Weybridge Town Meeting

On Monday 2 July, about 60 people met in the Weybridge Centre for our first open town meeting.

The idea behind this meeting was to provide a space where issues, suggestions and improvements to the town could be discussed. And where the agenda was compiled by the participants and not by local politicians or interest groups.

And that’s what happened!

How did it work?

People suggested topics which were captured on a chart: 25 topics in under 5 minutes. Too many for a meeting but there were overlaps and obvious connections. We bundled together similar topics and we got down to six clusters.

What did we discuss?

People formed groups to tackle the topic they were most interested in and the meeting set off to have conversations about:

  • Traffic and parking
  • The High Street and development
  • The Weybridge allotments development proposal

What the groups came up with

Traffic and Parking

Participants described a range of interconnected traffic and parking issues, often differing from road to road:

  • residents disrupted by school run traffic and parking
  • residents not finding overnight parking in roads with limited capacity
  • dangerous rat run traffic through residential roads
  • insufficient daytime parking for workers and shoppers
  • intrusive town centre through traffic.

The group welcomed the Weybridge Society and WTBG research into worker parking needs. They agreed that it needs to be augmented with traffic flow research to inform conclusions. They felt that more off-street parking is needed, not necessarily multi-storey, and liked the idea of worker park and ride from Brooklands.

Participants agreed that a wider strategic review of parking and traffic is needed. The review must reflect the varying needs of residents in different roads.  It must also address the imperative of managing rat run traffic.

Other suggested initiatives included better safer cycle routes and footpaths; schools doing more to encourage children to walk and cycle to school; and creating more pedestrian-friendly areas around the town centre. The end of Baker Street could be pedestrianised, at least at weekends.

The High Street and development

  • Baker St pedestrianisation came up in this group and was viewed positively
  • the town’s conservation areas are treated inconsistently and Quadrant Green is neglected. Both could be used better and made more attractive.
  • the High St could be reshaped to allow for safer cycle passage and a general reduction in speed would enable better flow of pedestrians
  • there is a need for more seating in the High Street
  • opening up High Street to the park and allotments would link existing amenities and increase use.

The group noted that Weybridge benefits from having most of its public services located in the town centre.

The group also referred to two existing townscape projects. There is the Weybridge Society initiative on the town centre, which is being branded WRAP – Weybridge Rebuild and Advance Project. And there are plans for improvements to pavement and street scene at the east end of the High Street, from Elmgrove Road to Waitrose.

The Weybridge allotments development proposal

  • there was general agreement to resist the sale of any part of the allotments by the Weybridge Charity. “When they’re gone they’re gone!”
  • the Trustees’ plan for raising funds through sale and development seems to be poorly thought out and there are alternative options which should be considered.
  • the allotments need to be better publicised and integrated into town activities.

ACTION: Vicki Macleod to support groups to engage with the Trustees and find an alternative to the proposed sale

We didn’t get around to discussing Policing, residents’ safety, disabled access, or affordable housing as topics in their own right but they were all mentioned in the course of conversations. These will be put back on the table at a follow up meeting in September.

Getting to grips with parking – the basics

Residents’ concern

As a recently elected councillor, I find that parking is one of the top topics that people raise with me. Issues I have been dealing with both before the election and now are:

  • unreasonable and dangerous parking by parents around one particular school in my ward
  • lack of access for waste removal from homes due to inconsiderate parking in narrow residential streets
  • Monday to Friday parking restrictions (single yellow lines) applying to Bank Holidays, not just working Mondays
  • severe parking congestion in the evening in town centre streets – even those with a CPZ
  • absence of turning space at the end of cul de sacs

What to do?

Some of these problems are matters of making information more widely available and better signposting: e.g. Mondays to Friday restrictions apply on Bank Holidays throughout Elmbridge. Or proactively letting diners know there is free evening parking available in Elmbridge car parks. These can be just 5 minutes away from their restaurant destination.

Taking it further

Some parking transgressions are due to lack of consideration or plain selfishness. The net result is that local people suffer at the hands of the inconsiderate!

When appeals for considerate behaviour fall on deaf ears, we need to explore what actions accountable authorities should take. And when this avenue is exhausted, we need to explore how the situation can be transformed.

Improvements in Weybridge

Over the following months your local Lib Dem councillors will be supporting local residents seeking improved CPZ timings in town centre streets. We will also be seeking to ensure that residents in narrow roads do receive bin collections, undisrupted by poor parking. And finally we will be exploring imaginative ways of securing clear pavements and safe parking around problem schools.

 

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.

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.

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.

Grants for business

Elmbridge borough has grants to aid businesses  via the Elmbridge Civic Improvement Fund.  Weybridge is the biggest claimer for funds in Elmbridge.  The aim is to support the growth of the local economy.  Funding can help you business with:

  • Shop fronts and signage
  • marketing and promotion
  • town centre events
  • streetscape improvements
  • learning, skills and training

Contact 01932 474 216, email business@elmbridge.gov.uk or click here.