Weybridge Town Meeting

On Monday 2 July, about 60 people met in the Weybridge Centre for our first open town meeting.

The idea behind this meeting was to provide a space where issues, suggestions and improvements to the town could be discussed. And where the agenda was compiled by the participants and not by local politicians or interest groups.

And that’s what happened!

How did it work?

People suggested topics which were captured on a chart: 25 topics in under 5 minutes. Too many for a meeting but there were overlaps and obvious connections. We bundled together similar topics and we got down to six clusters.

What did we discuss?

People formed groups to tackle the topic they were most interested in and the meeting set off to have conversations about:

  • Traffic and parking
  • The High Street and development
  • The Weybridge allotments development proposal

What the groups came up with

Traffic and Parking

Participants described a range of interconnected traffic and parking issues, often differing from road to road:

  • residents disrupted by school run traffic and parking
  • residents not finding overnight parking in roads with limited capacity
  • dangerous rat run traffic through residential roads
  • insufficient daytime parking for workers and shoppers
  • intrusive town centre through traffic.

The group welcomed the Weybridge Society and WTBG research into worker parking needs. They agreed that it needs to be augmented with traffic flow research to inform conclusions. They felt that more off-street parking is needed, not necessarily multi-storey, and liked the idea of worker park and ride from Brooklands.

Participants agreed that a wider strategic review of parking and traffic is needed. The review must reflect the varying needs of residents in different roads.  It must also address the imperative of managing rat run traffic.

Other suggested initiatives included better safer cycle routes and footpaths; schools doing more to encourage children to walk and cycle to school; and creating more pedestrian-friendly areas around the town centre. The end of Baker Street could be pedestrianised, at least at weekends.

The High Street and development

  • Baker St pedestrianisation came up in this group and was viewed positively
  • the town’s conservation areas are treated inconsistently and Quadrant Green is neglected. Both could be used better and made more attractive.
  • the High St could be reshaped to allow for safer cycle passage and a general reduction in speed would enable better flow of pedestrians
  • there is a need for more seating in the High Street
  • opening up High Street to the park and allotments would link existing amenities and increase use.

The group noted that Weybridge benefits from having most of its public services located in the town centre.

The group also referred to two existing townscape projects. There is the Weybridge Society initiative on the town centre, which is being branded WRAP – Weybridge Rebuild and Advance Project. And there are plans for improvements to pavement and street scene at the east end of the High Street, from Elmgrove Road to Waitrose.

The Weybridge allotments development proposal

  • there was general agreement to resist the sale of any part of the allotments by the Weybridge Charity. “When they’re gone they’re gone!”
  • the Trustees’ plan for raising funds through sale and development seems to be poorly thought out and there are alternative options which should be considered.
  • the allotments need to be better publicised and integrated into town activities.

ACTION: Vicki Macleod to support groups to engage with the Trustees and find an alternative to the proposed sale

We didn’t get around to discussing Policing, residents’ safety, disabled access, or affordable housing as topics in their own right but they were all mentioned in the course of conversations. These will be put back on the table at a follow up meeting in September.

Getting to grips with parking – the basics

Residents’ concern

As a recently elected councillor, I find that parking is one of the top topics that people raise with me. Issues I have been dealing with both before the election and now are:

  • unreasonable and dangerous parking by parents around one particular school in my ward
  • lack of access for waste removal from homes due to inconsiderate parking in narrow residential streets
  • Monday to Friday parking restrictions (single yellow lines) applying to Bank Holidays, not just working Mondays
  • severe parking congestion in the evening in town centre streets – even those with a CPZ
  • absence of turning space at the end of cul de sacs

What to do?

Some of these problems are matters of making information more widely available and better signposting: e.g. Mondays to Friday restrictions apply on Bank Holidays throughout Elmbridge. Or proactively letting diners know there is free evening parking available in Elmbridge car parks. These can be just 5 minutes away from their restaurant destination.

Taking it further

Some parking transgressions are due to lack of consideration or plain selfishness. The net result is that local people suffer at the hands of the inconsiderate!

When appeals for considerate behaviour fall on deaf ears, we need to explore what actions accountable authorities should take. And when this avenue is exhausted, we need to explore how the situation can be transformed.

Improvements in Weybridge

Over the following months your local Lib Dem councillors will be supporting local residents seeking improved CPZ timings in town centre streets. We will also be seeking to ensure that residents in narrow roads do receive bin collections, undisrupted by poor parking. And finally we will be exploring imaginative ways of securing clear pavements and safe parking around problem schools.

 

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.

Cinema

The Elmbridge Liberal Democrat/Residents’ 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 last.

Since our last report the cinema operator has been agreed and a planning application has been made.

Arts cinema would be a great addition to the evening economy with people typically adding a meal or drinks to the occasion and ample parking is available directly opposite.

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.

Another aspect is the parking.  Minorca Road is a small cul de sac in the town centre.  It has had controlled parking for a number of years.  However, recently Surrey county has introduced free parking for non-permit holders for up to one hour.  This has had a detrimental affect on residents’ parking.

When Surrey county ran its recent parking review in Weybridge I had recommended that Minorca Road along with Limes Road had its controlled parking extended into the evening up to 10pm. However, a compromise time of 8pm was offered and in the final round Surrey county withdrew the offer.  Although the Conservatives still run the county administration I hope that we can persuade county to make the change in the next review.

Weybridge Registry Office, possible closure?

The registry office in Oatlands Drive may be closed and sold, with its functions moved to the upper floor of the library. This is to try to make better use of the library building and bring more footfall to Weybridge town centre. The other option is to leave it as it is. There are now 83 locations in Surrey where you can get married, so use of the present site for marriages has fallen. Any decision will be considered in February/March at the Surrey County Council cabinet meeting which is open to the public. We wonder if posing for photos on the library steps will have quite the same look at ones taken in the gardens of the registry office in Oatlands Drive. What do you think about this? Let us know.

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)

Walton Car Parks Refurbishment

Ashley Park and Dewitt’s Court car parks are now to be refurbished and works in Ashley Park has begun already..

After many years of neglect, the Liberal Democrat led Elmbridge administration has decided to refurbish all the car parks in the borough – beginning with two of Walton’s car parks.

This multi-million pound project will take place over a number of years but the Liberal Democrats aspire to reach a higher standard for the borough rather than the patch and mend policies of previous administrations.

Ashley Park car park has been a poor state for decades with many complaints about the rough surface.  Rather than mend it, previous administrations simply offered a discount parking charge for a poor quality car park. The Liberal Democrats intend to bring the car park up to standard and, once that is done, bring the charges in line with other similar car parks.

Under previous administrations, car park charges have been set across the borough on a three year cycle.  The pattern of use of each car park is more often than not quite different from its neighbours and that pattern can change over time.  This has meant that some parks are beginning to overfill while others find their usage has declined.

All car parks are now reviewed on a frequent basis to check that the charging does not mean a car park is full  – who wants to turn up at a car park that does not have a parking spot?  The same review will look to reduce charges if the car park is hardly used.  At the moment the charge for parking is the same throughout the day – in future, as appropriate, the rates will vary to maximise the utility of each car park.

Automatic Payment Parking comes to Weybridge

Work begins in September for a ticketless payment system for Churchfields car park. There will be several options but most locals will probably choose to simply drive in – drive out and pay on account.

No longer will you have to guess your length of your stay.  If you bump into a friend whilst shopping you can have a coffee or lunch without going to fill the meter.  No need for coins either.

Convenience

Unlike many car parks elsewhere you will not even have to pay on exit via a pay-station. You simply drive out.

Of course, non-locals will have to use a pay station – unless they choose to register their vehicle on account.

Costs

Although the new car park should be a great benefit to users it will cost the borough a loss in revenue of around £30,000 a year.  This is currently what is collected from parking fines.  With barriered pay on exit parking penalties will reduce almost to nothing.

Some might say that the borough should have increased the parking charges to cover the cost of the proposals.  However, the Liberal Democrat led Elmbridge administration decided to recommend the full council agree this proposal without changing the charges in any way.

The main reason is that people might develop different parking habits from before and we felt it would be prudent to see what changes, if any, might be required.

Charge by the minute not the hour

So charges will remain at current levels.  After a few months we will be able to assess the new usage pattern and new, more flexible, charging arrangements could be introduced – possible pay only for the minutes used rather than the mainly current hourly system.  As ever, there will be consultations before any payment charge proposal are introduced.

We have reasonable confidence that once the barriers are installed the level of parking charge evasion will decrease to almost zero and therefore the revenue will increase by between 10% to 30%.  We’ll see.  As we get closer to the launch date we will be sending out more detailed information.

A Vision for Weybridge

Many Weybridge residents have told me that they would like the town centre to have a focal point – what better than to pedestrianise the very centre of the town?  Give your comments.  It is just a very short strip between Baker Street and Churchfields Road but it would make a great difference to the look and feel of Baker Street, Church Street and the High Street. This would bring a whole series of benefits.

  • There would be a small piazza for people to relax in the quiet centre of town
  • Shopping throughout the town centre would be a more pleasant experience
  • Air pollution, which is current at or above legal limits, would be greatly reduced
  • More short-term parking would be available
  • More trees could be planted in the High Street
  • Baker Street would no longer be a rat-run
  • Access to the town centre would be quicker as the through traffic would not be in the way
  • Buses would travel through the town centre unimpeded by cars.
  • The noise level would be so low that we could hear bird song rather than car engines.

It is likely that far more people could be sat across the new pavement between Cafe One and the Elmbridge Arms.  What a pleasant way to have a cup of tea or coffee in the sun.

This project would cost very little.   Many projects like this can takes years to put in place in England because of the way our governments are organised.  Responsibilities are spread between so many bodies that no-one takes the lead.

What about having a pilot first – just for next summer?  A temporary pilot would probably cost less than the consultation exercise required.  People would quickly experience the positive and negative aspects of the scheme.  Changes could be made as necessary through practical experience.  What is your view – take the survey.

Most people would consider that the biggest problem would be what happens to the traffic?  Clearly the through traffic will not be able to travel down the High Street.  Just like water, traffic always finds new ways through.  Surprisingly when changes like this are made a proportion of the traffic simply disappears but we would be wise to anticipate any problems and put in place appropriate mitigation measures.

This is simply a suggestion to set off your creative juices.  Another idea – much more expensive is here.