Hersham Hall – a Lost Opportunity

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Hersham Hall has now been closed for several years following an independent condition survey which judged it to be dangerous due to a number of building related issues needing attention. It was also during this period deemed unfit for purpose as a sports hall and was underused.

£650,000 of taxpayers’ money spent on short term attempt

At full Council on Wednesday 2nd October, 31 councillors from the Residents Association, Conservative and Brexit parties on Elmbridge Borough Council voted to spend at least £650,000 of tax payers’ money in an attempt to extend the life of Hersham Hall by just five years!

Counter to the Council’s Climate Emergency Declaration

This controversial and expensive refurbishment decision was taken in the face of solid opposition from all 10 Liberal Democrat councillors and a small number of Residents Association councillors, who argued that the proposal to refurbish the ‘G’ rated EPC (energy performance certificate) Hersham Hall ran counter to the Council’s vote to declare a Climate Emergency.

The decision by the Council to declare a Climate Emergency had been taken at the previous Council meeting on 17th July 2019, witnessed by a full balcony of extremely supportive Elmbridge residents. That decision was welcomed by residents and businesses across the borough and puts Elmbridge at the forefront of progressive local government.

Additional running costs take it to £1m

Knowing that a proposal to rebuild Hersham Hall, which could have been combined with much needed affordable housing had already been dismissed by the local ward councillors and The Hersham Hall member reference group, your Lib Dem councillors proposed that the decision to spend such a large amount of money on what would be a short term fix with at best a ‘D’ rated EPC should be deferred. They further argued that the additional costs of running the hall would take expenditure in the short term to over £1 million.

Lib Dems suggest a 21st century community hub

The reasons for deferral was to give further consideration to the costs and benefits of refurbishment vs rebuilding. The LibDem councillors wanted a more thorough gathering of evidence for the potential to provide Hersham with a 21st century multi-purpose community hub fit for the future. This would give Elmbridge not only a hall to be proud of but also much needed affordable housing in a central village location. This viable proposal would also have brought in revenue to cover the cost of the rebuild, furthermore it would protect the risk of having to build on our precious Green Belt.  This  Liberal Democrat suggestion was outvoted.

Climate Emergency changes everything

The arguments given in favour of the £650,000 refurbishment were that the village had been deprived of its hall for several years, there had already been numerous different decisions made on the future of the hall, and the residents of Hersham had asked for and been promised a refurbishment by their local Councillors.

The Climate Emergency decision presents the Council with the opportunity of proving its commitment to taking real steps towards reducing the borough’s carbon footprint and increasing its affordable housing for key workers.

This is a missed opportunity

Regrettably the first chance for the Council to progress with this policy has now been missed and most unfortunately the LibDem group’s principled debate in favour of this as well as giving the community a state of the art building to be proud of was defeated in support of short-term political aims.

Elmbridge Liberal Democrat Group October 2019

Thames Flood Alleviation – Desborough Channel safe

 On Wednesday 2nd October, Weybridge Riverside ward councillors met with representatives from the Environment Agency and their consultants in the team tasked with River Thames Flood Alleviation Scheme.

This work has been ongoing for several years now, with serious hydraulic modelling of flows in the Thames around Weybridge. The outcome of the most recent work are positive for Weybridge residents. It appears the flood risk for Weybridge can be reduced without any modification to the banks of the Desborough Channel – the stretch of water that separates Desborough Island from the eastern bank of the Thames alongside Walton Lane.

There is now no threat to the towpath and no need to cut back the bank on Desborough Island, with the consequent loss of trees.  Instead, it is proposed the river bed will be lowered further downstream.

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.

This is the Liberal Democrat Manifesto for Elmbridge

Safer, Greener, Smarter

Environment
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. We will work with local businesses and residents to identify and implement smart and practical measures to achieve our goal. This work will bring tangible benefits to our neighbourhoods and to our personal well-being, too.

Traffic
We will begin to tackle traffic congestion and cut air pollution by installing 20mph in residential areas, improving public transport, discouraging engine idling near schools and elsewhere, and promoting walking and cycling options across Elmbridge.  We will install electric vehicle-charging points in our car parks, encourage them in any new developments and provide free parking for zero-emission cars. We will co-ordinate on and off-street parking, introduce smart parking charging and secure easy access to services.

Planning
We will defend the Green Belt and implement a “brownfield sites first” approach in the upcoming local plan.  We will campaign for infrastructure improvements to be in place for new developments. We will set targets for social housing and family starter homes to meet the needs of a younger generation.  We will encourage local forums to create neighbourhood plans. We will also promote the concentration of shops and services in town centres.

Crime
We will strengthen Neighbourhood Watch and anti-social behaviour teams, and work with Surrey Police to restore neighbourhood policing.  We will promote leisure, sport and social facilities for young people in all towns.

Democracy
We will ensure full transparency in both borough and county budget planning and spending, as well as in the conduct of planning applications – with full accountability to residents.  We support the introduction of an effective unitary authority by merging the county and borough levels into one authority in place of the current Surrey County Council and Surrey’s eleven boroughs.

Leisure                                                                                                                               We recognise the importance of leisure to both mental and physical wellbeing and also its economic benefits.  All leisure activities should be provided at affordable cost to participants, including free adult fitness equipment in every settlement. We will safeguard libraries and look to innovate their services.

Surrey’s Recycling Proposals

Surrey is undertaking several consultations and it seeks your comments by 4 January 2019

Despite changes to recycling centres last year, Surrey’s financial pressures are so severe that consideration needs to be given to whether further savings can be found at community recycling centres.

Surrey’s proposals include:

  • Permanently closing a number of smaller, less effective CRCs, whilst
    increasing the opening hours at some CRCs. Up to six CRC sites are
    under consideration for closure: Bagshot, Cranleigh, Dorking, Farnham,
    Lyne and Warlingham.
  • Introducing a charge to dispose of construction wood and roofing felt.
  • Increasing the cost of disposing of items we already charge for.
  • Charging an annual application fee for van, pickup and trailer permits.

There are no recycling centres in Elmbridge and residents would probably use
the centres in Leatherhead or Epsom which are not proposed for closure, but
whose opening hours may change.

Further details on all the consultations and the opportunity to submit views on
these proposals can be found here.  The consultation response is at the bottom of the consultation webpage.

The analysis of the responses to the consultations will be presented to Surrey’s cabinet in January 2019 for consideration and then to full council in February.

Opinion & Analysis – ‘Brutopia’ – A Demonic Raabid Vision

By ‘Sam Vete’
The boundary of Esher and Walton reveals a peculiar ‘ménage à trois’ between Hampton Court and Thames Ditton; the historical figures Thomas More and Thomas Wolsey cohabit with Dominic Raab.
Thomas More wrote ‘Utopia’, criticising the politics of belligerent European nations while imagining an island nation fulfilling liberal political ideals. The English language and social thought were enriched. Wolsey and More collaborated to reject Lutheranism, putting all their eggs in Rome’s Catholic basket. They became devilled eggs when Henry VIII chose Anne Boleyn above religion.

David Starkey’s TV series erroneously portrays the Reformation as ‘Tudor brexit’ (peering penetratingly, troll-like, from behind a tree). Yes, Henry wanted to take control from Rome for selfish reasons. Similarly, hard-core brexiters want ‘Henry VIII powers’, passing laws ignoring EU liberalism. That does not parallel the historical events as Lutheranism spread throughout free-thinking states. Elizabeth I put things right in England!

Where do Raab’s demonic diatribes fit this religious triangle? His referendum sermons preached a fundamentalist belief in brexit; scorning basic economic theory and playground savvy – ‘united we stand, divided we fall’. A ‘Brutopia’ which ignores the detrimental implications of economic separatism and autocratic legislation, preferring cronyism to a fair, progressive broad church. Since brexit myths have been exposed as lies, many have changed their minds. Polls show Raab’s views are now seriously out of step with the UK majority. They have NEVER been in step with the pro-EU majority of his constituents. Brexit is not the dish-of-the-day, démodé!

Where else do Raab’s views clash with his constituents? In another modern religion – air travel. He ignores technological progress and the economic and ecological errors of building a Heathrow runway. Video conferencing replaces air travel. Businesses with an internet presence can make decisions quicker than ordering an airport taxi. Progress in flight technology means that runways can be shorter, lightweight carbon-fibre planes (powered by electricity rather than polluting kerosene) will carry more passengers, better booking systems will increase seat occupancy, and additional airport infrastructure will be a white elephant.
Similarly, Dominic Raab; his ‘Vim’ has been scrubbed out! Meanwhile, Theresa May is no Gloriana!

Elmbridge gives back after waste contract problems

The Council’s approach

Not many people know, but after the problematic start to waste collection under the new contract this time last year, the contractor Amey has had to return nearly £500,000 to Elmbridge Borough.

The Council decided that the money returned should not go into the general Council fund, but should in some way go directly to the residents of Elmbridge.  Some was earmarked as direct compensation to people who had paid extra for garden waste removal services as they were most affected – as a group. These people received a two-month payment holiday – which took up £160,000.

Community Green Infrastructure Improvement Fund

Of the remaining money, £100,000 will be allocated to the creation of a Community Green Infrastructure Improvement Fund.  This is designed to enable community groups to bid for small grants, against pre-defined criteria, to carry out green infrastructure improvements. The scheme would allow one-off project funds to be spent in a way that encourages community buy in and ownership and ensures that the money goes towards initiatives important to the communities themselves.

It is proposed that criteria could include community involvement, volunteering, legacy, sustainability, biodiversity, more attractive and green borough etc. For example:

A community group could put in a bid to make environmental improvements to their local street scene, such as setting up an In Bloom scheme as at Cobham Station.  The likely amount of grant will be up to £15K per project, to allow communities to create projects with significant impact.

Examples of such activity can be found on page 46 of the Agenda reports pack for the Cabinet meeting held on 6th June this year.  .

Do let us know your ideas for Weybridge.

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.

Surrey’s Pothole Shame

Who would you rather have in charge of road maintenance where you live?

According to a Get Surrey report in January 2018, when asked about the state of roads in Surrey, a spokesman for Surrey County Council said: “We’re working incredibly hard to improve Surrey’s roads – potholes are fixed at a rate of around 260 a day – but as Surrey has some of the country’s busiest roads wear and tear really takes its toll.

“This means we face a £40 million funding gap over the next five years, and while our Operation Horizon project has seen hundreds of miles of roads rebuilt to make them pothole-proof for at least a decade, we would like to do more which is why we think busier roads should get more government funding.”

On the other hand the spokesman for Hampshire, Councillor Rob Humby, Executive Member for Environment and Transport at Hampshire County Council said: “Hampshire is one of the largest counties in England, with over 5,300 miles of road, much of them rural. Safe and well maintained roads are a priority for us – good transport infrastructure is crucial to Hampshire’s long term economic prosperity and the quality of life of all who live and work here. Each year, our highways teams repair around 10,000 potholes, and we continuously look for the latest innovations available to provide long-lasting, quality maintenance work that represents good value for money.

“Each year, we invest an additional £10million into our planned maintenance programme, Operation Resilience – a long term strategy designed to ensure Hampshire’s road network is more resilient to the impact of heavy traffic and weather. Work includes reconstruction, asphalt dressing, full resurfacing and drainage improvements.

Surrey, on the other hand, plans on reducing capital expenditure on Highways Maintenance from

£20,943,000 in 2018/19 to £12,889,000 in 2019/20 and £14,515,000 in 2019/20, giving a grand total of £48,347,000 over the next three years.

According to Hampshire County Council website, £120 million will be spent on highways maintenance over the next three years in Hampshire.

 

CIL Bids in Weybridge

When most new developments in Weybridge are built the developer has to pay a tax referred to as CIL (Community Infrastructure Levy) to help fund any increased needs locally, as  a consequence of the building.

This infrastructure can be equipment for schools, health centres, community centres or safer or better designed streets.  CIL funds may only be used for new or enhanced facilities and not for staffing, repair or general maintenance of existing facilities.

Typically in Elmbridge, towns have an allocation and bids can be made by residents or groups in the town for funds for a project. See here your most frequently asked questions.

This year in Weybridge there are seven applications for CIL funding.

We are interested to hear your views on these. Do you support any of these projects? Or would you like to comment on them?  Click on each one for more details and click here for our survey.

We also include a scoring assessment of each project for applicability and desirability.  Some projects are uncosted, do not have permission of the landowner or do not necessarily enhance our infrastructure.  But what do you think?

These are the seven applications for CIL funding in Weybridge.

  1. Surrey county for improvements to footpath  linking Broadwater path to Walton Lane. CIL funding of £8,981 has been requested to create a wider all-weather route.
  2. St James School to refurbish the Lodge to create additional teaching and community space. CIL funding of £60,000 has been requested. A quotation has been provided that is consistent with the amount requested.
  3. The Weybridge Society for improvement to lighting around the war memorial and restoration of the surroundings. CIL funding of £32,500 has been requested for the works.
  4. PA Housing for bollards to prevent parking on adopted highways land in Brooklands Road. CIL funding of £3,500 has been requested for the works.
  5. Weybridge Cricket Club for roof replacement and addition of girl’s changing facilities. CIL funding of £50,000 is requested.
  6. Walton Firs Foundation for new accommodation pods to provide additional capacity. CIL funding of £24,560 is requested. Three quotations have been provided, the lowest of which is consistent with the amount requested.
  7. St Mary’s Church Oatlands to create additional office space. CIL funding of £20,000 is requested.

The general report is here.