Health Campus gets priority

Ever since the fire burnt down the Weybridge Community Hospital 5 years ago, residents have been asking what will be replacing this and when. Things are now finally moving forward with a commitment to faster progress on an affordable and achievable plan.

The recent public exhibition established that the new Health Campus on the old hospital site will get the primary focus, but the redevelopment of the library site is also expected to press ahead.

Weybetter Weybridge (a partnership of the key local organisations who are delivering the programme) estimate that the new health campus will be operational towards the end of 2025. Their vision is that the campus will provide:

  • Doctors, nurses and therapists working together to provide a one-stop shop for local health services
  • Access to ‘on the day’ urgent care provided by nurses, GPs and a range of health professionals
  • Ultrasound and advanced blood testing diagnostic services on site
  • A range of children’s services including a 0 to19 health visiting and school nursing hub, as well as speech and language and other therapy services

However, replacing the walk in centre is not in the plan (due to the creation of the Urgent Treatment Centre at St Peters) nor is an X-ray unit proposed (as the previous one was underused and there is good capacity in Walton).

The new library space will be designed to be flexible, enabling different types of activities and events to take place. It will include exhibition and performance space, alongside confidential rooms that can be used for workshops, classes or for groups to meet. There will be space throughout the building where people can use facilities including Wi-Fi, computers, printing and photocopying to support them to collaborate, work or study.

Weybetter Weybridge are proposing that part of the Churchfields Car Park will move from its existing position to Churchfields Bowling Green. This will allow for a large plaza as a multi-functional public space behind the new library. There is resident concern about this proposal.

LibDem Cllr Helgi Joensen will be participating in Weybetter Weybridge meetings. Do please add your own comments to this article.

There will of course be extensive public consultation in the months ahead. If you want to be kept up-to-date, submit your email address at https://tinyurl.com/jcfmtpnf. Further information is available at https://tinyurl.com/yswep5zp.

FACTCHECK: misinformation through your door

It’s one thing to engage in political debate, but parties should tell the truth!

You may have received Conservative party leaflets through your door with some statements and pledges. Let’s look at each of them in turn.

  1. “Collect ALL our bins”: waste services suffered from the nationwide HGV driver shortage. So that the priority collections of general waste, food and recycling could continue, garden waste was suspended. However, several collections were arranged over the last few months and, by working constructively with the contractor, Amey, and the other three councils in the joint waste management partnership, normal fortnightly collections will resume on 2 May.
  2. “Protect our Green Belt from the Liberal Democrats”: the Tories have continuously claimed that we are planning to build on the Green Belt – this is nonsense! Tory central government imposed a requirement for a Local Plan that built 647 homes a year for the next fifteen years. We resisted this and have just passed a Local Plan that challenges that figure by proposing 465 homes a year with no building on any Green Belt.
  3. “Free parking to boost local business”: parking charges are one of the few ways the Council can raise money without increasing Council Tax and compensates for the decrease in government funding to our council of 60% over the last twelve years. Free parking would necessitate a rise in council tax or a cut in vital services.
  4. “Electric vehicle charging points and help the environment”: some are already installed and more are planned for the current year, including in Churchfields car park, the Civic Centre and Drewitts Court in Walton..
  5. “Safer roads and communities for our children”: this is a Surrey County Council responsibility. SCC LibDems recently proposed introducing 20mph zones, particularly where there are schools, but the Tory-controlled council rejected this.
  6. “Better value for money and stop endless Lib Dem council tax rises”: the Conservatives have run Elmbridge for 9 of the last 14 years, so this is a fiction. The latest 2.2% rise in Elmbridge’s element approved by the LibDem/Resident administration contrasts with the 5% rise in Tory controlled Surrey’s element. As Elmbridge’s element is 11% of council tax, this is  an increase of £5 for a Band D property compared to an increase of over £80 for the 75% share that goes to SCC.

The EBC Environment portfolio

Elmbridge is to slash the carbon footprint of big CO2 emitter Xcel Leisure Centre as part of its commitment to fight climate change. 

In July 2019 the Lib Dems on Elmbridge Borough Council initiated a local focus on the Climate emergency which was approved by full council and, following an audit, the council adopted its first Carbon Management and Reduction Plan in 2020.

In May last year I had the privilege of taking on responsibility for the Environment Portfolio and was keen to make speedier progress on implementing proposals in this plan. Working closely with officers and with the cross-party Climate Change Panel, we have secured sufficient money within the council budget to take forward a number of exciting carbon reduction measures. With nearly a million pounds allocated in the February budget, we are now in a position to move forward with projects including: installing solar panels on the Civic Centre and Community Centres; additional insulation at Community Centres and installing electric vehicle charging points at these locations. EV charging points will also be installed at Churchfields car park, Weybridge, over the next few weeks and later this year at Drewitts Court, Walton.

Significantly, we will be installing solar panels on the roof of the Xcel Leisure Centre – the Council’s biggest carbon emitter. We expect this will give an annual saving of around £50,000 and 77 tonnes of CO2 and expect to recoup the cost of the installation within six years. I have also been promoting the installation of a trial solar carport at the Civic Centre car park which will be a solar PV canopy over ten parking spaces and generate 26,000 kWh/yr to offset the building’s electricity consumption and save some £4,000 and 7 tonnes of CO2 per year.

With fuel prices going up, I am reassured that the Council has made sound decisions for both climate reduction and future cost savings.

Cllr Ashley Tilling

Elmbridge Local Plan now published

A Local Plan that protects the character of Elmbridge

The Borough is required by government to produce a Local Plan that outlines how the housing need will be met for the next 15 years and the land that can be identified to allow for those future developments; it is underpinned by a number of documents that guide the council in its decision-making on what are acceptable developments in terms of good design, respect for the character of the location, coupled with environmental and sustainability considerations.

In order to provide a robust Local Plan to the Planning Inspectorate, our officers have consulted with residents and developers, they have investigated all land options and they have assessed every possible scenario, weighing national guidelines and planning legislation against the needs of Elmbridge and our residents. This Draft Local Plan represents that work and has the best interests of Elmbridge at its heart.

The Liberal Democrat and Resident Councillors will be putting forward a Draft Local Plan that will deliver the homes we need while protecting the character of our Borough including its precious Green Belt.

On 16 March 2022, the Elmbridge Draft Local Plan is being debated at a meeting of the Elmbridge Cabinet. The recommendations of the Cabinet will be presented to a Council meeting on 22 March 2022. If approved by Council, the next stage on the way to adoption is a ‘Regulation 19 representation’, after which the Plan will then be passed to the national Planning Inspectorate for examination.

Key points of the Draft Local Plan being presented to Cabinet on 16 March 2022

  1. The Plan allows for 465 homes per year over 15 years, not the 647 pushed for by the Conservative Government.

  2. The Plan will protect the Green Belt and enhance green infrastructure and biodiversity in the Borough.

  3. The Plan will shape development in the urban area to meet the needs of our communities, respecting and enhancing the unique characters of our towns and villages.

Read more on the council’s website here: News | Home | Elmbridge News

A new Local Plan for Elmbridge

The Lib Dems, who form the joint administration of Elmbridge Borough Council with the Residents Association group, have fought for a Local Plan which cherishes the character of the area we all love and safeguards our Green Belt.

Lib Dem Leader on the Council, Bruce McDonald, said:

“We are putting community back at the heart of our Local Plan. It will help make Elmbridge the place we all want it to be as we rebuild after the pandemic. We want to make sure that our area is thriving with sustainable communities and businesses. We also believe that is is crucial that the residents of Elmbridge are given a voice in shaping our future. That’s why we stand against the Conservative government’s unrealistic housing target for Elmbridge. It has to go. The pandemic has proved how important our green spaces are to health and well-being. We have to put a stop to a system which would trample over our green spaces and damage the character of our towns.”

Lib Dems also challenged the Conservative government last year when they proposed huge planning reforms which would silence the voices of local residents in planning applications. After huge public outcry, and the Lib Dem victory in Chesham and Amersham, the Tories were forced to U-Turn and scrap their unpopular plans.

Local resident and Lib Dem campaigner, Gill Smith: “Lib Dems want to see our glorious area protected, and we want to make sure that local residents get a say in what happens in their local community. So many people tell us on the doorstep that they’re fed up with being ignored by the government and want to see a local team stand up for the things they care about, like our green spaces.”

 

Applications for Local Infrastructure Funding

Elmbridge Borough Council will soon be accepting applications for the annual local Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) funding. The application period is Monday 21 February to Sunday 3 April 2022 at midnight,with the applications being reviewed in June and early July.

CIL allows Elmbridge Borough Council to raise funds from developments in the borough to help pay for the physical infrastructure needed to mitigate the impacts of new development.  As part of the process, EBC annually allocates a portion of CIL funds to be spent locally on smaller infrastructure schemes that are required in the communities where development took place.

Seven settlement area committees, known as ‘Local Spending Boards’, have been formed  to cover the whole of Elmbridge; these consist of Ward Councillors serving in each of the areas who meet to decide how their local CIL funds will be allocated. Successful local CIL applications have included projects such as improvements to state schools to better enable them to meet the needs of an increasing school population, improvements to community facilities, footpath works and countryside access improvements.

It is anticipated that by the time the bids come before our Local Spending Board (Oatlands & Burwood Park, Weybridge Riverside & Weybridge St George’s Hill) in June there will be around £250,000 of CIL money to be allocated.

Find out more on the Council’s Community Infrastructure Levy webpages.

New station car park cycle ‘sheds’

Those who have visited the car park on the town side of the station recently will have noticed two new cycle storage facilities. The near one in the photo is for general rail traveller use which is in addition to the racks next to the ticket office. The far one is going to be used for a ‘collect and ride’ scheme operated by the Brooklands Business Park; this aims to encourage workers to travel by train and then cycle along the new Brooklands Accessibility path to their offices and workplaces – another way of reducing vehicle emissions and traffic congestion.

New GSK HQ

Application 2021/4257- New HQ for GSK

Glaxo Smith Kline, GSK, has submitted a planning application to build on a vacant site in The Heights Business Park between the Sony Europe and the Proctor & Gamble offices. Designed to be the HQ of their new Consumer Healthcare company it would house a Research & Development and Innovation space, a state-of-the-art Shopper Science lab, general office space and global support functions. About 1400 people will be employed at the site, some being moved from the current GSK site off St George’s Avenue which we understand GSK will close and probably be redeveloped. 

We know some residents are concerned that permission is being sought for a new building when there are a number of office blocks in the vicinity which have been vacant for some time and others are worried about over-development in the Locke King / Brooklands area. It seems a pity that GSK didn’t seek to refurbish one or more of these blocks for their new HQ. However, these have received approval for a change of use to flats under the government’s Permitted Development provisions and GSK argue that only a state-of-the-art, purpose-built, energy efficient building would suit their purposes.

Churchfields Town Paths

At last there has been a positive decision from the Local Inquiry that was held on the 7th September last year. The Inquiry was ordered by the Secretary of State and it has determined that the town paths running through the heart of Weybridge, which were upgraded last year as part of the new link between the town centre and Brooklands Business Park, could be shared by cyclists and pedestrians.

The paths have been used by recreational, slow-moving cyclists and by school children attending Heathside School for many years as a convenient and safe way of travelling around the town. We realise that some people feel vulnerable on the paths and your councillors have worked with the Weybridge Society to promote a Share with Care campaign; signs that have been specially designed will now be placed along the paths with the aim of supporting the campaign to encourage all users to be considerate, careful and safe.  

What you told us

We’ve analysed the views coming out of the survey which was dropped through Weybridge Riverside letter boxes last November:

Excluding the don’t knows, 69% thought government needed to do more to tackle climate change, with more electric vehicle charging points and a proper commitment to insulate homes the main demands.

And 58% (again excluding the don’t knows) thought that more needed to be done to enable the building of affordable homes. But people questioned whether “affordable” homes were actually affordable and had few solutions to the problem.

People like living here because of the green spaces, river, convenience for London, schools, high street and safe environment. But they were concerned about overdevelopment, insufficient parking, air pollution and the future of the walk-in centre.

Support for traffic calming measures in the High Street was very mixed. There was concern about Traffic density and/or speed on Heath Road and at the top of Monument Hill. And several “rat runs” were highlighted (Portmore Park Road, Elgin Road and York Road).