Weybridge town meetings

In my May 2018 election literature I promised to run town meetings, if elected.

My ambition is to try and establish a kind of forum where residents and businesses in Weybridge can come together on a regular basis and talk about the kind of Weybridge we want for the future.

Why did I want to do this?

I am committed to trying to enable generative and creative conversations. Conversations which bring people in at the early stages of developing anything new in the town.

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.

We will talk about:

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

And we want to know from you:

  • What do we love that we want to protect?
  • What do we need to make better?
  • What would we rather do without?
  • What can you do and what help do you need from the council?

Let’s bring the community together and create a future for Weybridge that we all want.

Reshaping Weybridge Town Centre

A community hub in Weybridge

At the recent Portmore Park and District Residents Association meeting, Weybridge Surrey County Councillor, Tim Oliver spoke about ideas for developing Weybridge town centre. Surrey County and Elmbridge Borough officers and NHS property services have already met to talk about creating a Weybridge Hub on the Weybridge Hospital site.  .

Services on the site?

So far, we have no firm idea of what is meant by a hub on this site. Current thinking includes relocating Weybridge library and Weybridge Centre for the Community to the hospital site. Of course this will be alongside the redevelopment of the site for GP practices and community health services.

And then?

Some people are also in favour of creating more town centre parking spaces by paving over the old bowling green at the entrance to Churchfields Recreation Ground (Park).

So far, there has been no mention of where the much used and highly valued Children’s Centre fits into the ideas being discussed.

We will watch and report on developments.

Let us know what you think

We also invite people to let us know how they would like to see our town centre develop.  You can do this in person and hear others’ views at our next town meeting on Thursday 11th October, starting 7.30 pm, at the Centre for the Community, Churchfields Place.

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.

What’s happening with the new Weybridge Cinema?

Much needed town centre development

Weybridge residents are looking forward to having a new independent cinema at the site of Weybridge Hall. This might be the first of several enhancements to the life of the town centre. However, people have expressed concern over the lack of any update and apparent delay in the development moving forward.

Why the delay?

Recently published council papers (Item 6) now show that there have been unanticipated costs which which will impact the overall budget needed. These arise from removal of asbestos and the proposed approach to effective sound proofing. The cabinet will be considering this on 4 July and will make recommendations to full council.

Culture and Affordable Housing

The plan for this development is to deliver a cinema with around 100 seats, plus affordable housing units above. These will comprise four one-bedroom and one two-bedroom units. These units will be affordable for rent properties.

Clearly residents and businesses in Weybridge are keen for this development to the evening economy to go ahead. We are keen to enhance the social and cultural life of the town which is great to live in.

Keeping you informed

We will provide an update once a decision has been taken.

 

CIL Bids in Weybridge

When most new developments in Weybridge are built the developer has to pay a tax referred to as CIL (Community Infrastructure Levy) to help fund any increased needs locally, as  a consequence of the building.

This infrastructure can be equipment for schools, health centres, community centres or safer or better designed streets.  CIL funds may only be used for new or enhanced facilities and not for staffing, repair or general maintenance of existing facilities.

Typically in Elmbridge, towns have an allocation and bids can be made by residents or groups in the town for funds for a project. See here your most frequently asked questions.

This year in Weybridge there are seven applications for CIL funding.

We are interested to hear your views on these. Do you support any of these projects? Or would you like to comment on them?  Click on each one for more details and click here for our survey.

We also include a scoring assessment of each project for applicability and desirability.  Some projects are uncosted, do not have permission of the landowner or do not necessarily enhance our infrastructure.  But what do you think?

These are the seven applications for CIL funding in Weybridge.

  1. Surrey county for improvements to footpath  linking Broadwater path to Walton Lane. CIL funding of £8,981 has been requested to create a wider all-weather route.
  2. St James School to refurbish the Lodge to create additional teaching and community space. CIL funding of £60,000 has been requested. A quotation has been provided that is consistent with the amount requested.
  3. The Weybridge Society for improvement to lighting around the war memorial and restoration of the surroundings. CIL funding of £32,500 has been requested for the works.
  4. PA Housing for bollards to prevent parking on adopted highways land in Brooklands Road. CIL funding of £3,500 has been requested for the works.
  5. Weybridge Cricket Club for roof replacement and addition of girl’s changing facilities. CIL funding of £50,000 is requested.
  6. Walton Firs Foundation for new accommodation pods to provide additional capacity. CIL funding of £24,560 is requested. Three quotations have been provided, the lowest of which is consistent with the amount requested.
  7. St Mary’s Church Oatlands to create additional office space. CIL funding of £20,000 is requested.

The general report is here.

CIL – your FAQs

It sounds like there is CIL money every year.  Does it have to be spent in that year?
No.  The CIL is like a bank account.  Before a development may begin the CIL is paid into the account.  From this account, projects are paid for.  Spend less one year and their is more to spend in future.

Does every council ask local organisations to bid for CIL funds for projects?
Some boroughs have decided to develop their own strategy for spending the CIL.  They would allocate the fund between their key objectives: say, health, safety or social housing.

What is meant by the term infrastructure – what is ‘in’ and what is not?
As more houses, offices and shops are built we need more clinics, schools, ways of dealing with traffic and more leisure facilities.  This is the infrastructure.  The CIL enables boroughs to pay for it.  Otherwise boroughs would have to use Council Tax.

Why don’t you use CIL to mend the potholes?
The CIL is designed to fund new infrastructure: new facilities for schools, new zebra crossings, extra health provision, traffic calming etc. Pot holes occur when the roads have not been maintained properly.

Who decides if any project is an acceptable project? 
In Elmbridge the CIL is broken into three parts: The “Reserve pot”, for big projects that might become necessary over the medium term; the “Strategic pot”, for projects that could only be justified on an Elmbridge-wide basis; and, local pot, for projects relating to each of the nine towns in the borough.  Decision relating to the “Reserve pot” are decided on by the cabinet; those relating to the “Strategic pot” are decided by the chairs of the planning committees across the Borough; and, the local pot is decided by the councillors in that town. For CIL proposes Weybridge consists of three wards Weybridge Riverside, Weybridge St George’s Hill and Oatlands.

Are there criteria for selecting and approving bids?
Any organisation may go online and complete an application form for a CIL grant.  Currently all applications are presented to the relevant body for decision.  This can mean that many applications are totally unsuited for CIL. The criteria used for local CIL bids are:

  1. Does the project address impacts created by new development?
  2. Does the project provide wider community benefit: beyond just the benefits to the organisation submitting the application?
  3. Can the applicant deliver the project?  Does it have planning permission?  Is the landowner on board?  Are the costing realistic?
  4. Evidence of additional resources (people or money) available from partners to complement funding.

Are projects ever excluded?
Not at present.  The problem is that some projects are put forward without the permission of the landowner, without sufficient detail for plans, or without suitable quotes and costing. However a grant should not be given if the project is too small – for example for a kettle.  There are other borough grants for such projects.

What projects have received CiL funding in the past five years?
Around £2m of facilities for school across the borough, a walking bridge in Molesey. Manby Lodge Infant School quickly installed additional surfacing for all weather outdoor play space. Heathside Secondary School has installed much needed additional cycle parking. The Broadwater Path was completed over the summer of 2017. The Thames Landscape Strategy works at Weybridge Point – the car park at the end of Thames street – should be delivered in May 2018.  Significant preparatory work has been carried out on the Weybridge Streetscene project – outside Waitrose and up to the corner with Elmgrove Road..

Who makes the decision to fund or not to fund a project?
Councillors.  In Elmbridge the CIL is broken into three parts: The “Reserve pot”, for big projects that might become necessary over the medium term; the “Strategic pot”, for projects that could only be justified on an Elmbridge-wide basis; and, local pot, for projects relating to each of the nine towns in the borough.  Decisions relating to the “Reserve pot” are decided on by the cabinet; those relating to the “Strategic pot” are decided by the chairs of the planning committee and the leader; and, the local pot is decided by the councillors in that town. For CIL proposes Weybridge consists of three wards Riverside, Oatlands and  Burwood Park and St George’s Hill.

How are these people held to account for their decisions?
The local CIL meetings are in public and their recommendations are passed to cabinet, which is also meets in public. The decisions relating to the “Reserve pot” and “Strategic pot” are taken in private but their recommendations are passed to cabinet, which meets in public.  It is rare for cabinet to overturn a decision by the CIL committees.  If a councillor wishes they may ask that a cabinet decision is reconsidered by the full council.

When is the next local CIL meeting for Weybridge?

The meeting – called the Local Planning Board meeting – is at 7.00 on Thursday, 15th March, that is this coming Thursday. It is a public meeting.

If you have other questions do contact us.

Cinema

The Elmbridge Liberal Democrat/Residents’ coalition put forward a proposal for the conversion of the Weybridge Hall into a cinema with flats above.  This was agreed by the council on 19 April this last.

Since our last report the cinema operator has been agreed and a planning application has been made.

Arts cinema would be a great addition to the evening economy with people typically adding a meal or drinks to the occasion and ample parking is available directly opposite.

One of the key aspects of the design is to ensure that the acoustics are perfect not just for the cinema goers but for the residents above and the neighbours surrounding the development.

Another aspect is the parking.  Minorca Road is a small cul de sac in the town centre.  It has had controlled parking for a number of years.  However, recently Surrey county has introduced free parking for non-permit holders for up to one hour.  This has had a detrimental affect on residents’ parking.

When Surrey county ran its recent parking review in Weybridge I had recommended that Minorca Road along with Limes Road had its controlled parking extended into the evening up to 10pm. However, a compromise time of 8pm was offered and in the final round Surrey county withdrew the offer.  Although the Conservatives still run the county administration I hope that we can persuade county to make the change in the next review.

Elmbridge Loos

When the Liberal Democrat/Residents administration formed, one task on the to-do list was to end the expensive contract for the unpopular automatic loos.  Weybridge had three automatic loos all within 100m of each other.  These will be removed, as will all similar loos across Elmbridge.  Subject to full council approval, the present automatic loos will be separated into two categories – those in town centres and those in leisure facilities.  The brick built loos will remain.

The loos in town centres will be replaced by communities loos schemes although after consultation with all of the Weybridge councillors it was decided that Weybridge did not need such a scheme.

In the leisure facilities it is suggested that, if there is a sufficient footfall, there should new loos like the one below.

Brooklands park, which does not have an automatic loo, could be one of the locations where loos are introduced and £70,000 has been allocated for the works required.

If you want further information click here.

Weybridge Registry Office, possible closure?

The registry office in Oatlands Drive may be closed and sold, with its functions moved to the upper floor of the library. This is to try to make better use of the library building and bring more footfall to Weybridge town centre. The other option is to leave it as it is. There are now 83 locations in Surrey where you can get married, so use of the present site for marriages has fallen. Any decision will be considered in February/March at the Surrey County Council cabinet meeting which is open to the public. We wonder if posing for photos on the library steps will have quite the same look at ones taken in the gardens of the registry office in Oatlands Drive. What do you think about this? Let us know.