.

In an ideal world Home-Start Elmbridge wouldn’t be needed. But for many parents the pressures of family life are simply too much to cope with alone. There are so many reasons for this including; poverty, illness, family breakdowns and parental isolation.  And this is where Home-Start steps in… by recruiting and training local parent volunteers to offer emotional and practical support to families in their own homes. Home-Start volunteers provide vital early intervention support, often stopping a family from reaching crisis point. Life is getting tougher for many families, and the demand for Home-Start support is at an all-time high.

I think that Cllr Fairbanks choice of charity is excellent and you can donate here on-line. Remember ever little helps.  If you are an income taxpayer then you can even make the national government chip in too.

 

Green Homes

strawbaleYou do not have to build a straw bale home to make your life greener and save money on heating bills because throughout Surrey on 17 and 18 May 2014, inspirational eco-home owners are opening their doors to members of the public, to show how they have made their homes cheaper to heat and more comfortable to live in.

This is a free opportunity to see energy-saving technologies in action and to ask the homeowners those burning questions. Plus every resident who visits an eco- home can enter a prize draw to win a free green deal assessment worth £100.

To find out more or to book visit the website or call Action Surrey 0800 783 2503.