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

St James School gets new toilets and cloakrooms


Thank goodness for the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) – a tax that is levied on developers when they build new homes. Without CIL funds, it is hard to see how St James School would have found the money to make badly needed improvements to their buildings.  Their annual grant for capital projects is just £9,000.

On Wednesday 2nd October, the school was successful in its application for CIL funding to replace toilet facilities for pupils. The CIL grant of £110,000 was unanimously approved by local councillors from Weybridge and Oatlands. The CIL grant will be combined with funds raised by the PTA and a contribution from Surrey CC Property Services.

Pupils, parents, teachers and support staff at the school are all too aware of the shocking state of disrepair of the loos for pupils in years 3, 4 and 5 at the school and of the negative impact on pupil comfort and wellbeing of having loos that pupils just do not want to use.

Now that the school has the funding it needs, the programme of replacement proposed should see the work completed by the summer.

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.

We are not a ‘safe seat’ any longer

The old adage about ‘safe seats’ does not apply in the Esher & Walton constituency any longer. Here’s the proof. Elmbridge voted decisively ‘remain’ in the European election by voting for the Liberal Democrats – ahead of the Brexit Party and the Conservatives.

And the most recent YouGov poll in the Esher & Walton constituency confirms that the Liberal Democrats are ahead of the Conservatives in people’s voting intentions.
So the time has come to send a Liberal Democrat to Westminster as our MP.

Our parliamentary candidate Monica Harding is campaigning energetically to unseat the current Tory MP Dominic Raab, who does not represent our views.
Get to know Monica and support her campaign!
https://www.monicaharding.org
https://www.facebook.com/MonicaHardingEsherWalton

Elmbridge Liberal Democrats form Joint Administration with Residents Associations Group for 2019/20 

Following the Conservatives’ loss of three seats in the recent Elmbridge Borough Council election and the gains made by both the Liberal Democrats and the Residents Associations, the two groups have now formed a joint administration for 2019/20. This was confirmed at the Annual Council held on Wednesday 15 May 2019.

The Liberal Democrats have grown their share of vote in Elmbridge by 65% since 2016 and now have 10 Councillors, including a seat they gained from the Conservatives in the Weybridge Riverside ward.

The Conservatives lost another two seats in Esher and Weybridge St. George’s Hill wards, which were gained by the Residents Association Group (RAs). RAs also held their seats in Hinchley Wood, Molesey East and West, Thames Ditton and Walton Central wards.

Because the Conservatives were reduced to 21 seats on Elmbridge Council, there was No Overall Control (NOC). This paved the way for the Liberal Democrats with their 10 seats and the RAs with their 17 seats, to form a joint administration.

The Liberal Democrats’ Council Group Leader Andrew Davis said: ‘When the election result became clear we had exploratory talks with the RAs, including our policies and priorities plus effective processes for a possible coalition. As LibDem Councillors we pressed for the key points in our manifesto, particularly our green environmental policies. We reached a broad agreement on these which enabled us to form the new joint administration with the RAs in Elmbridge for the next 12 months.’

Cllr Davis added: ’We are delighted to welcome a new team member Cllr Ashley Tilling, representing Weybridge Riverside, to our now 10 strong group on Elmbridge Council. We also successfully held Claygate ward with Cllr Alex Coomes and Long Ditton ward with Cllr Neil Houston.’

‘For this fantastic result and our growing share of the vote we thank all those who supported us. The hard work of all our candidates, campaign activists and councillors has paid off. We are grateful to all our members and supporters for their commitment and help with leaflet deliveries, door knocking and many other activities.’

‘We are very pleased that the Elmbridge Liberal Democrats now have greater control of the borough than at any time in its history. This includes three main committees: Licensing Committee (Cllr Mike Rollings), Vice Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee (Cllr Neil Houston) and Chair of the Planning Committee (Cllr Shweta Kapadia).  We are also hoping that Cllr Alex Coomes will become Chair of Audit and Standards Committee.’

‘Importantly, we have three Cabinet posts with Deputy Leader of the Council, Cllr Andrew Davis (Highways), Cllr Christine Elmer (Community and Corporate Affairs) and Cllr Mary Marshall, Deputy Leader of the Elmbridge Liberal Democrats (Environment).’

‘Given goodwill, trust and discipline on both sides we believe that we will have a well-functioning and efficient joint administration with the RA’s to address a number of pressing issues for Elmbridge. These include the Local Government financial settlement, the consultation on the next stages of the Elmbridge Local Plan, and possible additional responsibilities together with Surrey County Council. We are confident we have a very strong team in place to meet these challenges.’

Commenting on the Liberal Democrats’ election success Richard Waller, Chair of Elmbridge Liberal Democrats’ Executive Committee said: ‘Nationally our party is enjoying a strong resurgence which shows in more than 700 new council seats we have just gained across the country. This positive trend is repeating itself here in Elmbridge too. We are enormously grateful to our councillors, members and supporters for all their contributions. I am proud of their dedication and enthusiasm.’

‘Furthermore this is very encouraging for Monica Harding, our Prospective Parliamentary Candidate in Esher and Walton, and her team who are working hard to make sure our growing strength is harnessed to unseat Dominic Raab MP for Esher & Walton.’

Full election results can be found on the Elmbridge Borough Council’s website: http://mygov.elmbridge.gov.uk/mgManageElectionResults.aspx

Successful Liberal Exchange with Antony Hook MEP candidate and Monica Harding Prospective Parliamentary Candidate

Our Liberal Exchange with Antony Hook MEP candidate and Monica Harding Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Esher and Walton last night in Esher was inspiring, encouraging and energising. Thank you both and great to have a good crowd join us. Now we are campaigning across the constituency for all ‘remainers’ to vote for the Liberal Democrats in the European election on 23rd May. We can still stop Brexit!

Liberal Exchange about Euro elections with Antony Hook MEP candidate for the South East and Monica Harding Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Esher and Walton

Having only just ‘wrapped up’ the local Elmbridge election there’s another election looming in a couple of weeks – the European Parliamentary election on 23rd May.
Here’s an opportunity to learn more about European Parliamentary election, Parliament itself, how it works and how our MEPs are contributing.
We are delighted to have Antony Hook, Liberal Democrat MEP candidate for the South East join us this Sunday 12th May at 7pm at King George’s Hall in Esher (opposite the Civic Centre) to tell us more about European Parliament and its role. You’ll be able to put questions to Antony and engage in a discussion about the current state of affairs in Brexit negotiations.

Antony is an international criminal barrister by professional background so he also knows a thing or two about cross border crime, and why European cooperation is essential. But not just in crime, but also in how to tackle climate change and air pollution, transport, research cooperation, agriculture, technical standards and other key areas.
The event will be hosted by Monica Harding, Lib Dem Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Esher and Walton.

You and your friends are warmly welcome on Sunday night (12th May at 7pm) to this free event!

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.

Conservative car park charge increases start in January

On 5 December 2018, Conservative Elmbridge councillors voted to increase the charges in Elmbridge car parks – at a level well above inflation. They also voted to extend the hours of charging. These changes were implemented in January 2019.

Lib Dems and Residents councillors opposed these changes but had insufficient votes to overturn the Conservative Administration’s proposals.

We sought to stop these changes by proposing “that the Portfolio Holder and relevant Officers consult with Members with a view to producing a revised range of proposals in which increases are generally more in line with current levels of inflation.”

Despite the Conservative administration agreeing to a review of these changes, they did not follow their own recommendation that “The Portfolio Holder agrees with the Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee any wider terms of reference.”

Instead, the Overview and Scrutiny Committee were subsequently limited to reviewing free Saturday parking in some village car parks, and a group was set up to complete this review by the deadline set of March 21, 2019.

This review resulted in a very rigorous examination of evidence of usage, feedback from stakeholders, and the basis on which decisions on car park charging could or should be made. Currently, the council has no principled criteria they use when setting car park charges and timings.

A more substantial review of the charges should be initiated in June when the new council is installed.