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.

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.

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.

Investing in our infrastructure – CIL

The application period for the 2020-2021 CIL funding round for local projects will open on Thursday 13 February 2020 for a period of six weeks. Applications must be completed and submitted by midnight on Sunday
29 March 2020. More about CIL here.

After this closing date, applicants who have applied by the closing date will have a further four weeks to provide any outstanding details needed for a valid application. Failure to provide the requested details by the deadline will result in the application being invalid and not being considered.

Applicants will be invited to attend and present to the relevant Local Spending Board, with these boards being held in June and early July 2020.

The 2020-2021 CIL Local Funding Application Form and Guidance Notes will be available on Thursday 13 February 2020. In the meantime you get more backgound here.

For further information about the CIL Local funding process, please contact the borough team on 01372 474342 or email cil@elmbridge.gov.uk.

Cabinet Question Time

Come to ask questions at the annual Cabinet Question Time public meeting on Wednesday, 15 January from 6-9pm at the Civic Centre in Esher.

This informative event provides an insight into a range of local issues and the borough’s plans to tackle them in partnership with the community and other public agencies.

Drop-in session
From 6-7pm we will have borough officers on hand to answer residents’ questions about local government and our services. Partner services attending include Surrey Police and Surrey County Council’s Elmbridge Local Committee.

Presentation and Q&A
From 7pm the Council Leader will deliver a presentation detailing the key themes of the borough’s work, from the climate emergency to our changing high streets. This will be followed by a question and answer session involving the Leader and Cabinet Members.

Residents can sign up to attend the event and submit questions in advance of the Q&A at Eventbrite. Any questions about the event can be directed to the Organisational Development team at corporatepolicy@elmbridge.gov.uk or 01372 474 216.

Elmbridge’s Climate Emergency

The Climate Proposal

At a full Council meeting on Wednesday, 17 July, Elmbridge Borough Council declared a Climate Emergency.

Councillors have pledged to take local action to contribute to national carbon neutral targets through the development of practices and policies, with an aim of making Elmbridge Borough Council carbon neutral.

The motion, put forward by Cllr Mary Marshall, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats & Portfolio Holder for the Environment, and seconded by Cllr Tricia Bland, of the Thames Ditton and Weston Green Residents’ Party, outlined that ‘urgent action’ is required to limit the effects of global warming, which not only affects the people of Elmbridge but people around the globe, and that action needed to start with Elmbridge Borough Council and the services it provides.

The Climate Debate

The Climate Emergency motion was proposed by Cllr Mary Marshall, our Liberal Democrat councillor from Claygate.  Mary is our deputy leader and heads up the group’s environmental policy.  It was natural that she became the borough’s environment portfolio holder.

  • Mary’s proposal speech gives a comprehensive account as to why this proposal is necessary and you can watch it here.
  • Our Liberal Democrat cabinet member for corporate affairs, Cllr Christine Elmer, gave an account of allied work in this policy area that the borough has undertaken in the past.  You can watch her speech here.
  • Cllr Andrew Davis, our deputy leader of the council, gave support as to why 2030 was the more appropriate date than 2050.  His speech is here.
  • You can watch all the debate here (44 minutes).
The Climate Vote

The Conservatives wanted to amend the proposal to extend the date for the corporation to be carbon neutral to 2050 but the Liberal Democrats stressed the need to align with the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which recently recommended a target of 2030. The amendment was lost. The full motion was carried with 38 members in favour, none against, seven abstained and three were absent.

The Climate Action

The motion put forward the following as action for the council

  • Declare a ‘Climate Emergency’;
  • Pledge to make Elmbridge Borough Council carbon neutral by 2030, taking into account both production and consumption emissions; and
  • Report to full Council within six months setting out the immediate action the council will take to address this emergency, offer best efforts to forecast progress towards meeting the 2030 target and produce a methodology to compare the borough with other local lower tier districts.
The Climate background

The Liberal Democrat 2019 Elmbridge Borough manifesto began with

“Climate Change is an existential threat to humankind. We will put Elmbridge on a path to become carbon neutral and will adopt appropriate policies to this end.”

This was the key policy in the strategy of the Elmbridge Liberal Democrats no other elected party had a similar policy. Only an administration that included the Lib Dems would drive this policy through. If the Lib Dems stayed in opposition this policy would have languished until the next election. Although the proportion of Liberal Democrats on the council has doubled in recent years, it is not enough to govern alone. In order to support this and other policies in May, we entered negotiations with other parties with this policy as a cornerstone of any agreement.

Once agreed, plans were put in place to turn policy into reality and last Wednesday’s motion was the first public step on that journey.

Climate – the next steps

Now the motion is passed, the Liberal Democrat/Residents’ coalition will over the summer:

  • Produce a brief for a new committee of all parties, reporting through the cabinet to the council, specifically focused on the climate emergency.
  • Survey the corporation to ascertain its footprint.

In the autumn the new committee will produce a strategy for ensuring the borough meets the target of net zero carbon by 2030.

This Council notes:

Humans have already caused irreversible climate change, the impacts of which are being felt around the world. Global temperatures have already increased by 1˚C from pre-industrial levels. Atmospheric C0² levels are above 400 parts per million (ppm).

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) in October 2018 gave us just twelve years to implement changes to keep global warming at a maximum of 1.5˚C in order to avoid widespread drought, food scarcity, heat related deaths and loss of biodiversity, including insects and vital food crop pollinators.

At present the world is on track to overshoot the Paris Agreement’s 1.5˚C limit before 2050. In order to reduce the chance of runaway global warming and limit the effects of climate breakdown, it is imperative that we as a species reduce our C0² eq (carbon equivalent) emissions from their current 6.5 tons per person per year (14 tons per year in Elmbridge) to less than two tons pa as soon as possible.

  1. Individuals cannot be expected to make this reduction on their own. Society needs to change its laws, taxation and infrastructure to make low carbon living easier and the new norm;
  2. Carbon emissions result from both production and consumption;
  3. The borough has already made some positive progress, but this is not enough. More can and must be done. The IPPC in its October 2018 report was very clear that action from all parts of society is necessary and local government has a responsibility to lead the way; and
  4. Local governments around the world are therefore responding by declaring a ‘Climate Emergency’ and taking positive action to address this emergency.
Elmbridge Borough Council believes that:
  1. All levels of government (national, regional and local) have a duty to limit the negative impacts of climate breakdown. Local councils that recognise this should not wait for their national governments to change their policies;
  2. Elmbridge is already suffering from flooding problems, and a significant proportion of its population and a large number of its settlements are located on low or flood plain areas which would be severely affected by more frequent and extreme storms and rainfall both in the borough and up river. The consequences of the global temperature rising above 1.5˚C are potentially so severe that preventing this from happening is a number one priority; and
  3. Bold local climate action can deliver economic and social benefits in terms of new green jobs, economic savings and market opportunities, as well as much improved well-being for the people living and working in Elmbridge – for example through reducing fuel poverty and energy bills, encouraging healthy, active travel and improving green spaces and access to nature.

Dorchester Road

The Surrey proposal for Dorchester Road is as follows:

The households which now will have access to Area F is here in purple.  The light blue area is currently Area F:

If you want details of other proposals see here.

If you want to have a look at the current restrictions look here.

If you want to offer your comments then do so here before 5 July 2019

If you want further information by all means contact weybridge@elmbridgelibdems.org.uk.