Laptop Appeal

I am writing to let you know about one aspect of the ongoing work of local Liberal Democrats in these challenging times. A major issue being faced by many local families at the moment is the lack of access to laptops. From my time as a teacher I am only too well aware of the detrimental effect that the government’s failure to plan for home schooling, compounded with their inability to provide sufficient resources, is having on the education of many children. To help alleviate this situation we recently launched The Elmbridge Laptop Appeal, reaching out to local residents and businesses, asking them if they have unused laptops that could be donated.

Thanks to the very generous responses we’ve received already there have been 10 laptops donated to an Elmbridge secondary school. And more laptops are on their way ready to go out to other local schoolchildren across Elmbridge. We have been overwhelmed by the support of local people and local businesses to this appeal, so quickly pledging computers or making generous financial donations.

We have had a wonderful response so far, but we would like to do more: if you or your business have laptops, or wish to donate to the campaign, please do get in touch. The cost of a brand new, relevant specification machine is around £500, but we have managed to secure a limited number of refurbished units for £260 each. If you can donate an old laptop, or if you would like to donate money towards the campaign to buy either refurbished or new laptops, please see our website (elmbridgelibdems.org.uk) for more information on the Elmbridge Laptop Appeal. All donations from this campaign will go directly to buying laptops for school children. Your generosity will provide reliable access to education for children at home during this lockdown who don’t have the necessary equipment.

Thank you for your support.
Best wishes,
Ashley

The future of Weybridge Town Centre – Part 2

Introductory Overview: click here for Part 1

The text below is an extract from a project press release in December and gives more detail on the ambitions for the project as well as an update on NHS changes and the future of urgent care and walk-in services locally.

Among the agreed outcomes of the October stakeholder meeting:

  • High quality primary care as an integrated part of broad health and wellbeing offer
  • Priority to rehouse the GPs and health care facilities and related services
  • Key to bring together health, care, enhanced library, services from Churchfields centre, youth centre, cinema, as well as arts/culture/heritage to create an integrated coherent whole
  • Project fits with ambitious plans for the enhanced role of libraries of the future – taking on social, economic, cultural and educational aspects – ‘centres of community’
  • Two phase approach can be adopted so new health facilities can come first
  • Create integrated, flexible space, open to and involving all sectors of the community: statutory, community and private
  • Need to reach out to entrepreneurs and local organisations and find the key people who will use these services and contribute life and longevity to the buildings
  • Project is as much about change of culture as construction of new buildings – breaking down silo-type thinking so organisations and authorities and groups really work together as a local team
  • Business model must underpin project – not only provide public services but attract entrepreneurs, making spaces people want to go to/use, ensuring economic viability
  • High quality design, architecture/landscaping, maybe new town square/plaza
  • Project must be guided by environmental/health concerns, climate change and pandemic proofing

Next key step: finalising an outline business case for the health care elements of the project which will next be submitted to NHS England for approval.

Health Care: What Do We Know So Far?
The new health care component will offer a much wider range of services than was previously available, and the project has now determined what some of those will be. The list below is a minimum plan to offer:

  • GP services with increased support via online, telephone and video appointments and same day and face-to-face access for those who need it
  • Mental health services
  • Health hub for delivering community and outpatient services – e.g. counselling, podiatry, physiotherapy
  • Diagnostics including X-ray, ultrasound and phlebotomy
  • Women’s and children’s hub
  • Urgent care service (see below)
  • Wider wellbeing services to help people stay healthy and well

The Future of Urgent Care and Walk-in Centres
Key to determining future services in Weybridge is the NHS review of urgent care and walk-in facilities across North West Surrey. This is driven by new national standards for walk-in care, which means it is not possible to replace the former walk-in centre in Weybridge with like-for-like services.

Between January and March 2020, the NHS ran a series of events to test a shortlist of options for how to provide walk-in type services in the future with local people. This included whether or not to house an Urgent Treatment Centre (UTC) in Weybridge. UTCs are GP-led (rather than nurse-led), open for a minimum of 12 hours a day – from 8 am-8 pm, able to provide diagnostics (such as X-ray, blood and urine tests) and able to provide some bookable appointments from NHS 111.

The NHS is able to progress plans for the wider range of services to be available from the new Weybridge facility whether a UTC is part of the final site plan or not. Flexibility is key for the new site in any case, and a shortlist of options is now being reviewed in light of changes in how patients access care and revised guidance from NHS England. Should this result in a proposal to materially change the provisioned walk-in centre services across North West Surrey, a full public consultation would follow.

The COVID-19 pandemic has of course accelerated a pre-existing shift towards use of digital services. In the long term the NHS anticipates this will continue, as it also plans safe services that limit the volume of people gathering in surgeries, clinics and hospitals.

 

River Thames

The River Thames is a popular location for Weybridge residents to participate in many different types of recreation.  In this joint blog article Pete Hampson describes what the River Thames has meant for him over this past year and then Judy Sarsby reports on recent developments on unauthorised moorings. 

Pete Hampson writes: 
“Sitting at the confluence of the Wey and the Thames, Weybridge affords its residents some lovely surroundings, a fact that was brought home to me this year as lockdowns and other restrictions limited where we could go and what we were able to do.  

As a cyclist and keen walker, I can regularly be found making my way along one of our rivers and, in the case of the Thames, rowing along on it.  Since March I’ve been working from home and during the first lockdown my daily exercise often took me cycling along the Thames path.  In May we rowers were allowed back onto the river, socially distanced single sculling being the order of the day – single sculling closer than 2 metres to another boat generally provides a more immediate concern than potential COVID spread.  

In the absence of the normal water-traffic, nature had taken full command of the river, and when non-motorised craft were allowed to venture back we returned to an ornithologists dream with a great abundance of young bird life to be found: amongst the usual coots, mallards, moorhens, swans and geese, there were grebes, herons and even kingfishers to be spotted. 

Over the course of the summer, recreational river use flourished; canoeists and paddle boarders were out on the Wey, and in addition to their number on the Thames, we saw skiffs, oar-boards, kayaks, sailing boats, and plenty of swimmers alongside the usual pleasure craft mixing in with us rowers.  Meanwhile along the bank, anglers, walkers, runners and cyclists were making the most of the glorious weather and the wonderful surroundings.  Businesses were popping up, renting out equipment for people to enjoy, and providing classes to those wanting to try something new. And as the pubs re-opened, there were full beer gardens of patrons relaxing by the waters edge.

Now as we come to the end of the year, and endure a further lockdown, I’m again returning to my cycling and walking along the towpaths of our local riverbanks, and am heartened to see the many others who are managing to spend time out and about during these short days. Our rivers bring enormous benefit to us, improving our health, happiness and prosperity, but as with all natural resources they also need our protection.  Ensuring that we can continue to enjoy them for generations to come requires us to not only be aware of the risks they face, but play an active role in their conservation.”

Judy Sarsby adds
I recently interviewed local Olympic rower Pauline Peel (Bird). Please follow this link to view the video: Pauline Peel interview

One of the problems faced by users of the River Thames is the presence of boats mooring permanently on both public and private land without permission.  Councillor Ashley Tilling is a fellow member of Weybridge Rowing Club and of Thames Valley Skiff Club and we have witnessed a significant increase in boats moored without permission along the river.

Many users of the river and local residents have raised a variety of concerns about these vessels. Their visual appearance is often dilapidated, there are questions about how the boats dispose of their general waste and on the Molesey stretch the boat residents have even fenced off areas of the towpath to claim as their own gardens. Towpath walkers have found this intimidating.    

The EA (Environment Agency) is responsible for policing the river and in September this year they told Elmbridge Borough Council that of 148 boats moored on the river only 53 had permission. More than six out of ten boats that the Agency checked had no permission to be on the mooring they were occupying.

The EA moorings are intended to be used free for the first 24 hours and are then chargeable up to a maximum of 72 hours. After the 72 hours the vessel is expected to move on and there is now a no return period of 24 hours. New signs have been erected explaining the charges and advising on how to pay. 

Maintaining an available supply of temporary moorings is very important to allow vessels to make passage, over several days, up and down the River Thames. If all the temporary moorings are blocked by vessels using them permanently then vessels on passage are forced to find an ad hoc unauthorised mooring. In October last year the EA at long last responded to these concerns and engaged an enforcement company to actively check licences and monitor moored boats. There was some success before the latest lockdown and it is hoped that work to move -on vessels moored without authorisation will commence apace over the summer months so that we can better enjoy our wonderful stretch of river.

Councillor Andrew Davis 1956-2021

We are sorry to bring you the sad news of Andrew Davis’s death on Sunday 10th January in Princess Alice Hospice.

Andrew had been a Liberal/Liberal Democrat for over 42 years and councillor for Weybridge on Elmbridge Borough for eight years, first for Weybridge North and then, when ward boundaries were re-drawn, for Weybridge Riverside. He also served in the Council as a Cabinet member, the Leader of the Liberal Democrat group and as the Deputy Leader of the Council.

Many of Andrew’s political activities were inspired by his life-long passion for the environment. This resulted in a number of pioneering initiatives such as Green Transport Week, National Car Free Day, Walk to School Day and 20’s Plenty, several of which gained national and even international recognition.

Gill Smith, one of the Weybridge Focus team and Chair of Elmbridge Liberal Democrats said: “We all remember Andrew as a phenomenal campaigner and an utterly dedicated Liberal Democrat, as well as awesomely energetic and an altogether fascinating human being. We are deeply grateful for his massive contribution to our party’s work in Elmbridge and particularly in Weybridge. We have lost a much loved member of our Liberal Democrat family and he will be greatly missed. May he rest in peace.”

  

The future of Weybridge town centre

In July 2017 Weybridge Hospital was burnt to the ground.  The hospital accomodated the two Weybridge General Practices, a “Walk-in” Centre and other services like physiotherapy. NHS Property Services acted quickly to provide a high quality temporary replacement building.  Work was already underway on considering the scope of a new building.  At the same time the NHS was considering the question of what kinds of primary care services should be provided across Surrey.  Councillor Vicki Macleod has been working hard, on behalf of local residents, to provide quality input into these plans, and brings us all up to date below.  

New optimism
After nearly three years of waiting to hear how GP and core NHS primary services were to be reprovisioned in Weybridge, there is finally a great step forward and optimism that concrete plans will start to emerge.

Why has it taken so long?
Two key reasons it has taken this long are:

  • the national changes brought in by the NHS on the future of urgent treatment services and lengthy NHS project timelines 
  • the renewal or refurbishment of Weybridge Library.  

Given the location of the sites involved – opposite each other in the town centre – and the idea of a community hub, proposed by the Weybridge Society, all the authorities involved seized this as an opportunity to do something bold and imaginative with the sites and the way in which health and community services interconnect.  Previously these were all located in different buildings on different town centre sites.  In the future there will be mixed provision.  

What sites are involved?
The key sites are what is referred to as ‘the Hospital site’ on one side of Church Street and the Library site across the road.  However, current thinking has expanded into considering the wider area in which these are located and now included are Churchfields car park, the former Sure Start Centre and the Centre for the Community on Churchfield Road.  

The current situation is that three separate authorities – NHS Property Services, Surrey County Council and Elmbridge Borough Council are the owners of the sites. The tradition is that they each use their sites for their own services and they rent those parts of the site they don’t occupy.  This has tended not to happen in a planned way in pursuit of joint goals.  A key difference in the current approach is to think strategically about the best place for services to be located and how to make co-location work to the benefit of all.  Included in this thinking is how to make the most of the wonderful green spaces we have in central Weybridge and how to protect and enhance the town centre iconic heritage sites of St James Parish Church and the Old Rectory.

What services will there be?
Clearly, core NHS Primary Care services will be provided, including GP surgeries and treatment rooms.  The local Integrated Care Partnership (ICP) (replacement for the North West Surrey Clinical Commissioning Group) are aware that they must use the need for reprovisioning primary care services after the devastating fire as an opportunity to get things right in Weybridge.  The new campus will also house the Library; space for the Centre for the Community services to elderly residents and other users such as Dementia groups and the Stroke group; youth services; possibly co-working space; possibly accommodation and space for commercial use – with the hope that social entrepreneurs will want to base themselves in central Weybridge.

Who is involved in bringing this about?
SCC and the ICP have engaged an organisation with a strong track record in community projects – Well North Enterprises, led by Lord Andrew Mawson – to lead in the early stages and help get the project off the ground.  Naturally there are representatives from key services and authorities, and alongside these, there are community activists, including the Weybridge Society and local borough councillors.  Currently the structure for taking the project forward involves a Strategic Board / Steering Group plus two task groups – one responsible for communication and making input to the design and configuration of services and spaces, the other responsible for the business case and operational aspects of the project.  Lesia Scholey of the Weybridge Society has been appointed as Project Champion and is leading on communication and community engagement.

When can we expect to hear more?
A public engagement event is planned for early February.  The project team are very clear that they  want to hear from people who would like  to get actively involved and who have energy and commitment to offer.  There is no shortage of ideas but the project will only meet its true aim of building a happier, healthier, better connected community if it engages the energy of those with the will to dig in and work.  Are you up for this? Do you want to bring about a better future for Weybridge?  If so, please get in touch at weybridge@elmbridgelibdems.org.uk

There is also a full description of the project in the Autumn/Spring edition of the of the Weybridge Society Newsletter which will be distributed soon to all households in Weybridge, or can be accessed here (https://www.weybridgesociety.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Magazine-Autumn-Winter-2020-min.pdf).  

The project is still in search of a name.  Some suggestions are:
#WellBeingWeybridge   #WayBetterWeybridge   #ReviveWeybridge   #RenewWeybridge  Please let Lesia know your thoughts, preferences and ideas by emailing her at: hubfeedback@weybridgesociety.org.uk

 

The Borough with a Big Heart

Judy Sarsby writes:

When I saw the call Care4Calais put out for winter coats and boots for the refugees living in the French camps, I knew people in my borough, who had responded so well to the shout out for PPE in care homes, would respond. And they did. Elmbridge Excelled!  I shall be travelling to Calais on the 21st and will now be taking a large van, as the donations have flooded in from all around Elmbridge.

I work as a volunteer for the charity Elmbridge Can who help refugees settle in the borough, so I was not surprised when my colleagues stepped up. Their generosity and the generosity of the Elmbridge Lib Dems, of friends and of locals from Claygate to Weybridge has been exceptional. One chap got the whole street in Claygate involved and, after filling the car last week, I am going back again for more. 

I put a word out to friends in the Weybridge Rowing Club and had parcels left in the changing rooms and on the mail box at all hours. Given how much we all cleared out during lockdown the response has been wonderful. There are no words for the generosity extended by our people to those people in Calais so desperately in need. We would like to thank each and every one of those who donated for the kindness of their contribution.

The charity Care4Calais https://care4calais.org/donate-now/  supports refugees sleeping rough across France and Belgium. This drive is particularly focused on the immediate need to keep people warm and dry, not an easy task when most live in tents or makeshift shelters. The bitter cold of winter has now moved in and people are trying to stay alive in freezing conditions. 

During my time working with Elmbridge Can, local acquaintances have referred to my work with “illegal immigrants”. It saddens me that these people are not aware that refugees are not illegal immigrants. The people I help don’t want to enter our country illegally – the problem is that the situation in their home countries means they have to leave to protect themselves and their children. If you come from a country that is at war or you live under oppression it’s unlikely that country will issue you with a passport or visa, so there is no legal way for them to travel.

My granddaughter asked why our Syrian friends left their home. I explained that their home was bombed, the schools and the shops closed, their lives were at risk and life just couldn’t go on as normal. I said I hoped if that happened to us that someone would care enough to help. The refugee crisis is one of the greatest humanitarian issues of our generation and how we respond will define us for years to come. In Elmbridge, this month, we showed that we care enough to at least try and give what others so desperately need.

 

Volunteering during the lockdowns

An interview with Cllr Ashley Tilling 

Focus: How did you get involved with volunteering during the Covid-19 pandemic?  

When the national call for NHS Volunteers was broadcast in April I put my name forward. But for a couple of weeks I heard nothing. I then​ bumped into a neighbour who was involved in the Surrey First Responder volunteer scheme – organising the collection and delivery of medicines to people who were shielding, isolating or too ill to go out. He was very happy for me to join his small team.

Focus: How does the scheme work? 

On Tuesday and Thursday afternoons I received a list of prescriptions requiring to be picked up from pharmacies and to whom they were to be delivered. Some of these were marked urgent, so needed to be collected that afternoon, while others could wait until the following morning. 

Focus: Typically how many people were on your list?

Usually between four and six scattered around Elmbridge. I decided to use the scheme to try to keep fit and so dusted off my road bike. A typical route would be from Weybridge to Hersham, Esher, Claygate, Thames Ditton, Molesey and back via Walton on Thames, collecting and delivering along the way. Between April and July, I had made well over 80 deliveries all over Elmbridge. I was also recently called up again and helped during ‘Lockdown 2’. 

Focus: Have there been any challenges?   

Sometimes I would turn up at a pharmacy to find that they had not received the prescription on my list – it then took some persuasion and co-operation from the pharmacist to sort this out with the issuing GP practices. Finding the location for a delivery could also be a headache – a lucky encounter with a passing postman once helped!

A regular Weybridge recipient comments:

“We are so grateful for our prescriptions being delivered. Both my husband and I have multiple prescriptions, all cheerfully delivered. We have shielded since before the first lockdown and are so looking forward to the vaccination. Thank you to all those who have worked delivering our medicines”.

 

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