Grotto Road junction – Weybridge

The Grotto Road, Thames Street junction in Weybridge is notorious for road danger – the pedestrian risk and traffic around school times is horrendous. What makes it really dangerous is that there is no footpath by the fence in Grotto Road. Many primary age children walk by themselves or with their parents either alongside the fence in the traffic or have to cross Grotto Road twice to get to school.

So, what can be done about it?

Cllr Andrew Davis lobbied Surrey county to build a path – with an estimated cost somewhere between £20,000 to £60,000 but Surrey hasn’t the money. However, Weybridge has. Weybridge councillors have £500,000 to spend on such projects. All okay then? Well, actually . . . No!

Here is the bizarre thing. Any such project has to have a feasibility study, but Weybridge’s £500,000 may not be spent on such studies. And Surrey cannot even afford the study to demonstrate the cost effectiveness and benefit of the project!

Fortunately, Cllr Davis has managed to get Surrey to consider making a bid to Weybridge councillors to pay for the project, based on the upper estimate of £60,000, if the project is shown to have a good level of local support.

The Weybridge Liberal Democrat team have set up a survey to canvass support from local people who are concerned about the danger of this junction.

Weybridge residents, find out more and add your support here and watch this space for updates.

Slower speeds, safer streets

Damage after crashSurrey’s Conservative Leader, David Hodge, when giving evidence about 20mph speed limits to a House of Commons Select Committee in 2014 said: “The problem is that it is all very well putting in a 20mph limit, but unless somebody is going to enforce it you have wasted a whole lot of money. My view is that I have no intention of wasting public money putting in 20mph limits.”

John Furey, Surrey’s portfolio holder for transport told me that he had no mind to implement 20mph limits because it hindered people’s business and he wanted growth for Surrey.  But this view does not bear scrutiny.

Let’s do a quick calculation.  Most car journeys are under five miles long. They usually begin on a side street, pass along a few main roads and end on a side street.  Let’s assume that the journey is 5 miles long – 4.6 miles on main roads and 0.4 miles on the two sides streets at each end.  Let us also assume that the driver can drive at the maximum speed along the whole journey – hardly likely during the day (even at night either) – no stopping to give way at junctions, no traffic lights, no zebra crossings and no congestion. At 30mph the journey would take ten minutes door-to door.  Given that the maximum speeds in the side streets would be 20mph – the journey in such a case would be 10.4 minutes door-to door. The difference is 24 seconds.  In other words, the journey would take 4% longer.  The longer the journey the proportionally smaller the time difference.  During the middle of the day the difference would be too small to notice.  Yet for the sake of a few seconds lives are lost and injuries greater.

But the 20mph limit on side streets makes a greater difference. Surveys across the country have shown that mothers will cycle if the streets are seen to be safe and, more importantly, they will let their children cycle too.  In general mothers have more influence on their children cycling than fathers.  The greater the switch to cycling the lower the air pollution, the more pleasant the environment, and the healthier the people.

Given that between the ages of 5 and 40 the greatest single cause of death in Britain is being killed by a moving vehicle (whether driving it, being a passenger or being a passerby) it is important to reduce this loss of life.  Enforcing a 20mph speed limit on side streets would be the single most effective way for the police service to protect us.

Currently the cost of 20mph limits is a small 20mph roundel on every other lamppost.

Cycling Strategy comes to Weybridge

CyclistThe Weybridge cycling campaign welcomes the move to set Weybridge as the town in Elmbridge to begin the new cycling strategy.  This five year strategy looks to the present and future needs of the town in planning new facilities for cyclists.  The main trust will be to plan for a network of safe cycling routes between Weybridge and its neighbours (Shepperton, Walton, Hersham, Cobham, Byfleet, Woodham and Addlestone) especially in relation to the main locations in Weybridge: the riverside, town centre, Heathside School/Brooklands College (along with the primary schools), station, Brooklands offices and out-of-town shopping.

The aim is for safe cycling between all of these locations.  Our aim is to catch up with the Netherlands.  They began a while ago but look at this video to see how they managed the change.

Surrey urged to fund 20 mph limits

20mphFor a background on why 20mph is so important see here.

The Surrey Liberal Democrats are calling on the Surrey administration to provide the necessary funding to implement 20 mph speed limits outside Surrey schools where requested by the school and the local community.

Introducing a 20mph limit on all our streets is probably the most important way of improving our health and quality of life.  Even more cost effective than spending more on NHS England!  The reason is simple.  If speeds on the streets are less than 20mph cycling and walking increases and as more people cycle and walk their life expectancy improves by six years on average.  Not only do people live longer but their quality of life improvise too.  All this can be done by a simple change in the speed limit law.

It is of upmost importance that children are safe going to and from school and 20 mph speed limits outside schools help to achieve this by reducing traffic speeds and improving road safety.  A reduced speed limit warns drivers that they need to slow down near a school and in general drivers do slow down.

In Mole Valley, Surrey introduced three trial 20 mph advisory limits outside schools and following the trial the 20 mph advisory limits were made permanent.  However, whilst making these trial 20 mph limits permanent, Surrey also decided not to roll-out the trial to cover the roads outside other schools in the district.

Lib Dem £28.6 million school boost

School childrenDisadvantaged primary school pupils in Surrey are set to receive £28.6 million to boost attainment, the Liberal Democrats have announced.

The Pupil Premium funding for 2015/16 will help teachers to support those children at most risk of falling behind their colleagues.  It means primary schools will receive £1,320 for every school pupil who has registered for free school meals at any time in the last six years.

Evidence shows that raising the attainment of pupils by the end of primary school has a direct impact on future exam results.

The pupil premium will get extra money to schools in Surrey,targeted at the children who need it most. The whole class benefits when fewer children are struggling.

Brooklands College Governor?

Brooklands College Web

Brooklands College is a further and higher education college located in our town. It is one of Surrey’s largest providers of vocational training and further and higher education. Its course offering is diverse, with students travelling long distances to benefit from the Brooklands College experience. The students leave with qualifications and skills that stand them in good stead for a place at university, a job or further professional or vocational studies to enhance their careers.

The college seeks to recruit associate and full governors to its governing body.

If you would be interested in bringing your community, business or professional experience to the college to help us in our work, the college would be pleased to hear from you. It is seeking governors with general skills and also have particular need for new governors with a strong financial or audit background, and governors with previous experience in further and higher education.

Please click here to download the leaflet and information pack about the college and the role of governor.

To apply please refer to the background provided in the information pack and send a letter of application and curriculum vitae to reach Ian Pocock, Clerk to the Governing Body, by Monday 23 February 2015.

Shortlisting will take place during the week beginning 23 February 2015 and interviews will take place on 11 March 2015.

Tories slash Surrey education funding by £250 million

HeathsideConservatives will cut the education budget by £253 million in Surrey by 2020 if they were in national government on their own, official research shows.

The Tories would be forced to slash local spending on schools,colleges, and nurseries to keep pace with George Osborne’s plan to drastically reduce spending.

The research, based on official House of Commons library figures, shows schools will bear the brunt of Conservative cuts but childcare, college and early years budgets would also be hit hard.

Unlike both Labour and the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats are committed to protecting cradle to college education spending.

Heathside Numbers Increase

Heathside

 

 

 

 

 

For background on Elmbridge school numbers click here.

Although the planning application is placed before Elmbridge as the planning authority, the fundamental issue is that of transport which falls under Surrey as the highways authority.

Surrey’s views have been sought and Surrey has raised no objections to the proposal – subject to a travel plan.  Should Elmbridge refuse planning permission on transport issues alone it would be against the advice of Surrey – as the highway authority.  In that case, Surrey – as the education authority – could appeal to the national government against the decision by Elmbridge.  It is very likely, albeit not certain, that the national government’s inspector would uphold an appeal.

At present, as I understand it, Heathside School has not updated its travel plan since 2009 but Surrey has requested that it be reviewed if this application is permitted.  The people at Surrey who audit travel plans can be contacted here.  The travel plan could do with more than a little stiffening.

You can read the Elmbridge planning officer’s report here: Heathside – Officer Report 2014

Surrey decides whether the proposal meets the policies in Elmbridge’s borough local plan. It cites the policies that it feels are relevant (the three below) and Surrey therefore believes these polcies are met by the proposal.

Com4
Planning permission will be granted for proposals for new educational establishments or extensions to existing facilities provided that: (i) the existing road network is capable of absorbing the level of traffic generated;
(ii) the site is conveniently accessible to all sections of the community by a choice of means of transport;
(iii) adequate provision is made for stopping and parking; and,
(iv) there would not be a significant adverse impact on local residents.

Mov4
All development proposals should minimise the impact of vehicle and traffic nuisance, particularly in residential areas and, as far as practicable, comply with current highway design standards.

Mov10
New development with the potential to generate significant cycle use will be permitted provided that provision is made for:-
(a) safe and convenient cycle access;
(b) secure cycle parking which accords with the adopted standards; and
(c) changing and shower facilities for employees.

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.