Weybridge Hall

The Elmbridge Liberal Democrat 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 year.

This would be a great addition to the evening economy with people typically adding a meal or drinks to the occasion.  Ample parking is directly opposite.  The intention is for the cinema to run throughout the day – running less mainstream movies for the young and old.

The specific tenure of the flats will change over time but they will be part of our programme to meet our social housing needs.  There will be five or six self-contained flats for the upper floors, to be either affordable units, temporary homeless accommodation or general needs affordable housing.

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.

There are several steps still to go.  The operators of the cinema will need to be decided.  Planning permission too is required and, all being well, the construction will begin in the spring.

Weybridge Spine Cycleway

We have been promoting a cycleway through Weybridge for a number of years and despite many setbacks, practical steps are now being made.  The cycleway will link Byfleet to Weybridge and pass by M&S, Tescos, The Heights, The London and Brooklands Museum,  Brooklands College, Heathside School, St George’s School, the station and the town centre, The cycleway is in three parts:

  • The southern end meets the Byfleet cycleway at the Elmbridge/Woking border at Brooklands and passes through the park, past the Brooklands museum, alongside the railway to the station. It is proposed that the section from the Mercedes Benz world and the Heights to the station will be well lit.
  • The middle part will travel parallel to Heath Road and via an upgraded Springrose path and Springfield Lane to Monument Green
  • The northern part will link Monument Green with the Thames Pathway and Wey Navigation Path

The southern section is being developed first.  This and the middle section require access to common land and therefore, subject to public consultation which ends on 27 November, the permission of the Secretary of State.  The Elmbridge Countryside Consultative Group has already endorsed the scheme.

Alongside this various land permissions and cycle orders are required to accompany the business case the Elmbridge and Surrey have to make to unlock the allocated local enterprise partnership funding for the project.

The aim is to finalise the project’s business case in December 2017 in order to submit the application in January 2018 for opening in 2019/20.

Homes for the future

The housing crisis in Britain has become an emergency. For far too long Britain has built many fewer homes than we need; unless we build enough to meet demand, year after year, we will find that housing costs rise further out of reach.

The perverse position is that we already have enough bedrooms to house everyone.  Properties are left empty and others have more bedrooms than people.  The mix of housing is totally out of kilter.  We have to rebalance the supply of housing to reflect the needs of our people today and for the decades to come.

Just to catch up with what we need to today we have to build 300,000 homes a year – almost double the current level.  These new houses must be sustainably planned to ensure that excessive pressure is not placed on existing infrastructure.

On a national scale we would create at least ten new garden cities in providing tens of thousands of high-quality new zero carbon homes, with gardens and shared green space, jobs, schools and public transport.  Only when homes are built alongside transport, education and health facilities can communities develop robustly.

On a local scale the national government should stop undermining local government.   The Liberal Democrats would empower localities to look after the needs of their own population and their own priorities.

Such action would include:

  • The national government fully funding the right to buy social housing programme.  In other words, if the national government maintains the right to buy for tenants, the discount between the market price and the price offered to the tenant is paid for by the national government.  This sum could then be used to build more social housing.
  • Ending the national government’s restriction of local government borrowing for housing.  This would greatly increase the supply of social housing to meet local needs.
  • Requiring local plans to take into account at least 15 years of future housing need for the indigenous population – focusing on long-term development and community needs.
  • Improving renting by banning lettings fees for tenants, capping up-front deposits, and increasing minimum standards in rented homes.
  • Promoting longer tenancies of three years or more with an inflation-linked annual rent increase built in, to give tenants security and limit rent hikes.
  • Strengthening local government powers to enforce higher quality standards in private rented properties.
  • Improving protections against rogue landlords through mandatory licensing and allow access for tenants to the database of rogue landlords and letting agents.
  • Giving tenants first refusal to buy their rented home, if their landlord decides to sell during their tenancy, at the market rate.

In the longer term the provision of extra homes would be assisted by: gradually removing the capital gains tax exemption on domestic property; reforming and gradually eliminating stamp duty; and, introducing a land value tax.  These actions alone will begin to nudge people into considering their house as a home and not as their main investment opportunity.  Not only would this allow people to move more frequently to new homes that suit their needs but would help the economy by rebalancing our savings into investing into industry and commerce.

The national government and the media often blame nimbies and local planning for the lack of housing in our country but it is the national government’s taxation and spending policy that stops local governments like Elmbridge planning for building the homes needed for healthy communities.

Time to Speak Out against Domestic Abuse

A free workshop is open to you in Esher at 12-2pm, on Tuesday, 28 November.
STOP ABUSE

A relationship is considered abusive when one partner tries to dominate, threaten or bully the other, either mentally or physically.

Young people and children suffer hugely when they witness such behaviour and this is also considered to be a form of domestic abuse.

The stress endured by people in abusive relationships can deeply affect their self-esteem and their health, often resulting in absence from work, or even the loss of their job as a result.

Sadly, domestic abuse is still considered by many to be a taboo subject, which means that those who suffer it are too ashamed or embarrassed to seek help. With this in mind, the Elmbridge Community and Safety Partnership and Surrey Police are keen to encourage victims to speak out and to take advantage of the services available to them.

To raise awareness locally, a free event is taking place at 12-2pm, on Tuesday, 28 November at the Civic Centre in Esher. There will be a short dramatised production by Alter Ego, exploring the impact of domestic abuse, as well as informative talks and material. To register for the event: Surrey Domestic Abuse Helpline: 01483 776822

Late Night Licence Application – Weybridge

The premises,  previously Sullivan’s Wine Bar, is proposed as a restaurant/entertainment place selling alcohol.  It would be open past 11pm

There is a notice in the window asking for local objectors to write to:
Borough of Elmbridge
Civic Centre
1 High Street
ESHER
KT10 9SD

(email or phone is not sufficient – they will only take notice of written objections)

Weybridge station – Entrance closed

The entrance for the upper car park to Weybridge has been closed.  The gates were sadly padlocked  today and we understand may have been that way for the last  two weeks.

There was no sign indicating the closure. Just inside the locked gates was one to say it would be open 10am to 4pm.  It wasn’t.

Today, in response to an inquiry of South Western Railway, there was no direct answer to the question,  ‘why is it closed?   We were told that an answer from the station manager, Peter Burn, should be given within 20 days.

Income inequality, whose word do you trust

Policy Exchange

Founded by Nick Boles, Michael Gove and Francis Maude. To get a feel for the enthusiasm of this merry camp of dreamers, you need only read Gove’s sadly-deleted and somewhat hyperbolic testimony on their website: “Policy Exchange were a tiny band of guerrillas, partisans in the hillside fighting a lonely campaign, but now, that tiny guerrilla band has turned into the most formidable regular army on the thinktank battlefield.”

If Reform is the Greg Dyke of right wing think tanks, Policy Exchange is undoubtedly the John Birt: “blue sky” doesn’t come close. Reform’s ideas might annoy everyone except those who don’t like big government, but Policy Exchange regularly sets the bar higher and manages to get on their wick too. If you want a good example, think of the Police and Crime Commissioner Elections, described by then “Head of Crime and Justice” Blair Gibbs as “the boldest reform to policing since the 1960s”.

Gibbs is a classic Tory think tank wonk: Oxford University Conservative Association, stints at Reform and the Taxpayers’ Alliance, MP’s researcher, Policy Exchange, and now he’s working for BoJo. An impressive CV which suggests a somewhat detached relationship with the practicalities of the field in which he’s an “expert”. He was on Twitter, but described himself as one of the “four horsemen” of police reform, and this provoked such a furious reaction he had to leave. Let’s face it, if you’re a copper who risks his life every time he goes to work and who’s about to be hit by Government cuts, that’s probably not the sort of thing you want to read from a twenty-something policymaker.

(Incidentally, this is a common complaint about think tanks – salaries tend to top out pretty early, which means their employees go and do something else (usually working as Spads). To quote Zoe Williams: “It is noticeable […] how often you’re told by a 28-year-old that care of patients with Alzheimer’s can be managed by text message and ‘parenting classes can improve community engagement and lead to local wellbeing’”.)

Anyway, the PCC plan has been hit by a number of setbacks. First, it’s never a good idea to hold an election when you don’t know who the candidates are or indeed what they’re standing for. Then you’ve got the Paris Brown affair and now this extraordinary freedom of speech horrorshow, which is a whole blog post in itself. One of the companies to fund Policy Exchange is Deloitte, which issued press releases saying PCCs must “get to grips with current policing operations” and “focus on reforming pay, pensions and paperwork, the financial management of their force, and cutting costs.” Hard to think which firm they could hire to achieve that.

Health Centre Meetings

Two open meetings were held at a packed St James Church on 16th October to provide the Weybridge community with information on local health services following the destruction of the health centre by fire.

St James’ Parish Church, packed out.

A panel composed of representatives from the local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), NHS Property Services, our two GP practices, and Central Surrey Health opened the meeting with a presentation on the status of temporary services locally.  After this, the floor was opened to local residents to ask questions and make comments.

The NHS panel

Temporary provision

The health centre site has now been cleared of debris and about 20 portakabins are being installed to accommodate Church Street and Rowan Tree practices, including Treatment Room services. These are likely to be open to patients by the end of November.  There will also be a Lloyds Pharmacy on the site some time in December.

 

The number of temporary buildings is restricted to allow space for the rebuilding project. A  Walk-In centre service will not be available on-site. The hospital based Walk-In centres at Woking, St Peter’s and Ashford are continuing to provide this service for the time being. Walk-in centre staff from Weybridge have been deployed to these centres.

Residents commented on the difficulty of accessing these sites for Walk-In services owing to heavy traffic and poor public transport links.

 

Permanent site

Despite assurances that there will be a permanent health centre with two GP practices on the site, the CCG Chairman also said the new provision would not necessarily offer the same scope of services as before the fire. The panel emphasised that public opinion and local needs would be taken into account in the design of the new health centre, but said no guarantees could be given that the Walk-In centre would be restored. Unsurprisingly, many members of the community present expressed their concern and consternation at this.

Local Councillor, Andrew Davis, is clear as to the Liberal Democrat standpoint: “We must ensure that the services we want in Weybridge are kept in Weybridge. Not only is it important to protect the services we had, we must also take this opportunity to secure better services for the future.”

In response to a question, the meetings were told that there would be about the same number of car parking spaces at the site as before.

Fit for the future

The CCG Chairman told the meeting that current government health policy is for primary and community care to be at the centre of local health services.  He stressed that the North West Surrey Clinical Commissioning Group share the goal of the NHS National Strategy to provide a service which runs 7 days a week, from 8am – 8pm (reduced hours at weekends, depending on local needs).  Reducing pressure on hospitals is a central part of the NHS National  Strategy.  To help achieve this locally, a fund will be made available from the NHS from mid-2018 to increase the number of GP appointments offered across NW Surrey from 1,500,000 to 2,500,000 a year.

The meeting was informed that the vision for Weybridge was to provide ‘a new service model, fit for the future’ in line with that provided by Woking Community Hospital. The model ‘hub’ service provision is up and running in Woking thanks to new technology, enhanced facilities and an online booking process.

“We can’t wait to get back to Weybridge”

The GPs representing the two practices at the meeting said, “We can’t wait to get back to Weybridge.” They reassured those present that despite a workforce crisis in general practice, new doctors were being recruited to fill gaps, a phone consultation service would be available and that a newly installed phone system will give better patient access to the GP practices.

If you would like to be kept informed about the future design of the new healthcare facility or be involved in a patient consultation group, contact:

NHS North West Surrey Clinical Commissioning Group   Tel: 01372 232463,

email: nwsccg.comms@nhs.net

Further information can be found on www.nwsurreyccg.nhs.uk

cc17.10.17

They need us more than we need them – Yeah right

Apart from Britain, there are 27 states in the European Union.  Most of them have very little trade with us: we import only 2% of Croatian exports or 3% of Bulgarian exports.

These countries will have next to no downside in driving a very hard bargain indeed. Each of them have a veto on the final deal.  Every time you hear a commentator or a Brexiter talking about German industry or the Irish economy remember that they are only two votes out of 27.  Brexit is not even an issue in most countries of the union.  As far as they are concerned the British have lost touch with the real world.

No deal better than a bad deal?

This, of course, is obvious – if the definition “bad” is a deal that is so bad it is worse than no deal.  But for a deal to be worse than no deal it would have to be so cataclysmically bad that neither the British government or the European government would propose it.

Such a bad deal would have to be proposed by the Americans, Chinese or Russian governments who must be beside themselves with glee at the mess that a small group of extremists have managed to conjure up for the British people.