Hands off our Green Belt!

What land should be released for building over the next 15 years? That’s what the Local Plan is all about. But the inflated government target for building in Elmbridge will mean the extra people will:

  • Squeeze already hard pressed local health services
  • Create further shortages of local school places
  • Intensify traffic congestion
  • Increase pollution

What we really need is 1, 2 and 3 bedroom truly affordable homes. Is this going to happen? No! Land prices are high so private sector homes will be unaffordable. And the national government makes sure that boroughs have insufficient revenue to build new social housing. National funding for local government has halved in the last ten years.   So the amount of social housing which can be built is very limited.

The national government requires our borough to allow 9,400 extra homes to be built over the next 15 years.  The borough has independently assessed that 5,000 new homes are needed for our needs in Elmbridge over the next 15 years.  The government requirement of 9,400 new homes is based on flawed thinking. All the options, but one, in the Local Plan consultation document lead to too much development because it had to follow government guidelines. Only Option 4 restricts development as far as it can and preserves the existing character of our community. This is the one we should press our Councillors to adopt.

It doesn’t deliver all the building central government wants, but we need to send a clear message to government that this is justified. There is a risk that government will overrule us, but we must choose whether to fight or cave in.

What to do?

Right now – or as soon as you can:

  1. Read the Local Plan documents and complete the consultation form
  2. Write to your local councillor (Check names on www.elmbridge.gov.uk )
  3. Post your views on Facebook and/or Twitter
  4. Write to your MP Philip Hammond and/or Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government – both at the House of Commons.
  5. Book your attendance for the meeting on 27th August (you need to apply for a ticket here)
  6. Join your local local residents’ association or amenity society

Shape the future of Weybridge

Our Home

Weybridge is undeniably an attractive place to live. Our easy access to London and Heathrow, our vibrant town centre, rivers, woodlands and green spaces, all ensure that many find it hard to imagine living anywhere else and would like our children to be able to live here too.

More houses

We recognise that, as people live longer and households are smaller, we need to build more and different places to live in Weybridge.  Even with no interference from outside, our council would encourage the building of homes with fewer rooms.  Ideally almost all of them would be social and affordable housing for rent, with some for purchase.  Thus moving the emphasis from mansions to high quality, smaller, environmentally sustainable homes.  This would mean about 200 new homes a year across Elmbridge.

Unfortunately, the regime in Westminster has stated we must make provision for 600 new homes to be built in Elmbridge, each year, for the next fifteen years.  Three times as high as our current build.

Elmbridge versus national government

Elmbridge has no power in this debate.  If we do not do what the national government says we risk having all our planning powers taken away from us and developers might run amok.  The only way this will change is if there is a change of national government – and it looks as if the new Johnson administration is set on having a national election in the next few months.  Of the four national parties, three are pushing for more housing to be built (the Brexit “party” does not yet have any policies except to leave Europe), but they differ in their views on what sort of housing we need and where it should be built.

But we do not give in – Elmbridge will make the best case within the rules that are laid down.  We aim to adopt a new Local Plan for “sustainable” development in Elmbridge.  The borough’s staff have been working with other local governments, national agencies and utility providers to assemble the evidence required to make robust decisions. Laying the foundations for a Local Plan is a very complex affair and is often iterative.

Elmbridge Borough has listened to the concerns of Elmbridge residents, and has been working hard to progress a new Local Plan. This long-term plan aims to marry our national obligations to build more homes in Elmbridge with our desire to protect the character of Elmbridge.

The next stage is a public consultation running from 19 August through to 30 September. It is important that all residents from all parts of Elmbridge get involved by making a response to the consultation. You can sign up to alerts on the Local Plan through the EBC website and at consult.elmbridge.gov.uk

Councillor Karen Randolph, Portfolio Holder for Planning, has said:

“It is vital for the future of our borough that our residents contribute to the development of the Elmbridge Local Plan. We are determined to do what is best for Elmbridge and we want to hear from you.

“When the consultation opens on 19 August there will be information available in libraries, at the Civic Centre in Esher, online on the Council’s website and we will also host public meetings, all to provide our residents with as much information as possible on the Local Plan options.

“We want to shape Elmbridge for the benefit of all; will you help us?”

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.

Housing in the Green Belt?

Suburban spreadThe national government has changed its policy in relation to providing new housing and planning law (for England only – the other parts of Britain have their own policies). This has meant that Elmbridge has had to reconsider its approach to housing development.

Why is Elmbridge in this position?
Since  Elmbridge adopted its core planning strategy in 2011, the national government has made significant changes to the way local governments have to plan for new housing through the publication of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in 2012.  A number of decisions by planning inspectors and the High Court in 2014 have called into question plans that were adopted before the publication of the NPPF.

What are these significant changes that the national government has made?
The NPPF now requires all local governments to assess, and try to meet in full, the need
for new homes in their area including looking at the potential to accommodate them in the Green Belt.

Why does Elmbridge have to reconsider its approach?
Elmbridge’s core Strategy and evidence that supports it were produced before the NPPF and so are considered to be out of date. Specifically, the approach to housing development and the housing target are based on the assumption that the Green Belt
is ‘off limits’.

How will Elmbridge reconsider its approach?
The borough will have to: find out how many more homes are needed; identify where these new homes can and can’t go including looking at the Green Belt; work with other local authorities, particularly the boroughs bordering Elmbridge over the border in London, to identify and meet the need for new homes in our area.

What is happening to current work in progress?
Work on settlement investment and development plans is halted until work on the evidence review is completed.

What will be the benefit of Elmbridge reconsidering its approach to housing
development?
This work is vital to ensure that Elmbridge has a robust and defendable local plan, and one that is in accordance with the NPPF. Specifically it will: ensure that decisions on where housing goes are made locally and not by the national government; support us in working with other local governments to ensure they provide their fair share of new homes; send a clear message that we are looking seriously at options for meeting housing need; help us to defend planning applications for new development within the Green Belt ensuring that we get to choose where and when development happens; and, enable us to plan for the infrastructure needed to support new development.

What will happen if we don’t do this work?
If the borough doesn’t do this work it would face the following risks: other local governemnts and developers are likely to challenge our plans; future plans, such as settlement ID plans, are likely to be found unsound resulting in significant and unnecessary costs to the borough; developers will start to make applications for development within the Green Belt and these will become increasingly difficult to defend; and, without an up to date plan, the borough will lose the ability to choose where housing
goes and will not be able to plan for infrastructure.

Are all the boroughs in England going to be affected in this way, or is it just
Elmbridge?
Yes, those boroughs with plans adopted before the publication of the new national government policy in 2012 will need to reconsider their approach. This applies to
boroughs with and without green belt.

What will the work tell us?
Once the work is completed it will enable us to determine either: that the housing target in Elmbridge’s core strategy, evidence base and strategy for locating development are okay and provide an appropriate basis on which to continue preparing future plans, such as Settlement ID Plans; that the housing target in the core strategy, evidence base and strategy for locating development need reviewing and a new local plan needs to be prepared.

Does this mean that development will take place on the Green Belt?
No. The evidence base will determine whether or not we need to locate development
within the Green Belt. A Green Belt boundary review would be in accordance with the
NPPF, having regard to the intended permanence of the Green Belt in the long term, enduring beyond the plan period.  When looking at the potential to accommodate new development within the Green Belt we will need to ensure that it continues to meet its key aim – preventing the spread of the London conurbation.

How is Surrey involved in all this?  transport, infrastructure, education etc?
Once Elmbridge has an initial idea of how many homes can be accommodated we will need to speak to Surrey to identify what infrastructure will be required. If there are problems that cannot be resolved through the provision of additional infrastructure then
this may mean we need to reduce the amount of new housing we can deliver.

Why do we have to work with others to do this?
The NPPF requires us to identify and meet housing need across a wider area – called
our housing market area. We will need to identify our housing market area and work
with boroughs within it to undertake this work.

When will the new work/review start?
Work reviewing the evidence will start immediately. The borough will start by identifying the housing market area and work on identifying and meeting the need for new homes,
working with local government partners. Further information and a detailed timetable is
set out within Elmbridge’s local development scheme.

How long will the work/review take?
Elmbridge will have completed most of the evidence base by summer 2015.

How is Elmbridge going to keep the burghers in touch with progress?
Elmbridge will continue to keep its burghers up to date with progress at key stages though letters, emails and community meetings. Specifically, when the work is complete and the outcome.

Where can I find more information about the review?
On Elmbridge’s website or by contacting the planning policy team via email: planningpolicy@elmbridge.gov.uk

Heathside School

Heathside

Surrey is seeking planning permission to raise Heathside’s school numbers. Originally Heathside School was given permission for 920 pupils but by 1996 it had increased its number, without planning permission, to 1352. On being challenged for this discrepancy it sought retrospective planning permission from the borough to increase its number in 2005. This was refused, again on transport grounds. Surrey appealed to the national government and the government planning inspector agreed to a new maximum number of pupils (the actual number attending the school at that time) on condition that the travel plan be reviewed every six months. This is a very weak condition as most travel plans are often lax in the beginning and are often unenforceable in any case.

This new planning application is caused by the need for more school places in the borough. Elmbridge has a secondary school age population of 12,000 pupils and that number is growing. Births in Elmbridge increased by 30% between 2002 and 2010 and the
borough plan indicates that up to 3,375 new homes are to be built between 2011
and 2026.  Yet Elmbridge has only four secondary schools – in Ditton (Hinchley Wood), Esher, Hersham (Rydens) and Weybridge (Heathside). It needs ten more schools of 840 pupils each (four classes in each year from years seven to thirteen).

Because of the taxation arrangements in Britain – unique in the developed world – Surrey relies on the national government for revenues to fund new schools. Unfortunately, this revenue has been reduced significantly in recent times and Surrey simply does not significant revenues of its own to build the schools it needs. So Cobham, Molesey and Walton do not have their own schools – putting pressure on those towns like Weybridge that do.

The cheap option is to increase the size of the present schools.  Heathside, originally a large 940 pupil school that has grown to 1,352 is set, should the application be successful, to increase to 1,475 pupils.

Elmbridge’s remit is purely related to the planning aspects of the project not the merits or otherwise of increasing the size of a school that has already outgrown its buildings.  This particular application will be decided on highway matters alone.

Interestingly, Elmbridge is not the competent authority when it comes to highway planning matters.  Surrey is the highway authority as well as the education authority.

The planning application is originated from Surrey which has a duty to school all of the children of the county.  The application arrives at Elmbridge which in turn asks Surrey, as highway authority, what it thinks of the application.

This puts Surrey in a difficult position – it is both poacher and gamekeeper.  Its decision must not just be one based on integrity but must be seen to be so by those most affected by the increase in numbers.

Any parent who has been anxious about their child’s school place will understand the massive pressure that Surrey is under to deliver those classroom places.

The Elmbridge planning application number is 2014/3765 and details can be found here.

Illustrated Talk – Brooklands through the Ages

An illustrated talk on ‘Brooklands through the Ages’ – from the Iron Age period right through to modern times will be held on Thursday, 23 January at 8pm in the large hall of the St James’ Church Parish Centre. It will offer insights about the Brooklands area covering its origins, history, people and other interesting facts.

Brooklands today is very much shaped by the legacy of the motor racing circuit built in 1907. The early history of the area, how the circuit came into being and its subsequent development all yield some fascinating insights about the life and times of people in Weybridge.

The speaker is Steve McCarthy, whose background is as a professional engineer.  His interest in cars and local history has led him to study Brooklands wider than just the well chronicled aspects of the racing circuit.

All are welcome, Weybridge Society Members are free and non-members £3.

Parks – What are your views

churchfield-playground-wey-soc333
Many of you tell me that you treasure the parks and green spaces of Weybridge.  They are places where you can escape the hustle and bustle of daily life, get fit or simply enjoy the views and relax.

As part of its planning for the future of Elmbridge’s green spaces, the borough is looking at the service it currently provides and it wishes to know what your views are about it. Do you think your local parks are well maintained or do you feel there is room for improvement?

To take part in the survey, please visit click here.  Before you begin the survey think about your own comments and if they are not addressed in the questionnaire itself add your comments in the space available the end.  The questionnaire will only take a few minutes to fill in and you could win a £30 voucher from a local garden centre.  The deadline is Thursday, 31 October at the very latest. You can also contact Leisure and Cultural Services on 01372 474 568 to ask for a paper questionnaire to be sent to you.

Walton Lane

Many of you will know that I think Walton Lane – the ancient way to Walton from Weybridge before Oatlands Drive was built – should be stopped up for motorised vehicles on the border between Weybridge and Shepperton (Yes Cowey Sale is in Shepperton despite being south of the river) – the benefits to people living in the north of Weybridge would be dramatic.  Have a look at a view of how Cowey Sale could look too.

Development Plan for Weybridge

Gone are the days when local government drew lines on a map to indicate where different types of development was allowed to take place.  Development control as it was called has given way to development management. This can be positive if the borough is active in providing a coherent plan for Weybridge but it can be a property developers charter if the plans are not robust enough.

The national government’s introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework in 2012 radically changed the planning scheme in England.   All the planning authorities in the county were obliged to review their own policies to ensure that they were aligned with the new framework.  They were given twelve months to do so.

Elmbridge has been reviewing all its policies and has been changing them as necessary and two are ready for consultation

The Development Management Plan will contain the day to day policies against which planning applications and enforcement action will be assessed. It will contain the policies needed to manage the appropriate delivery of high quality development across Elmbridge.

Weybridge Investment and Development Plan. The aim of each of this plan is to identify both the development that will come forward and investment that will support any growth. Each plan will identify:

  • key sites for the delivery of new housing, commercial premises and community buildings
  • pitches for gypsies and travellers (none is planned for Weybridge)
  • schools and colleges where there are opportunities for expansion
  • open spaces that need to be protected and some earmarked for enhancement
  • employment land that should remain as such because of its strategic importance
  • infrastructure improvements and priorities

If you want you seee more there is a road-show at 10-1pm, on Thursday, 18 April, in  Churchfield Road Public Car Park

How to comment

All comments must be submitted by 4pm on Monday 20 May 2013 via:

 

I encourage you to comment using the on-line consultation portal on the borough’s webpages. This will enable officers to process your comments more efficiently saving the borough both time and money.

If you have any further queries please contact our planning policy team on 01372 474787.

Broadwater Path

A few people have been asking where the new Broadwater path is located.  There is no official right of way as yet – that is why there is not a finger post erected but it is coming soon, all being well.  The path begins off Grenside Road – see map below.

Path entrance

The path is muddy in places and at narrow points, where horses have churned up the mud, it requires wellies.  However, we managed to find a way around the short muddy bits quite comfortably by finding an acceptable route though the undergrowth.

Broadwater path