Reshaping Weybridge Town Centre

A community hub in Weybridge

At the recent Portmore Park and District Residents Association meeting, Weybridge Surrey County Councillor, Tim Oliver spoke about ideas for developing Weybridge town centre. Surrey County and Elmbridge Borough officers and NHS property services have already met to talk about creating a Weybridge Hub on the Weybridge Hospital site.  .

Services on the site?

So far, we have no firm idea of what is meant by a hub on this site. Current thinking includes relocating Weybridge library and Weybridge Centre for the Community to the hospital site. Of course this will be alongside the redevelopment of the site for GP practices and community health services.

And then?

Some people are also in favour of creating more town centre parking spaces by paving over the old bowling green at the entrance to Churchfields Recreation Ground (Park).

So far, there has been no mention of where the much used and highly valued Children’s Centre fits into the ideas being discussed.

We will watch and report on developments.

Let us know what you think

We also invite people to let us know how they would like to see our town centre develop.  You can do this in person and hear others’ views at our next town meeting on Thursday 11th October, starting 7.30 pm, at the Centre for the Community, Churchfields Place.

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.

 

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.

RTPI awards Elmbridge’s Planning Services

rtpi_awards_for_research_excellence_logoPlanning Services team has been ‘highly commended’ in the Local Authority Team of the Year category at the 2015 Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) Planning Excellence Awards on Monday 6 July.

The demand for planning services in Elmbridge has increased rapidly in recent years.  Yet the resources available to deal with such growth has been restrained.  So it is gratifying for Elmbridge planning to be awarded such an important national award.

Good practice in a diverse number of areas, the delivery of a large supermarket and listed school scheme and improved process to provide excellent customer service, were just some of the reasons that the judges deemed Elmbridge ‘highly commended’.  The judges were also impressed with the team’s engagement with the traveller community, enabling this group to be included in planning decisions, and its commitment to employee development.

Earlier in the year, Elmbridge’s Land Charges team won an award at the 2015 Local Land Charges Awards and Elmbridge’s Building Control team was successful in the Local Authority Building Control South East Region Awards Ceremony in Brighton in June.

Elmbridge Sport hub EIA

environmental impact assessmentAfter the decision by the full Planning Committee regarding the sports hub, we have now received the outcome from the Secretary Of State regarding the need for an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and he has decided that an EIA is required.  The essence of what the Secretary Of State said is:

“Whilst this is a finely balanced case, the proposal does raise concerns to suggest the potential for significant environmental impacts through surface disturbance of the former landfill site, uncertainty about the extent of the contamination of the site and the potential for gas migration to both the River Thames and nearby residential properties.”

Whilst the borough is disappointed by this decision, especially as the issues mentioned above have already been addressed in the planning report, Elmbridge has begun on the EIA exercise as promised at the Committee meeting.  The EIA will be the subject of public consultation and will be presented to the Planning Committee in due course.  I will let you know timescale as soon as I have it.

More housing control from Westminster

Housing benefitsNational governments often claim that they support local democracy; however, the evidence is often otherwise.

Take housing benefit – part of the £12bn in welfare savings is to be made by the national government instructing boroughs to reduce their rents.  This will save the national government £1.4bn in housing benefit by reducing rents paid to social landlords.  The Institute of Fiscal Studies estimates that this will mean a loss of £2.5bn to boroughs which could be made available for new housing.  Overall government loses out but the centre gains and localities lose.

This measure will have the net effect of reducing the provision of housing.  If we want more housing where it is needed than we need to look closely at:

  • Ensuring that all places have a duty to house their own in their area. A village would have to build houses to enable anyone born in the village to live there – a town likewise.
  • Replacing business rates and council tax with land tax. This would end the tax on improvements and focus the tax on the value of the land instead.
  • Removing stamp duty on house purchases and fund this change by reducing the capital gains exemption for domestic properties. This would allow people to move house more frequently and encourage people to spread their investments to the betterment of the economy.

If locals had to provide homes for their own the number of houses would increase without having to change the planning laws and/or the national government poking its nose into areas where it is not wanted or needed.

More planning control from Westminster

brownfieldNational governments often claim that they support local democracy.  However the evidence is otherwise.

The recent announcement that Westminster will change the law to allow developers to build on brownfield land without planning permission is a case in point.  Taken at face value it means that any new development on land that has or has had a building on it will be allowed regardless of any local planning law or guidelines.  Effectively this means that there will be little or no protection against poorly conceived or designed development.

This is another case of Westminster meddling in local affairs.  Just imagine what the Westminster politicians would say if Brussels said Britain must have the same planning law as Romania.

Update on Cowey Sale Loos

Cowey Sale loosAs part of the Walton Bridge rebuild, Surrey undertook to build a new cafe and loo facility on Cowey Sale.  The building was built on behalf of Surrey by Costain and before it was handed over to Elmbridge our staff found that there were a number of outstanding problems that meant that it couldn’t be opened to the public.  These problems have turned into on-going discussions between Surrey and Costain.

Elmbridge employed an independent building surveyor to inspect and report on the condition of the new building.  They have now reported their findings, which echo and support our concerns on the outstanding defects that we have identified and which Surrey has relayed to Costain.  Although the liability for rectifying the defects remain with Surrey and Costain, Elmbridge’s staff assure me that they are doing their utmost to remedy the situation as soon as possible.  Whilst Elmbridge is reliant on Surrey following its proper contractual processes, Elmbridge staff continue to chase it for its contractor’s programme of works.  The independent surveyors will be retained to oversee, inspect and approve all of the works undertaken by Costain.

While the repairs are being carried out and in response to feedback from local residents, Surrey has installed temporary loos which it is intended will remain in place until the new building’s facilities can be fully opened.

Highest employment ever

UnemploymentIt has taken some hard choices – and the remarkable effort of millions of people and business around the country – but this marks another positive step on the road to a stronger economy.
There are two million more people in private sector jobs, fewer unemployed young people, long term unemployment is falling and we have more women in work than ever before.

The only way we have been able to play our part in turning the economy around is by taking the long view.  Back in 2008-09 who would have thought the Britain would have the highest growth in Europe (bar Iceland) and the seven highest in the OECD (after Chile, Iceland, Israel, Mexico, New Zealand and Turkey).

But, in my view, we have a long way to go.  Part of the solution is to ensure that any government at the national level is elected with the majority of the voters.  It is unlikely that the recovery would have happened if the Liberal Democrats had not stepped up to provide Britain with a strong and stable government in tough times.  The coalition was elected with 59% of the vote.  There has not been a British national government elected with a backing of over 50% of the vote since the 1930s.  Indeed, in peacetime the present coalition was elected with more support than any other government since the Liberal landslide in the 1860s under Gladstone.

British voting since 1832