This is the Liberal Democrat Manifesto for Elmbridge

Safer, Greener, Smarter

Environment
Climate Change is an existential threat to humankind.  We will put Elmbridge on a path to become carbon neutral and will adopt appropriate policies to this end. We will work with local businesses and residents to identify and implement smart and practical measures to achieve our goal. This work will bring tangible benefits to our neighbourhoods and to our personal well-being, too.

Traffic
We will begin to tackle traffic congestion and cut air pollution by installing 20mph in residential areas, improving public transport, discouraging engine idling near schools and elsewhere, and promoting walking and cycling options across Elmbridge.  We will install electric vehicle-charging points in our car parks, encourage them in any new developments and provide free parking for zero-emission cars. We will co-ordinate on and off-street parking, introduce smart parking charging and secure easy access to services.

Planning
We will defend the Green Belt and implement a “brownfield sites first” approach in the upcoming local plan.  We will campaign for infrastructure improvements to be in place for new developments. We will set targets for social housing and family starter homes to meet the needs of a younger generation.  We will encourage local forums to create neighbourhood plans. We will also promote the concentration of shops and services in town centres.

Crime
We will strengthen Neighbourhood Watch and anti-social behaviour teams, and work with Surrey Police to restore neighbourhood policing.  We will promote leisure, sport and social facilities for young people in all towns.

Democracy
We will ensure full transparency in both borough and county budget planning and spending, as well as in the conduct of planning applications – with full accountability to residents.  We support the introduction of an effective unitary authority by merging the county and borough levels into one authority in place of the current Surrey County Council and Surrey’s eleven boroughs.

Leisure                                                                                                                               We recognise the importance of leisure to both mental and physical wellbeing and also its economic benefits.  All leisure activities should be provided at affordable cost to participants, including free adult fitness equipment in every settlement. We will safeguard libraries and look to innovate their services.

Why aren’t we getting there? By train!

Monica Harding, Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Liberal Democrats in Esher & Walton writes:  

South Western Railway has become a joke in our constituency. Failings in our transport network mean we can’t get to work on time, our children can’t get to school, and yet fares have increased again by 3.2% in the New Year. We’re being asked to pay more for less.

It is not good enough. It is unacceptable that we are not able to get to London on time – the world capital of finance in one of the largest economies in the world. This is having a negative impact on earnings which are lost, enforced time off work, childcare extras, appointments missed and so on.

While the national government fails to get a grip on poor performance, Liberal Democrat MPs are stepping up and holding the rail companies to account. They believe that passengers must come first, not the investors in South Western Railway. They are speaking up for their constituents and offering solutions and they are pressing the government to take action.

Our neighbouring Lib Dem MP, Vince Cable (Twickenham) brought an emergency debate to parliament in December on the subject of South Western Railway and Ed Davey (Kingston and Surbiton) has set up an All Party Parliamentary Group to hold the train companies to account. In December Ed published a report ‘ Passengers Must Come First’ which spells out what needs to happen.

LibDem MPs have a reputation as good constituency MPs, working hard for their constituents and standing up for their interests. As the Liberal Democrat PPC in Esher and Walton I will work with Ed and Vince in pushing the solutions for trains in our constituency.

Here’s what needs to happen:

  • The national government must either remove SWR’s franchise or impose a new performance related contract, without negotiation.
  • SWR must not be rewarded for its manifest failure. A new contract or operator must be incentivized to put the passenger first, before shareholders. Profits should only be made once stretching performance targets are met.
  • Performance targets on SWR must include the existing Public Performance Measures improving to at least 90% on all routes by the end of 2018/20.
  • SWR and Network Rail must urgently develop new capability and capacity to manage disruptions better.
  • The Government must support immediate additional funding for essential investment.
  • Network Rail must reform its structure and culture so that managers are held accountable for performance.
  • Network Rail must be given more time to access safely the infrastructure to allow for basic maintenance and repairs.
  • The Department for Transport’s role in holding the rail companies to account should be independently assessed.

Want to know more? Follow me on twitter @monicabeharding, Facebook or at monicaharding.org and get updates as we demand better for Esher and Walton.

Parking Reporting Back

As mentioned in a previous post, this year Surrey has sought requests for on-street parking changes for the people of Weybridge.  A number of the requests were accepted for implementation – although more were rejected.

Dorchester, Gascoigne, Limes and Minorca
There were a few requests for residents’ permit schemes.  All bar Bloomfield Court were rejected.  Despite the petitions and emails to Surrey Highways about changes needed to parking in Dorchester, Gascoigne, Limes and Minorca Roads the Highways officers’ recommendation to Surrey’s Elmbridge Local Committee was not to make any changes in these streets at this time.

Before Monday’s local committee meeting Cllr Andrew Davis discussed the matter with various members of the committee including Cllr Tim Oliver, Weybridge’s Surrey county representative and County Cllr John O’Reilly, the chair of the local committee.

The two main reasons the highways officers put forward for taking no action now were: there was a comprehensive programme to deal with the parking problems of Weybridge holistically and the petitioned schemes were too large at this stage; and, they could cause displacement.

The counter argument put by Cllr Davis was that taking a holistic approach does not mean that all action has to wait until some comprehensive development occurs.  This wait could be three to five years or longer. And, since all parking regulations will cause displacement, a judgement has to taken as to the significance of the effects of the displacement.

At the meeting, recognising that due process did not allow for a final decision to be made in that meeting, Cllr Andrew Davis requested that ward and divisional councillors meet with the officers to review possibilities, with a view to a decision being made expeditiously under the chairman’s delegated authority.  This was agreed by the local committee, and the chairman said he would use his delegated authority if necessary.

What should happen
The councillors and officers will meet to decide what proposal to put forward and how the informal consultation should be undertaken.  If a consensus can be reached a proposal will be advertised early next calendar year.

Continued Pressure
Surrey can seem remote – because it is. With the best will in the world, it is difficult for Surrey to fully grasp the nuances of parking stress over time and distance.  The highways engineers bring a wealth of knowledge on the effectiveness of each type of measure but we must be continually engaged with Surrey’s parking implementation process if we are to share the scarce resource of parking spaces effectively.  The focus team will work with to you.

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.

Opinion & Analysis – ‘Brutopia’ – A Demonic Raabid Vision

By ‘Sam Vete’
The boundary of Esher and Walton reveals a peculiar ‘ménage à trois’ between Hampton Court and Thames Ditton; the historical figures Thomas More and Thomas Wolsey cohabit with Dominic Raab.
Thomas More wrote ‘Utopia’, criticising the politics of belligerent European nations while imagining an island nation fulfilling liberal political ideals. The English language and social thought were enriched. Wolsey and More collaborated to reject Lutheranism, putting all their eggs in Rome’s Catholic basket. They became devilled eggs when Henry VIII chose Anne Boleyn above religion.

David Starkey’s TV series erroneously portrays the Reformation as ‘Tudor brexit’ (peering penetratingly, troll-like, from behind a tree). Yes, Henry wanted to take control from Rome for selfish reasons. Similarly, hard-core brexiters want ‘Henry VIII powers’, passing laws ignoring EU liberalism. That does not parallel the historical events as Lutheranism spread throughout free-thinking states. Elizabeth I put things right in England!

Where do Raab’s demonic diatribes fit this religious triangle? His referendum sermons preached a fundamentalist belief in brexit; scorning basic economic theory and playground savvy – ‘united we stand, divided we fall’. A ‘Brutopia’ which ignores the detrimental implications of economic separatism and autocratic legislation, preferring cronyism to a fair, progressive broad church. Since brexit myths have been exposed as lies, many have changed their minds. Polls show Raab’s views are now seriously out of step with the UK majority. They have NEVER been in step with the pro-EU majority of his constituents. Brexit is not the dish-of-the-day, démodé!

Where else do Raab’s views clash with his constituents? In another modern religion – air travel. He ignores technological progress and the economic and ecological errors of building a Heathrow runway. Video conferencing replaces air travel. Businesses with an internet presence can make decisions quicker than ordering an airport taxi. Progress in flight technology means that runways can be shorter, lightweight carbon-fibre planes (powered by electricity rather than polluting kerosene) will carry more passengers, better booking systems will increase seat occupancy, and additional airport infrastructure will be a white elephant.
Similarly, Dominic Raab; his ‘Vim’ has been scrubbed out! Meanwhile, Theresa May is no Gloriana!

Air Quality in Oxshott High Street

It should be possible for more Danes Hill pupils to walk to school safely. If a second pedestrian crossing were added to Oxshott High Street near Danes Hill, this should enable more to walk to school safely.  This should also reduce rush-hour traffic and air pollution. Danes Hill School and other local schools have been urging parents not to drive their children to school. An extra pedestrian crossing will help. Danes Hill School is expanding, as our local population grows.  This crossing will only become more necessary over the coming years.

If if were legally possible for 44 ton lorries to be banned from Oxshott High Street, this would help to reduce traffic and reduce air pollution.  Oxshott High Street was never intended as a link between the M25 and the A3. This might be difficult to achieve, but options for ways forward might be considered.  It will take a reasonable amount of time for the newly designed A3/M25 link near Cobham to be agreed and constructed. Until it is finished, the traffic problems in Oxshott High Street will only increase.

If Oxshott High Street traffic is to be managed more effectively, the first step should be to measure the air quality.  If the air quality is measured, it should be clearer that improvements are needed to traffic management. Traffic management in Oxshott High Street should then become a higher priority.

 A written request sent by a local resident to the local Surrey County Councillor to begin air quality monitoring unfortunately received no response.  

Many residents are aware of a local residents’ petition to improve the traffic management and closely related question of air traffic management in Oxshott High Street.  This petition was submitted to the local Conservative Surrey County Councillor. Only one of the several well-researched recommendations from that petition were implemented.  Since this petition which was submitted several years ago, the problems have only accerbated. More needs to be done.

Where Charlwood Drive meets Oxshott High Street, there is a very uneven surface of the road.  When heavy vehicles cross this little patch of Oxshott High Street, lots of noise and vibration result.  Those who live in nearby homes feel these vibrations and hear the noise. This small patch of Oxshott High Street might need replacement.

Back to Fairmile, Oxshott and Stoke issues

Cycling in Oxshott, Fairmile and Stoke

CyclingEvery time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.  H G. Wells

Cllr John O’Reilly, who represents Hersham at Surrey and is also the chair of Surrey Elmbridge Local Committee, is known as a cyclist and is keen to make cycling safer in Elmbridge.  To do so, would require a vision of what we would want to achieve over time and a strategy to get us there.

The Liberal Democrats in Elmbridge want to pursue the the aim of making cycling safer to reduce air pollution, congestion and to help people become healthier.  Cycling also supports the local retail economy and makes our towns and villages stronger communities through the increase in serendipitous meetings.

Vision  An Elmbridge of physically, mentally and spiritually healthy people of all ages enjoying fresh air and a high quality of life.

Mission To enable all the people of Elmbridge – who wish to do so – to cycle safely.

Strategy
To achieve our mission our strategy is based on our being:

  • Utilitarian. We focus on a person’s ability to cycle from home to the key places that make their life work: their school or workplace, their station, their town centre. Therefore routes to these places are dealt with first.
  • Network based. We understand that the benefits are far greater if networks are created.  It is little use to have a safe stretch that suddenly ends in a dangerous spot – like Blundel Lane Bridge
  • Inclusive.  We bring as many agencies, organisations and groups and people together to compound the benefits and spread the message.
  • Incremental. Although we have a clear and ambitious vision we know that many small steps made by many people eases the journey
  • Anticipatory. We take advantage of possible opportunities that might arise by anticipating requirements before they occur
  • Communicative. We engage with everyone and keep them informed
  • Sustainable. We strive to be socially and environmentally sustainable in everything that we do.

What would you like to see in a cycling strategy?

The Dutch and Danes developed a comprehensive approach over many decades.  A good place to begin is to help secondary students below the age of seventeen to feel safe enough (along with their parents)  to cycle to school.  Yet on cycling out of Reeds School there is little evidence that cycling is a serious possibility.  Everything else being equal student who cycle achieve more than those who are driven to school.

When we see most parents cycling with their children to primary school rather than driving – like the Dutch and Danes – then we will know we’d have cracked it.  It is much quicker to cycle than walk – although walking can be fun too.

Blundels Lane Bridge

The By-election Conservative Manifesto says:

Improve Blundel Lane Railway Bridge: This vital link is a major hazard for pedestrians, cyclists and riders. As a first step, I will press for a feasibility study to be conducted to examine options for improving access and safety for all users of this bridge. 

This bridge has been like this for decades – although the road surface has deteriorated recently.  Funny how the Conservatives only noticed it after the Liberal Democrats mentioned it in a recent Focus after talking to people on the doorstep.

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.