Desborough Island

The vision I think we should all support is for Desborough Island to be an outdoor, green sports facility that utilises this beautiful Weybridge island to its maximum potential. Outdoor sport can go hand in hand with diverse wildlife, the new proposed Wetlands and enhancing the appeal of the green spaces.

Currently on the island we have rugby, football, cricket and netball. Rowing and canoeing have long been sports enjoyed on the river and, this year, paddle boarding and wild swimming saw a huge increase in participation so that more and different people enjoyed the outdoor sports our river has to offer.

It could be even better. We could have a running path and cycle circuit all around the island and boating facilities for sports people with a disability. If we were to develop the existing area of Vandals and maybe employ a caretaker-come ranger to maintain the facilities and patrol the island, we would have an enviable green outside sport and wildlife island for all local residents to enjoy throughout the year.

We should cherish this beautiful site and look after the wildlife whilst enhancing our outdoor sports facilities for people of all ages and abilities.

Judy Sarsby

Why Elmbridge is in Tier Two – Updated

Elmbridge moved into Tier Two at a minute past midnight on the morning of Saturday 17 October. Many people are wondering what information this decision was based on.

We have been told that the decision to go ‘high’ is based on a variety of factors, not just case numbers. Trends and direction of travel are important as well as absolute values. Elmbridge Borough Council appear to believe that transmission was widespread rather than concentrated in specific clusters. On their website they write “There is evidence of widespread community transmission, not just with clusters. Therefore swift action had to be taken to try to prevent a further rise in cases in Elmbridge.”
See https://www.elmbridge.gov.uk/news/coronavirus-covid-19-updates/high-alert-what-it-means/

By putting several weekly reports of the Covid 19 stats for Elmbridge into a table (below) it is possible to see trends in Elmbridge.  What is clear is that in early October there was a sharp increase in cases and this has continued through to 16th October.

Data reported below is taken from the tables produced weekly by Surrey County Council’s Public Health Team, and published on the Surrey County Council website at https://www.surreycc.gov.uk

Table showing weekly and fortnightly cases of Covid 19 in Elmbridge over the period late September to end October.
Since the introduction of Tier Two measures, the data show a decrease in the rate of growth of numbers testing positive.

Improvement since 16 October?
Data added since we went into Tier Two is showing first a slowing of the rate of increase and by 30th October a decrease. The rise in 14 day figures between 16 October and 23 October is 33 cases, just 1.1 times as many in the previous full measurement period and between 23 October and 30 October we actually see a fall in number of cases.

Let’s hope this is a sustained trend and not just a blip.  As this period corresponds with the school half term, it is wise to wait a couple of weeks to see if this fall is due to fewer tests being taken or is the beginning of a sustained decrease.

Are figures distorted by students away from home testing positive?

On their website EBC say “We know some of you are wondering if students testing positive elsewhere has contributed to Elmbridge’s rising cases. We did look very carefully at the data around students leaving home in Elmbridge, testing positive elsewhere and that being reported as Elmbridge data, but it only accounted for around 14% of cases which does not change the escalating trend we’ve seen or the higher numbers compared with elsewhere.”

How to get a test if you need one
In its latest advice to residents (published on Friday 23 October), Elmbridge Borough Council (EBC) advise that we now have mobile testing units in the borough as well as home testing kits. Tests are available for people who have coronavirus symptoms:

  • a high temperature
  • a new, continuous cough
  • a loss of, or change to, your sense of smell or taste

and must be booked through the Government website: get-coronavirus-test

Financial support for individuals self-isolating
The EBC website also supplies advice on support that is available to eligible residents i.e. those receiving benefits and working who have had to stay at home and self-isolate after receiving a notification from NHS Test and Trace or a positive test result. See: test-and-trace-support-payments

Support for businesses
Government has also announced additional funding to support businesses via cash grants of up to £2,100 per month. These are primarily for businesses in the hospitality, accommodation and leisure sector who may be adversely impacted by the restrictions in high-alert level areas.  Government guidance on the operation of this scheme is not yet available.  When it is, it will be published on the EBC website at: business-grants

 

School Streets

Surrey County Council has decided to pilot “School Streets”.  A school street is where the road outside a school is closed to motor vehicles during school drop-off and pick-up times. 

In practice, this means the road is closed twice a day for 30 to 60 minutes. The restriction usually applies to both school traffic and through traffic. Exemptions are made for residents living in that street and for blue badge holders.  

Surrey hopes that the pilots will encourage active travel, improve air quality and promote road safety. School streets are also effective for enabling social distancing outside schools.  Surrey County Council has approved the principle of a school street pilot at Heath End School in Farnham and is inviting nominations for other school streets elsewhere in Surrey.

There are also plans to measure air quality around a sample of schools in all eleven Surrey districts and boroughs.  The measurement would be at child-head height to identify the level of air pollution children are being exposed to at school drop-off and pick-up.

School streets started in Italy in 1989 and were first introduced to the UK in 2015 when schemes began in Scotland.  Camden was the first site in London in 2017. Today there are over 130 school streets in Britain.  

Evaluations have shown that motorised traffic not only decreases on the school street where the scheme has been implemented, but also on surrounding streets. This suggests a change in behaviour with people swapping mode of transport to active travel.

It remains to be seen whether residents in Weybridge would welcome the introduction of school streets in our town.  Queuing traffic is a frequent feature of life in Weybridge and some may fear school streets would create more problems. It very much depends on the layout and context of each individual location. Please let us know what you think.

If you would like more information about School Streets it is available at  www.schoolstreets.org.uk   

 

Changes to Baker Street

The planned Active Travel Measures in Baker Street have now “gone live”.  You can read all about the background in the earlier article by Councillor Andrew Davis here.
Surrey County Council closed Baker Street to through traffic (except cycles) from 8am on Friday 16th October.  Don’t forget that Comments can be sent to Surrey County Council via email highways@surreycc.gov.uk or by phone on 0300 200 1003. And of course you are always welcome to comment on this website using the “Leave a Reply” section at the bottom of the page.

Local Boundary Posts

If you’ve seen one of these on Desborough Island or close to Cowey Sale, you may wonder what they are for. They actually date back to the Victorian era and mark the Coal Tax boundary. So anyone bringing coal into the Metropolitan Police District (plus the City of London) would have to pay Coal Tax. The purpose of the posts was to give notice of where the boundary ran so that no-one could claim ignorance of liability to pay the duties.

The 24/25 VICT refers to the years of Queen Victoria’s reign in which the Act requiring the payment of the duty was passed (i.e. 1861-62 session). CAP 42 refers to the relevant chapter of the parliamentary Act. 

In the 1880s the City and the Metropolitan Board of Works wanted the duties to continue in the face of growing opposition from the public and national politicians, but when the MBW was replaced by the London County Council in 1889, the new council declined to support renewal. An act was passed in that year abolishing the duties, the last of which was collected in 1890. The abolition was opposed with some underhand tactics: a parliamentary select committee sitting in 1887 found that signatures on a petition in support of keeping the tax had been forged!

The posts thus represent the final phase of the duties in the face of growing opposition. They had been collected for over 300 years but within 30 years of the posts going up were abolished.

See how many you can spot! There were originally around 280 posts of which around 210 remain.

Wey Road and Round Oak Road

Many residents of Weybridge are beset by difficulties in finding space to park their cars, especially in some of the older streets around Weybridge town centre.  To alleviate this difficulty some streets have sought and been granted on street parking controls, and these residents usually find themselves paying Surrey County (SCC) for a Resident’s Parking Permit.

Currently, and bizarrely, Surrey Highways is now consulting Weybridge residents on a proposal to introduce on street parking controls in two roads where there is no on-street parking congestion.

There is no highways reason for the scheme that has been proposed for Wey Road and Round Oak Road:

  • there is very little on-street parking in these roads, so no need for restrictive controls; 
  • most houses and flats in these roads have ample off-street parking space; 
  • there are no safety issues caused by the small number of cars which do park in these roads.

In short, there is no need for on-street parking controls.

Many of the residents in the two roads concerned do not want this scheme introduced as they have no objection to the small number of cars which do park in these roads. Surrey County Council Elmbridge Local Committee have allowed the scheme to be considered despite the proposal falling outside the normal way of approaching such schemes i.e. via the formal SCC annual review of parking.

The highways officer saw no reason for introducing on-street parking controls, but is bound to put forward a proposal as the Local Committee agreed to consider it. There are other streets in Weybridge that are not being considered despite there being severe parking related congestion.

If you would like to make your views known you can do two things:

  1. Join the “Wey and Round Oak Road NO CPZ” action group by emailing saynotocontrols@gmail.com
  2. Fill in Surrey’s online survey by clicking on this link.  

Write your own reason for objection (question eight in the survey) but, in general, the reason is quite simple, parking controls are normally introduced to meet concerns about the four main parking criteria:

  • Safety
  • Access
  • Congestion
  • Parking stress

Even a casual observer would recognise that Wey Road does not fall into any of these criteria (except at the entrances which have been dealt with already). That is why the Surrey’s parking officers rejected the proposals outright when they undertook last year’s review.

 

Proposed improvements to our town paths

The Brooklands Accessibility Project has been a major scheme to provide safer walking and cycling between Weybridge and Brooklands. So far this has provided the new path along Heath Road to the station, a wider path with a tarmacadam surface from Lonsdale Road to Seven Arches Bridge, and improvements to the path past Brooklands Museum, through the park and onto the A245.

Phase Four of the project was dependent on the cost of the first three phases but it was envisaged that some money would be available to improve the route into Weybridge town centre. This phase takes the route from the crossing on Heath Road, along Melrose Road and makes use of the paths around the allotments and Churchfields Park to finish in the town. These are a wonderful asset at the heart of the town and give a very pleasant option for residents away from the noise and risk of using the roads. To make these paths safer for all users, Phase Four proposes to widen the paths by clearing the earth alongside the fence sections around the allotments, cutting back any overhanging vegetation and laying macadam up to the fence edge.

I have proposed that a small section of allotment fencing near the skate park should be moved back in order to smooth out the rather dangerous right angled corner. 

I have also asked Surrey County Council’s Project Manager for the current cut-through track (see photo) to Churchfields car park be formally implemented as a better option for users going to the town centre than the path that goes to Church Lane and to the roundabout at the Church Street/Balfour Road junction. Furthermore, I am hoping that there will be enough money to pay for much-needed lighting of the path alongside the playground section.

 

The Future of Local Democracy

You may have recently received a leaflet through your letterbox from Surrey County Council headed “Summer 2020”. On the third page you will see that the Leader of the Council (our Conservative Weybridge County Councillor), Tim Oliver, is proposing a major reform of local democracy. 

There is no doubt that the proposed imposition of a single council for Surrey, a ‘unitary authority’, will have been discussed by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick, and the leaders of Conservative-held counties. Indeed, Cllr Oliver caught even his own Conservatve councillors by surprise when he announced at Council in July that there would be a re-organisation of local government structures and that “this would be in line with the government agenda” and would require “working with government as it presses ahead with the devolution white paper”. 

While a unitary authority would undoubtedly bring some financial benefits by eliminating the eleven borough and district councils in Surrey that have seen their financial support from central government reduced significantly over the last ten years, the key question is how a monster council serving 1.2 million people would be able to serve the interests of local residents. The SCC leaflet supports the plan by stating that ‘We want a council that gives real power to local communities’.  The Leader, in his statement to the council envisages “A new model of local government, combined with increased powers devolved down to a much more local level” – one wonders how much community power could be asserted, given the size of a single Surrey authority.   

Are the government’s proposals in fact another manifestation of the Johnson/Cummings desire to centralise as much as possible – a trend started under Margaret Thatcher? Is it  a thinly-veiled attempt to eliminate those troublesome borough councils that are not Conservative controlled? If we get one unitary authority across the whole of Surrey it is likely that Surrey would forever be in the hands of a Tory majority. This proposal, however, is not the only way of rationalising the two tier system in Surrey.

Liberal Democrat councillors in Surrey support the development of single-tier authorities across Surrey as the most cost-effective and customer-centric way forward. They note that one county-wide council would be remote and unaccountable. They suggest instead that we should  explore dividing the existing Surrey boroughs into three or four authorities. So, for example, Spelthorne, Runnymede and Elmbridge councils could be combined into a single administrative area taking on all the responsibilities currently divided between the boroughs and the county. 

Full government proposals will be revealed in a ‘Recovery and Devolution’ White Paper on local democracy to be published in early autumn. It looks certain that there will be changes. Please let us know your views. Please also contact Tim Oliver and your local MP so they can gauge the response of residents to their proposals. 

You may also like to join #Residents Against Surrey Single Unitary (#RASSU). You can find out more information at: https://rassu.org.uk/ . You can sign their petition: http://petitions.surreycc.gov.uk/unitary/ and join the campaign:  https://rassu.org.uk/join-the-campaign

 

Planning refusals: 85 Queens Road (former Café Rouge)

85 Queens Road: four applications 2020/0265, 0473, 1288 and 1333

At the South Area Planning Sub-Committee held on Thursday 20th August four applications for changes to the former Café Rouge building were considered. Three of these were for more residential accommodation on the site and one was for extending restaurant seating space. The planning procedure allows a developer to make multiple applications for the same site but requires that each application has to be taken on its own merits. In this case there were two very similar applications, one to provide five flats on the site, the other to add three flats. The planning committee could have permitted both and it would then be up to the developer to choose which one to implement.

The application to convert the first and second floors into four flats and add a flat in a rear extension whilst retaining a smaller restaurant (2020/0265) was refused. Councillors believed there would be a significant increase to the parking stress already experienced in this location, particularly in Princes Road and South Road. This was in light of an application for nine flats on the Wessex site in South Road, recently permitted on appeal, and concerns over the cumulative effect this could have on demand for parking spaces. 

The developer had also applied to build a mansard roof with dormer windows (2020/0473) for a two-bedroom flat. Councillors raised concerns about the increase to perceived overlooking of gardens and properties on South Road. However, it was deemed there were insufficient technical grounds to support this reason to refuse. The argument was that, as there were already windows on the second floor, windows in the mansard roof would not add to overlooking. Additionally, the separation distance was greater than the 22 metres recommended as a minimum separation distance between facades. Despite the building not being a locally listed building, i.e. a heritage asset, the majority of councillors supported refusal due to the effect the roof would have on the character of this unusual art deco building and on the overall impact to the local street scene. 

A further application for three additional flats (2020/1288) was rejected for the same reason – parking stress – as that for the five flats. 

Finally, the application for an extension to the restaurant (2020/1333) was approved given that, under the current Covid-19 circumstances, additional space in the restaurant could be of significant benefit to the long-term success of the business.

 

 

Planning refusal: Clive House, Queens Road

Clive House, 12-18 Queens Road: applications 2018/2252 and 2019/2286

Clive House is a two storey, flat roofed construction set back from Queens Road so that it doesn’t dominate the street scene. The proposals put forward from Pegasus Life were to demolish the existing office building and replace it with 31 or 30 ‘age restricted’ apartments.

Councillors on the South Area Planning Sub-Committee refused the applications on the grounds that the proposed buildings would be in conflict with the Council’s design policies in that they would be predominantly three storey buildings with steeply pitched roof spaces which would appear oversized in the street scene. They would also harm the character and appearance of the surrounding area particularly with regard to the neighbouring Salisbury House.

The developer appealed and a few weeks ago the result of that appeal was received from the government’s Planning Inspectorate.

The Inspector dismissed the appeals. She agreed with the councillors’ reasons to reject the applications and made particular reference to the effect on the adjacent Salisbury House. This is not a heritage asset of the highest significance, but it was deemed that the proposed developments afforded it significant harm as it is of local historic value and an irreplaceable resource.