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.

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.

 

Improving Oxshott High Street

Of course, no “A” class road should pass through any town or village – other countries, like Denmark, have completely removed such through traffic.  In the longer term Oxshott needs a by-pass.

The Liberal Democrats believe that we can make our Oxshott village centre a pleasant place to be in despite the amount of traffic that flows through the town.  We can shorten travel time for motorists, increase trade for our shops, and make the roads safer for our children and the elderly.  Enable more people to cycle, which will itself also reduce congestion.  Allow people with disabilities and the infirm to navigate their way through the traffic and reduce their stress.

Conventional safety experts will tell you that we need traffic lights, roundabouts, tactile bubble paving and a vast array of signs but it is simply not true.

The following video shows what can be done with the will and the imagination.   If the main road is to be remodelled let us make sure that it is designed to the highest standards.  Don’t let the naysayers sell us short.

If Poynton can achieve these excellent results then surely Oxshott can do so too.  What are your views?

One of the advantages that Poynton had was that the highway authority and the planning authority were the same – Cheshire East Council.  Our planning authority – Elmbridge – and our highway authority – Surrey – are separate but that does not mean that they cannot work together to provide the outcomes we need.

The problems can occur when changes are proposed and there is no discussion between the relevant parties.

For other Fairmile, Oxshott and Stoke items click here.

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.

Green Belt in Long Ditton

Long Ditton councillors, Shweta Kapadia, Barry Fairbank and Neil Houston wish to dispute the statement made by Hinchley Wood/Long Ditton Green Belt group that they are doing nothing to protect the Green Belt.  All three of them are working hard and will continue to work hard to protect the Green Belt. All councillors recognize the need for housing but do not agree with building on the Green Belt.

Every single councillor in Elmbridge is against building on the Green Belt.  An application for over 1,000 homes in Green Belt in Walton was unanimously refused by the Residents’ Association (RA), Tory and Lib Dem councillors.  The borough has poured vast resources into defending the Drake Park Appeal last November to defend Elmbridge Green Belt. But the national government has ignored the will of the people and the borough and the application will now be determined by a Conservative Secretary of State – till recently Sajid Javid and now James Brokenshire. The Drake Park decision was however ‘deferred’ only a few days ago until after the Elmbridge Election.  Just weeks ago Sajid Javid allowed 300 homes in the Green Belt in Effingham, Guildford, although the parish and borough refused permission. There is an appeal still outstanding for Wisley (2,000 homes) which will similarly be determined by a Conservative government minister.

Are local Conservatives going to defy their national government and not build on the Green Belt or in fact not build the 12,500 homes this Conservative government wants to build in Elmbridge? Conservative councillors in other Surrey districts have allowed building on the Green Belt. Tandridge Council is planning a whole new village in the Green Belt. Guildford has released land in the Green Belt. Are Elmbridge Conservatives going to be the only ones in the country to defy their Government?

Only the Liberal Democrats and the Residents’ Association councillors can defy this Conservative government. The Residents’ Association / Liberal Democrat coalition administration has done just that: they have lobbied and put considerable pressure on Dominic Raab and Philip Hammond, Elmbridge’s two MPs. But being Conservative both of them are toeing the national party line and will not say that the Green Belt should not be built on even though they know the borough’s residents are against it. The RAs / Lib Dem administration has also protested to Sajid Javid highlighting the deficit in infrastructure provision in Elmbridge. The administration responded robustly against the large amount of housing that this Conservative government is attempting to force on Elmbridge.

Regards the Elmbridge consultation in 2016/17 on the new Local Plan and Green Belt review – the facts of the matter are: All Elmbridge councillors voted UNANIMOUSLY for the consultation on the Strategic Options which took place in December 2016. The minutes of the meeting of full council held in December 2016 clearly show that.

Until Tory politics on the Local Plan started, Tories, RAs and Liberal Democrats worked on this together. There are the Conservatives and three RAs and only one Liberal Democrat on the Local Plan Working Group so the Tories have a strong voice on this working group and they agreed to the consultation.

There is a large amount of mis-information circulating. Since the public consultation in December 2016 Elmbridge Borough Council has not produced any specific proposals in relation to the Local Plan and there has been no vote in the council on building on the Green Belt for the Conservatives to have opposed it.

You have seen it before …

Is this true? Not in Elmbridge it isn’t.  Nor is it true that the Liberal Democrats or the Residents’ parties plan to build these houses.  Yet this is a claim the local Tories have made in their manifesto.

Don’t be taken in by what the Tories are putting in their election material on the Green Belt.  They have claimed that the current Lib Dem/Residents coalition administration is proposing to build over 5,000 homes on the Green Belt, and that this was opposed by the Conservatives.  This statement is utterly untrue.  An intentional untrue statement is a lie.

The facts are:

  • The Conservatives voted for the Strategic Options consulted on last year which were unanimously agreed by the whole Council, including all the Conservative councillors.
  • The Conservative national government requires the borough to plan for the building of up to 12,000 extra homes in Elmbridge.

Elmbridge Borough Council has not produced any specific proposals in relation to the local plan and there has been no vote in the Council on building on the Green Belt for the Conservatives to have opposed it.

The national government demanded that Elmbridge Borough follow a consultation process and this process was unanimously agreed by all parties in the full council in December 2016: all the Conservative councillors; all the Liberal Democrat councillors; and, all the Residents’ parties’ councillors.

All councillors agreed that only by acting together can we defend the people of Elmbridge against this onslaught from the Conservative national government.

To this end the leaders of all three parties on the Council wrote to the Secretary of State with a common position protesting against the national government’s proposals.

Liberal Democrat and Residents Association Councillors continue to oppose development on the Green Belt and continue to lobby and protest to the Conservative national government against its proposals for house building.

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.

Parking and New Developments

Granting planning permissions to applications with insufficient parking has become a big issue in recent years.  The picture above shows office parking which could soon become gardens for four-bedroomed houses – leaving little space for parking cars.

Although I have campaigned on this since becoming a borough councillor, it has taken me a while to persuade my Conservative party colleagues that has the power to stop such developments if it chooses to do so.

The convention was that as Surrey county is the highway authority for Elmbridge if county decides that a planning application has no significant impact on transport and if that was the only reason for refusal then the borough would have to permit the development.

My contention is that Surrey county only considers two aspects: highway safety; and, impact on congestion.  The third aspect: parking is considered by county to be a borough concern.

Yet my committee often voted to permit planning applications that clearly had significant, if not severe, impact on the availability to park locally.

Recently two planning applications have come before the borough’s south area planning sub-committee (which serves Weybridge) which, if permitted, could create further demand for on-street parking in areas of particular parking stress.  The first application was for a reduction in off-street parking for the conversion offices into four proposed four-bedroomed houses in Thames Street; and the second was, again, the conversion of offices into flats in Baker Street.  In both cases I proposed that the applications be refused on parking grounds and fortunately my colleagues agreed.

Planning Compliance

One of the items on the Liberal Democrat/Residents administration’s to do list was to deal with the number of cases of planning infringement.  We launched the planning compliance team with new resources to ensure greater planning complaince

In the last calendar year 336 planning compliance investigations where closed.  Of these investigations:

  • 167 were found not to be a breach of planning control
  • 62 had the breach resolved due to borough intervention
  • 43 were matters referred on to county, building control, Environment Agency, Environmental Health/Care etc.
  • 40 resulted in grants of planning permission
  • 14 were found to be duplicates of existing cases due to variation of address description
  • 10 were closed on expediency grounds

In the same period:

  • 4 Enforcement Notices were served,
  • 4 Planning Contravention Notices issued,
  • 2 Breach of Condition Notices served,
  • 1 Temporary Stop Notice issued,
  • 2 High Court Injunctions granted.

If you want to have a matter deal with by the planning compliance team please complete this form online as it helps reduce potential duplication of cases.  For more background information click here.