Housing

This is what it says in the Conservative manifesto:

Build Affordable Housing: recognise the need to build more affordable homes in Elmbridge. I pledge to work with my colleagues to identify sites where additional properties can be constructed without negatively impacting existing communities.

A pleasant sentiment but words butter no parsnips. This century Elmbridge borough did not build a single home.  So the Conservatives have had plenty of time to do something.

But once Lib Dems formed an administration the action began, three projects were begun in Cobham, Ditton and Weybridge.  Parallel work has been undertaken to set up a borough owned housing company.  As opportunities arise new social and affordable housing will be built to suit the needs of each community.

Although the national government says we have to allow more housing in Elmbridge.  The bigger problem is that Elmbridge has a skewed range of housing that is ill suited to the needs of its people.  We have a large number houses with six or more bedrooms but far to few one and two bedroom flats and smaller three bedroom houses.

Whilst some people might aspire to one day owning a six bedroomed house, very few people can consider a six bedroom house as a starter home.  People who are born in Oxshott, Fairmile and Stoke d’Abernon should have a reasonable chance to find a home locally to buy or rent and not have to emigrate out of Elmbridge to find a home of their own.

 

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

By-Election in Oxshott and Stoke d’Abernon Ward

Why was the by-election called?  Put simply it was because the incumbent, Cllr James Vickers, resigned.  Why would a councillor resign just after the local elections?  Of course, James knows but was his reason for resigning personal as the Conservatives say?  Reports say not.

First, a little background.  In the election of 2016 all the councillors were up for election at once.  This was because of boundary changes.

Oliver Chappell had the highest result so his term of office was set for four years.

 

Andrew Burley and James Vickers tied at second place.  So to determine whose office would last for three years and whose would last for two years, lots had to be drawn.

 

James Vickers expressed the wish that his term last only two years but there was a legal requirement to draw lots. James won the lot so he was due to serve for three years.  In other words until May 2019

 

It was clear that James would rather serve for a shorter term and to do so he could have resigned in May.  This would have avoided the considerable cost of the by-election around £8,000 to £10,000 for the borough and perhaps £3,000 for the candidates.

Second, the election in May resulted in gains for the Liberal Democrats, net gains for the Conservatives, losses for five of residents’ parties and a wipe out for one residents’ party.  The Conservatives totalled 24 councillors as did the Lib Dems and Residents.    Neither side had a working majority.  The Leader of the borough council, Stuart Selleck of Molesey Residents’ Party, chose to resign.

Without a working majority the new Conservative administration could not guarantee to pass their policies.  The Liberal Democrats believe that such an arrangement would have been in the interests of the people of Elmbridge.  To make the governing of the borough as smooth as possible the party leader agreed a protocol, the details of which are here  Operational Protocol 2018 19.

We, in the Liberal Democrats, expected business as usual.  We were newly in opposition.  However, it quickly became clear that internal squabbles of the Conservative party could not be contained in private.

A small point.  Usually, when the new cabinet is formed they sit in the front benches – as in the national parliament.  But when the council met for the first time some cabinet members had been bounced to the back benches by other factions in the Conservative party.

But then came the bombshell. At the beginning of every year, as each committee meets, the members elect the chair and vice-chair of that committee.  Normally the nominee of the majority party is elected unopposed.  Occasionally there is a contest between the parties for their nominees which is duly won by the majority party.  But this year, in one committee, the Conservatives proposed two councillors for chair.

When the presiding officer sought nominees, Cllr James Vickers nominated Cllr Dorothy Mitchell of Cobham.  Then Cllr James Browne of Cobham nominated Cllr Barry Cheyne of Oatlands.  The councillors from the other parties were dumbfounded. The staff found it difficult to mask their own surprise in their stringent professional presentation of independence.

Cllr Barry Cheyne won the vote and Cllr Dorothy Mitchell stormed out of the room and did not reappear for the remainder of the meeting.  Not long after this meeting James Vickers resigned.

However the Conservative try and present it in public, the Conservatives are clearly not happy bunnies.  By all accounts James Vickers resigned “on a matter of principle”.  He did not like the direction of travel of the new Conservative administration.  Not so much the policies but the general conduct of business within the Conservative Party.

Now you have a chance to make a real difference and vote for Dorothy Ford and the Liberal Democrats.

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.

Housing in Oxshott

This is what it says in the Conservative manifesto:

Build Affordable Housing: recognise the need to build more affordable homes in Elmbridge. I pledge to work with my colleagues to identify sites where additional properties can be constructed without negatively impacting existing communities.

Sounds good but why are these places left to rot for decades?  This publicly owned land in Waverley Road has been a housing opportunity for decades for decades but the Conservatives have produced nothing.

Elmbridge gives back after waste contract problems

The Council’s approach

Not many people know, but after the problematic start to waste collection under the new contract this time last year, the contractor Amey has had to return nearly £500,000 to Elmbridge Borough.

The Council decided that the money returned should not go into the general Council fund, but should in some way go directly to the residents of Elmbridge.  Some was earmarked as direct compensation to people who had paid extra for garden waste removal services as they were most affected – as a group. These people received a two-month payment holiday – which took up £160,000.

Community Green Infrastructure Improvement Fund

Of the remaining money, £100,000 will be allocated to the creation of a Community Green Infrastructure Improvement Fund.  This is designed to enable community groups to bid for small grants, against pre-defined criteria, to carry out green infrastructure improvements. The scheme would allow one-off project funds to be spent in a way that encourages community buy in and ownership and ensures that the money goes towards initiatives important to the communities themselves.

It is proposed that criteria could include community involvement, volunteering, legacy, sustainability, biodiversity, more attractive and green borough etc. For example:

A community group could put in a bid to make environmental improvements to their local street scene, such as setting up an In Bloom scheme as at Cobham Station.  The likely amount of grant will be up to £15K per project, to allow communities to create projects with significant impact.

Examples of such activity can be found on page 46 of the Agenda reports pack for the Cabinet meeting held on 6th June this year.  .

Do let us know your ideas for Weybridge.

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.

Weybridge Town Meeting

Weybridge is due to hold its first post-election Town Meeting – at the Weybridge Centre for the Community, Churchfield Road on Monday 2nd July at 7.30.

We will look at

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

The goals of this and future meetings is to encourage greater involvement from people in Weybridge with a view to giving them a voice in how the town develops physically and socially.  We know many people love our town, but without a proper vision we might not like how it develops in the future. So this is a chance to come together to create our own Better Weybridge.

Resident of Weybridge, 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.

This meeting is the realisation of one of Vicki Macleod’s election commitments.  Vicki is the newly elected Liberal Democrat Councillor for Weybridge Riverside.

She says “I would like this to be the first of many such meetings where residents and others with an interest in how Weybridge develops come together to share ideas and engage actively with shaping the future of Weybridge.”