QC’S Advice on Local Plan “Wait for Officers’ Evidence’

Leader’s statement warns Councillors – officers must be allowed to present the evidence on our Local Plan

At a Full Council meeting on 26 February 2020, the Leader of the Lib Dem/Residents’, Cllr Stuart Selleck, gave a clear message to councillors of all parties:

“Planning officers are focusing on completing the evidence base for the Local Plan. The intended timetable will see a draft plan produced by officers for Members to consider towards the end of June. You have all be sent invitations for two discussion groups and one all member briefing in June. I urge you to attend all three meetings.

This administration has asked officers to find as much good, irrefutable evidence as possible so that we can challenge the ridiculous housing numbers, protect our Green Belt and protect the character of our towns and villages. 

I understand from officers that it is still too early for them to advise councillors on the content of the draft plan, but I must stress that when the officers do present the completed evidence base and proposed draft plan in the summer, the decision on the content of that plan and the growth strategy for Elmbridge will be made by the administration, by councillors, by all of us here.

I am aware that some councillors feel under pressure to make a decision on the growth strategy for the Local Plan now and that they want to offer residents comfort that the Green Belt will be protected.  But to do so would be both irresponsible and detrimental to our chances of demonstrating to an inspector that our plan is sound.

Our senior Planning QC has confirmed to us that we have provided assurances in our adopted Local Development Scheme and Statement of Community Involvement that the decision making and governance of the Local Plan will be carried out as stated in these documents. Any decision or motion given now would be contrary to the key principles set out in the Statement of Community Involvement and the governance and decision making arrangements set out in the Local Development Scheme.

The QC also confirmed that any decision, now, about the content of the Local Plan would be adverse to the interests of the council. It could be legally argued that it would be predetermination of a critical issue.  It could also be legally argued that the council had fettered its discretion and that it would be an unlawful decision as it would be based on insufficient information. 

The full evidence base is yet to be completed; we do not have the officers’ professional advice and I need to remind you that we are still out to public consultation on the final Regulation 18 document.  

As members of the opposition should know full well, making any such decisions at this stage would put the draft Local Plan which we submit to the Inspector at heightened risk of legal challenge with a higher chance of the Local Plan being found unsound by failing to accord with the tests of soundness as set out in the National Planning Policy Framework.

Watch his speech here

Residents should take comfort from the Liberal Democrats and Residents’ parties track record of making the right decision at the right time. It was this administration that successfully defended an application to build an extension into the Green Belt at Drake Park and it was this administration that removed the 2016 Local Plan Preferred Option to build in the Green Belt. At the full council meeting 

A CLEAR MESSAGE

Stuart Selleck’s statement was a clear message that, no matter how much they might like to tell the officers what to do in the Local Plan, councillors risk the charge that they have decided what it should contain before they see the evidence.

He reiterated the long commitment that Elmbridge’s Liberal Democrats Party and Residents’ parties have held 

20mph Speed Limits

The new normal?

Join in our survey on 20mph speed limits.

You saw it in Australia – the climate emergency is now.  Australia is but the beginning.  Elmbridge is not immune.  We need to act now but in a considered and measured fashion.

In Elmbridge one of the biggest causes of the climate emergency is car traffic.  The internal combustion engine belching out fumes and carbon dioxide.  

We, in Elmbridge, are big users of cars and compared to the national average we seem to like big cars that cause even more climate emergency problems.

What if we could travel safety to where we wanted to go without having to belch out fumes?  Simply do what the Dutch and Danes take for granted – we could cycle.

Cycling is the healthiest form of transport.  People who cycle live longer than those who do not.

We need to change the design of our streets so that our own first choice of travel is by cycle.  To do that we need two things:

– 20mph speed limits on side streets – this is relatively cheap to do.

– Separate cycle ways alongside main roads – this is more expensive, but we can do it if we want a healthier and safer environment.

Join our survey on 20mph speed limits.

Your frequently asked questions on
20 mph speed limits

Investing in Weybridge

Most of the funding for the new market / fair street improvement is being funded by CIL

New building development in Weybridge has meant that we have around £500,000 to invest in projects that improve our lives in Weybidge.

If your organisation has a project that will contribute to Weybridge’s infrastructure then apply for a grant from Elmbridge borough. You can apply for grants up to £500,000 from 13 February.

Click here for a summary on CIL and get examples of recent bids here.

Complete and submit your application by midnight on Sunday
29 March 2020.

Click here for further detailed information about the CIL grant process and do contact the borough CIL team on 01372 474342 or email cil@elmbridge.gov.uk or ourselves if you need help and guildance.

Broadwater Lake

Following from the success of the construction of a properly laid footpath from Grenside Road in Weybridge to Cowey Sale, championed by Cllr Andrew Davis, many residents commented on the state of Broadwater Lake which had become silted up and obscured by fallen trees. Local councillors agreed to the request to use Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) funding, with contributions from the Beechcroft and Templemere estates, to pay for dredging the lake as a first step towards improving its appearance. This was completed on 9-10th January.

Unauthorised moorings on the Thames

I regularly paddle up and down the river between Weybridge and Walton whilst training as a member of Weybridge Rowing Club and Thames Valley Skiff Club. Over the last few years I have witnessed a significant increase in boats moored without permission along the river.

Within the Public Right of Navigation there is deemed a right for boat owners to stop on land, subject to the necessary landowners consent, for a reasonable period, the Environment Agency (EA) considering this to be 24 hours. The law only allows the owners of the land that the boats are moored on to take action against an unauthorised mooring. As the EA owns most of the towpath running through Elmbridge, they consider the most effective method or dealing with this issue is through prosecution for repeated trespass offences. But anyone regularly using the river or the towpath can see that this has so far failed to produce any reduction in the number of illegally moored boats. 

However, there have been two recent developments which indicate some positive steps towards tackling this problem:

  1. Those occupying a number of moored boats near Cherry Orchard Gardens in Molesey had encroached onto the towpath and erected fences, gardens and garden furniture. Last year the Elmbridge Borough Council (EBC) Planning Compliance Team issued nine enforcement notices to have these removed. The notices were appealed, but on the 13th January the government’s Planning Inspectorate turned down the appeals as ‘not valid’. This means that the enforcement notices can now come into effect. The notices require the use of the land for the permanent mooring of boats to cease, and any structures, fencing or enclosures to be removed. The period for compliance is one calendar month, i.e. by the 13th February.
  2. The EA has decided to engage in procuring the services of a specialist company to help it manage moorings on its land. They have previously managed their designated mooring sites where charges applied for stays of more than 24 hours, e.g. at Hurst Park Wharf, Molesey, at Miskins Wharf, Walton, and at Desborough Island. This time it also wants the appointed company to be responsible for managing boats moored outside its designated mooring sites. This is a significant change. It wants all boats to be moored in accordance with any applicable terms and conditions; this should mean that overstaying boats are moved by their owners/masters without delay or enforcement procedures will be put into place. Subject to the quality and affordability of the responses received, the EA hopes to make an appointment and have all necessary arrangements in place before the Easter Bank Holiday weekend of 10-12th April.

Finally, EBC has no powers to move/evict boats on EA land but it has continued to work closely with Surrey Police and the EA. If you identify a crime or anti-social behaviour then this should be reported to the police or reported on-line at:

Report ASB associated with moorings

To report any other non-urgent matter relating to the river contact: enquiries@environment-agency.gov.uk or telephone 03708 506 506 during office hours. The EA will also seek to take action against any incidents of pollution in the river that are reported to them. If you witness any dumping of waste into the river you can report this on their hotline 0800 807060 and they will investigate.  

20s Plenty for Us

Why reduce speeds in our residential streets?
There are a whole host of reasons but in climate emergency terms it is to enable people to travel in the safest, healthiest and greenest way that we know and that is by cycling. We know that people will cycle if they feel safe.  The way to do this is to provide cycle ways separate from the carriageway – as opposed to a narrow lane in the kerb; and, on our side streets to have speed limits set below 20mph.

Just imagine the difference if all our secondary children could walk or cycle to their local school.  Of course, we would be reducing air pollution too.

Why is 20mph so important for safety?

Studies show that humans react differently when they are moving below 20mph as opposed to when they are moving above that speed.  It is all to do with our own maximum sprinting speed.  For obvious reasons, evolution did not equip us to react to situations when we were travelling faster than we could sprint.  So when travelling below 20mph we can deal with other drivers, pedestrians and cyclists in a far more convivial manner than when we are travelling above that speed.  

We have 30mph now – is that not good enough?

When the urban speed limit was set at 30mph in 1934 it was a matter of judgement that is was a safer speed.  Via a great deal of research, we now know that at above roughly 22mph most people find it difficult to read the intention of the person coming towards us.  The lower our speed, the more likely it would be that we could avoid bumping or crashing into someone. 

But we know driving slower is safer – what is so special about 20mph?
,,
Unlike braking distance, which increases with speed gradually, the ability to read the intention of a person coming toward you declines slowly up to around 20mph and then collapses rapidly.  Below that speed, you can see where the other person is looking and act accordingly.  Above that speed, you have to guess – and guess very quickly – to avoid a crash or, more seriously, injury or death.

The police cannot enforce a 20mph speed limit – so what is the point?

It is regrettable that our police service is decidedly overstretched but just because our police cannot, at the moment, enforce the speed this does not mean a 20mph limit should not be introduced.  Otherwise we might as well abolish the crime of theft.

Brooklands Business Park Accessibility Project

Your local councillors recently attended an update briefing from Surrey CC’s Transport Strategy Project Manager and Transport Planner on the work planned to provide improved pedestrian and cycling paths from Weybridge town centre to the station and through to Brooklands Park. 

Some preparatory work has already been completed:

  • Last summer clearing of ground-covering scrub and trees was undertaken along Heath Road; a few trees were retained to give a better aesthetic and the paths will be routed around these. 
  • The much-needed resurfacing of St George’s Avenue last October was also part of the scheme and a dropped kerb was built towards the station end of the road so that cyclists can come off the road onto a short section of pavement to then cross the main road via the refuge.
  • In November, the refuges for pedestrian access to the station were widened and dropped kerbs improved.

More work is planned for the February half-term, including larger refuges for the crossing on Brooklands Road to Heath Road South car park. Following this, the track from the car park, past the sewage treatment works, across the River Wey and through to Brooklands will be widened and provided with lighting. Funding has been ear-marked for improvements to Sopwith Drive and Wellington Way as well as for better pedestrian access to the station and for increased cycle parking provision. There will be bus stop improvements and suitably placed finger-post signs. The path under Wellington Way occasionally floods, as it has done recently, and a raised boardwalk is planned to keep this path open and usable more often.

If there is sufficient money then a second phase will be considered to link the planned route from Heath Road through to Churchfields and the town centre. This exciting proposition would complement the current discussions of a town regeneration scheme centred around developing the publicly-owned NHS, library and community centre sites. There would be further public consultation on any proposed options.

Cycling to a new level

The regular monthly Sunday Elmbridge cycle ride is called off because of the weather.  The next ride will be on Sunday 8th March. 

But if you want to look towards the summer the Elmbridge Cycle Group is planning cycle tour in Switzerland – to ride from the source of the River Rhine to Lake Constance in Germany.

The trip will be towards the end of June (provisionally 21st June to 28th June).  They will start in Andermatt at the source of the Rhine River and will follow it (mostly downhill) until it reaches Lake Constance.  This will be about 5 days of cycling with one or two rest days or optional side excursions to Liechtenstein, St Gall and/or Friedrichshafen.  Beyond Lake Constance there is another option to continue for three or four more days to Basel.

Typical distances will be between 30km and 60km per day.

If you are interested or have any questions please let George of Elmbridge Cycle Group know.

Safer streets

Would you believe that some city governments are actually removing roadside cycle paths? In most places across the country there is a dire need for safer cycle facilities. Surely removing cycle paths is grossly irresponsible. Well it depends on the circumstances. If traffic is already going at less than 20mph then separating cycles and cars need no longer be necessary.

We believe people in Elmbridge want a better quality of life, a safer place to live and, if possible, an environmentally sustainable neighbourhood too. We feel that, for a whole host of reasons residential streets should have a maximum speed limit of 20mph.

Nearly all the road danger occurs in residential streets. More than half of road deaths and serious injuries occur on roads with 30 mph limits. Britain has the highest percentage of pedestrian road fatalities in Europe 20% and Britain has one of the lowest levels of children walking or cycling to school in Europe. British parents consistently cite traffic speed as the main reason why their children are not allowed to cycle or walk to school.

As the main roads will still have limits of 30mph and above, car journey times would hardly lengthen at all. Lowering residential speed limits to 20mph has been found to increase a 15 minute car journey by less than a minute.

Lowering urban and residential speed limits to 20mph has been found to decrease child pedestrian accidents by 70%. Where 20mph limits and similar measures have been introduced 24% of in town trips are made by bicycle. Noise levels are lower and crime falls too.

80% of the public and 75% of drivers support 20mph as a speed limit on residential streets and now city governments around the country are beginning to introduce citywide 20mph limits: Bristol, Edinburgh, Hull, Portsmouth, Northampton and Nottingham – Islington becomes the first borough in London.

A noticeable feature of area-wide 20mph limits is that as more people begin to live in 20mph streets they drive down other people’s 20mph streets at a more respectable speed. This re-enforces the lower speed limit for everyone – speed humps and chicanes become things of the past.

It is time for our residential roads to be equitably shared with all the users by setting an appropriate speed limit that protects the young and the vulnerable. The time for 20mph as a speed limit on residential roads in Elmbridge has come.

Weybridge Streetscape

Although our eventual aim is to remove all through traffic from our High Street – that will have to wait until Surrey Council Council corrects its financial position. In the meantime, we in Weybridge can undertake our own improvements using our own CIL funds.

Clearing the clutter

The first major improvement is to provide an outdoor space for markets and performances that aims to help enhance community life and bring more footfall into town. It would be difficult not to miss the work being undertaken along the pavement from the Elmgrove Road junction along the High Street past Waitrose to The Ship Hotel. The borough council has worked over the past two years to develop this scheme envisioned by the Weybridge Town Business Group.

Funded with CIL money, the redesign and resurfacing of the high street pedestrian area will create a flexible shared space that retains on-street parking for most of time and can be easily converted to provide facilities for market stalls and events. The work started on the 13th January and completion is scheduled for the 3rd April.

Key features:    

  • Declutter and open up the high street 
  • Resurface and extend the pavement  
  • Retain on-street parking 
  • Offer a flexible events space 
  • Respect the conservation areas 
  • Retain the same number of trees but replace with semi-mature trees: the current tree roots are pushing up the pavements resulting in uneven surfaces and causing accessibility issues for pedestrians. The proposed works will seek to retain the overall current number of trees but replace existing trees with new semi- mature trees within appropriate tree pits.