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.

Give Us your Views

As the Liberal Democrat/Residents’ administration in Elmbridge, we want to be more informed about your priorities.   One of the current methods of consultation involves a residents panel; although often additional consultations take place.  However, the mix of responses do not match the population as a whole.

Recent consultations have shown that the older the person, the more likely they are going to give their views.  For example, there were no responses from people under 25 and even people aged 26-44 years old were half as likely than the general population to state their preferences. Retired people are five times as likely to make their views plain than the average person: that’s 600% higher.  Older people are ten times as likely to speak up than younger people. This gap is likely to affect policy outcomes.

Age Population Responses Propensity to respond
 <25 29% 0% 0
26-44 36% 15% 0.4
45-64 25% 34% 1.4
65-74 8% 36% 5
>75 8% 14% 2

To get your view heard more clearly register for the borough’s residents’ panel here.  There are 136,000 people living in Elmbridge but only 1,240 are members of the panel.

You can also register to get information from the borough on a regular basis, see your accounts, be notified of palling applications in your area and automatic notice of changes to your refuse collection.

More services will be added later.

Be informed

As you know, the Liberal Democrats are very keen to present people with information that they want, when they want it, and in the form that they want it – text, email or app.  To that end, since forming the coalition in the borough we have given communications a boost of the borough’s priorities.  We already have “My neighborhood” on the website but now we have “My account” for emails – register now.

“My Account”
You can also register to get information from the borough on a regular basis, see your accounts, be notified of planning applications in your area and automatic notice of changes to your refuse collection.  More services will be added as soon as we can.

Local Information in “My neighbourhood”
Currently you have to go the borough’s website for this information but it is worth it. As we develop the “My account” residents’ portal you will be able to select the notifications that you want.

Borough Plan

Every five years the borough reviews its local plan and, subject to the agreement of full council, our new vision is as follows:

  • Character and Environment – We will make Elmbridge a sustainable and attractive place.
  • Quality Services – We will work in partnership to ensure services are efficient, effective and offer value for money.
  • Economic Development – We will facilitate economic growth, including improved infrastructure and housing.
  • Community Wellbeing – We will listen to all of our residents and support communities to become healthier, empowered and safe

Within this each year the borough develops its plan for the municipal year.  You can see the plan here. On page twelve you will see more detailed items.  Naturally, this is not the full scope as most activity is developed at a department level.

There has been consultation on this plan throughout its various stages.  Do you have any comments or questions?

Amey Says Sorry to Residents For Missed Bins Misery

The borough’s waste collection contractor, Amey, has issued an unreserved apology for the inadequate service they provided to residents when they took over the contract from Veolia earlier this Summer.

Cllr Barry Fairbank, the Environment Portfolio Holder responsible for waste collection in Elmbridge says that “Amey’s initial response to the failings was simply not good enough”.  He reports that the borough is in final discussions about compensation for not fulfilling contractual agreements in the initial weeks which caused such widespread upset and anger, leading to a backlog of uncollected household, food and garden waste in some streets.

Cllr Fairbank added “For weeks, councillors in many wards in Elmbridge were getting large numbers of complaints from residents about missed bins or late collections. Councillors and officers were working round the clock to resolve the problems and ensure that Amey’s crews returned to the properties that were being missed.  My concern was how quickly I could ensure that Amey acknowledged the level of poor performance and what they would do to fix it as quickly as possible. Thanks to our concerted efforts Amey are now up to speed and we are pressing for further improvements”.

At a recent council Committee meeting Rob Edmondson, Managing Director of Amey, the contractor appointed on 3 June to collect Elmbridge’s rubbish agreed that the early performance was not good enough and he offered a sincere apology for the inconvenience to residents and the company’s failure to meet the terms of the contract.  Amey accepted full responsibility for the initial service failings and confirmed that these were operational matters that they have now put right.

Amey had promised the borough that the transition from the previous contractor, Veolia,would be ‘seamless’ and that the service would show an improvement in performance from day one. Acutely aware of their poor performance, Amey are now investing in additional vehicles and additional people, above and beyond the bid level in order to meet the full terms of the contract.

The contract with Amey involves four authorities in Surrey: Elmbridge, Woking, Mole Valley and Surrey Heath. Four years ago these authorities embarked on a procurement process for a joint waste collection contract – heralded as both more efficient and higher quality, saving taxpayers £2million a year overall. Elmbridge was the first authority to mobilise and Woking came on board with Amey two weeks ago.

Councillor Andrew Davis, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, explains that Elmbridge paid the price of being first. “Joint Waste Solutions which is the interface between Amey and all four authorities has worked hard to ensure that Amey sorts its operational problems while Elmbridge Officers and Councillors have worked tirelessly to help residents with their difficulties.”

As a result of this, and our insisting that Amey not only put its house in order but learns from its mistakes, the roll out in Woking has been successful and the 99.9% bin emptying rate has been achieved.

We were promised a better service, and that is what the people of Elmbridge are going to get. Our promise is that we will be holding Amey to account to deliver the service we all deserve.

Local Plan – consultation results

The borough has published a preliminary report based on the responses it received to its local plan strategic option consultation. You’ll find the full report on the borough website.  There were 3,436 responses all in all from Elmbridge residents and the majority of those came from Cobham (1,800) and Ditton (1,299). Unsurprisingly, not many came from Weybridge.

GREEN BELT IS SACROSANCT

The vast majority of responses opposed any amendment to the Green Belt boundaries in order to meet housing needs. Green Belt was considered sacrosanct and respondents did not see any exceptional circumstance for tampering with its boundaries. A minority supported the borough’s view that there needed to be a balance between protecting Green Belt and meeting housing needs. A number of sites were put forward in both urban and Green Belt areas where development could take place. Many opponents of the release of Green Belt felt the borough had not done enough to identify opportunities for much higher densities in existing towns and centres. However, people living in densely developed areas opposed further development.

ASSESSMENT OF HOUSING NEED

A large number of respondents disagreed with the borough’s assessment of housing need and felt it did not take account of insufficient infrastructure and environmental constraints. Many also suggested that the impact of Brexit had to be considered.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING

Many recognised that housing in Elmbridge was unaffordable. But the majority did not consider this an exceptional circumstance for developing in the Green Belt. Significant
doubts were expressed about whether the borough had enough power to secure affordable housing and many felt it was not for the borough to intervene in the market in
high value areas.

INFRASTRUCTURE IMPROVEMENT

Many suggested that impact on infrastructure should be comprehensively assessed before any new homes are built. What’s more, a majority argued that improvements to existing infrastructures should be made regardless of possible development. The borough is grateful to residents for the many substantial and thoughtful responses received and the borough is now considering their impact on the local plan regarding housing in Elmbridge.

Surrey Heartlands – the next five years of Health and Social Care in Elmbridge

What’s happening to health and social care in our area?

Quite a lot actually!

The NHS has launched a programme to improve joined up working across health and social care services and is seeking to improve community provision for vulnerable groups – especially the frail elederly.

The mechanism for achieving this is locally based Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (STPs).

Citizens of Elmbridge come under the Surrey Heartlands STP, which includes Surrey County Council, the two CCGs covering Elmbridge, and other healthcare providers.

As Surrey Heartlands has a much larger than average older population, there is a focus in the plan on improving serrvices for this group. Just to paint the picture, over the next 10 years the number of people aged 85+ will go up by 36% and by 2025 more than 20% of the population in our area will be aged 65+.

Public Engagement is also a key feature of the partnership working that is central to the new approach. This is seen as a way to involve citizens in “defining the priorities and trade-offs that will be needed to achieve this service transformation, within the resources available locally.”

A further feature of the plan is to trial devolution of powers and budget to Surrey Heartlands (see p10 in the plan). This is designed to enable “full integration with Surrey County Council, integrating health and care delivery with the wider determinants of health in our population”

If anyone is interested in getting involved as a community stakeholder, there is a stakeholder reference group meeting on 18 October at Leatherhead Leisure Centre, Guildford Road, Leatherhead starting at 2 pm. There is also a Surrey Heartlands Newsletter.

The contact person for both of these is: glynis.mcdonald@nhs.net

The Surrey Heartlands Sustainability and Transormation Plan can be found at http://www.nwsurreyccg.nhs.uk/surreyheartlands/Documents/Surrey%20Heartlands%20STP%20October%202016.pdf

The Devolution Agreement document can be found at
http://www.nwsurreyccg.nhs.uk/surreyheartlands/PublishingImages/Pages/News/Devolution%20Agreement.pdf

40 Acre Field Claygate Planning!

It is with great trepidation that I write an article about 40 Acre Field as it is indeed a complicated and controversial subject for the residents of Claygate and the respectable owners or renters of this plot of Green Belt land.

This blog is to provide a clearer picture to the edited version that has been published in the Claygate Focus.

In 2013 after being elected for the first time, one of my earliest issues was the sale, division and consequent devastation of 40 Acre Field. This quiet backwater nestles between the A3, Bridleway 34, Common Lane and Holroyd Road. It is possibly one of the last pieces of green belt which separates the village of Claygate from the London suburb of Chessington! This once beautiful tranquil setting soon became a subject of immense concern to Claygate and especially the residents of Common Lane.

Little did I know what a long, difficult and emotional journey this would be!

These pictures are taken from the end of Common Lane at the junction with Bridleway 34

1.Pre 2013

2. March 2015

3. May 2015

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Local Green Spaces are protected from inappropriate development unless ‘VERY SPECIAL’ circumstances outweigh potential harm. Ref:  DM20

Since 1963 there has been a deed between Barwell and Elmbridge borough that does NOT give full right and liberty to the Landowner or his successors to pass and repass with or without vehicles down Common Lane.

Common Lane is a private road owned by Elmbridge Borough Council (EBC). The constant toing and froing of vehicles to the numerous plots on the field via this access point, that had previously been closed for many years, has inconvenienced other users and residents. Common Lane is little more than a dirt track directly adjacent to Claygate Common. Despite the efforts of EBC countryside officers to maintain the surface and keep it free of potholes and flooding, there has been considerably more damage to this lane in the last few years. This has substantially increased the financial maintenance costs to EBC.

Access alone is not the only issue, burnt out cars, fly-tipping and various forms of anti-social behaviour eventual led to the decision of EBC to close the small car park to the public in 2017. This decision is not related to the legitimate users of 40 Acre Field that own or rent plots to graze their horses. The perpetrators of these problems are simply exploiting this relatively quiet secluded backwater but also create further costs to EBC.

The individual purchase of the plots has seen, what many consider, a detrimental transformation of this field. Access remains difficult due to the poor drainage which for most part of the year leaves it almost impassable because of flooding, unless you have a four wheel drive vehicle which inevitably causes further damage to the land.

Two planning applications for plots 11 & 12 (2015/3788 & 2016/1567) were refused by East Area Planning sub-committee (EAPS) and have resulted in a costly High Court Judgement and a Judicial Review. As the applicants failed to appear at the latter on Tuesday 11th July 2017 it was decided that all the evidence would be taken into consideration and a final decision would be returned by early September 2017. The decision is that the appeal against EBC has been dismissed. The applicants now have to remove their caravans from their plot within the agreed allotted time. Costs were not awarded to either the applicants, the borough or Claygate Parish Council (CPC).

Application 2016/2062 which has 100 objections was discussed at EAPS on Monday 4th September and a personal permission was suggested by myself and CPC. This will now be decided at the next borough full planning meeting in October.

As things now stand we have what was once an open field divided into numerous plots by fences for the individual landowners. Although many consider this unsightly, there is not a simpler less intrusive method to divide this field. Multiple shelters were added (before any sale was made) and these are absolutely permissible as long as they are on skids that ensure they are easily moveable. Many trees were also removed from the field (before its sale) opening it up to increased noise from the A3 and making it vulnerable to strong winds blowing across the land as well as flooding which has always been a problem.

Routes have been cut across the field so owners can access their plots and their livestock. Original gateways have also been re-opened for the same reasons although there is some controversy over access rights. Local residents may not like the changes that have taken place but the owners do have a right to protect and graze their animals within their plots.

However a large barn like structure has been erected. A retrospective planning application 2016/2062 is under consideration and the plight of an ailing hose has been considered with much empathy.

Travellers in two caravans have been residing on their two plots and have undergone retrospective planning applications (2015/3788 & 2016/1567) Along with other distressing issues residents have been extremely concerned about this long term complicated situation. These issues have impacted not only on the local residents but also on the people who legitimately own or rent the land to graze their horses.

Change has inevitably occurred with the sale of these plots, fences have been erected, there are numerous shelters and inevitably more vehicles. Some changes must be accepted following the sale of this field but EBC have and will deal with any aspect that is not permissible.

There has however without doubt been a detrimental effect on the flora and fauna of this once much more beautiful and tranquil area.