Across the UK, a re-drawing of boundaries for parliamentary constituencies has been underway as the Electoral Commission seeks to make all constituencies similar in size by population. Surrey, for example, has seen a surge in population overall, and in some constituencies like Esher & Walton, there were too many voters, whilst elsewhere there were too few.
New boundaries were recently agreed by parliament after a consultation process and changes are set to become operational at the next general election. The main proposed change for our area will be the reshaping of boundaries for Esher & Walton constituency and the adjacent Runnymede & Weybridge constituency. Effectively, the residents of Weybridge Riverside ward will not experience any change as they remain in the Runnymede & Weybridge constituency, but our constituency is set to include the Elmbridge wards of Cobham and Oxshott and all of Weybridge St George’s. The Oatlands area will join Esher & Walton constituency.
Our Council issued a news bulletin on the 28th July to express its disappointment at the High Court decision to allow the expansion of ULEZ to go ahead from 29 August 2023.
Given the significant air pollution caused by traffic in Weybridge town centre, we have frequently called upon our highways authority, Surrey County Council, to be much more pro-active in restricting the most polluting vehicles. While we therefore support the benefits of cleaner air in Greater London from the extension of the ULEZ, we have also expressed our reservations to the speed of its implementation without proper consultation with boroughs and districts surrounding Greater London.
The statement by the Leader of the Council is:
We are supportive of improving air quality in Elmbridge and of increased trade in our high streets and parades, both of which we see as potential benefits to the possible extension of the ULEZ. However, we know our communities are linked to those of Greater London and we are concerned about impact on small businesses and our residents in introducing the scheme this year. We have continually lobbied the Mayor of London and TfL due to the impact it will have on the Elmbridge community as a whole. It is unsatisfactory that TfL are proceeding without a scrappage scheme for those outside the London boundary, specifically those who cross it in the course of their daily lives. It’s a change which is likely to hit hardest those are least able to afford it. We will continue to work with Surrey County Council to press TfL to engage with us to tackle this issue.
All the political parties across Elmbridge Borough Council have stated their objections to the expansion of ULEZ.
Oak processionary moth (OPM) was accidentally introduced into England in 2005. Today, OPM poses a threat to Britain’s oak trees and is hazardous to the health and wellbeing of humans and animals who come into contact with it. OPM is present in the South East of England and in Elmbridge.
Elmbridge Borough Council follows Forestry Commission guidelines in dealing with OPM on its land. Our role is to protect our oak trees and their associated wildlife by managing the spread of OPM, minimising its impact on oak trees and protecting the public.
There is no single solution to managing OPM. We adopt a local risk-based approach which is informed by our local oak tree population, its associated biodiversity and the severity of OPM infestation.
When risk assessing each site, we:
look at each nest according to its location, and the risk to residents and pay particular attention to densely populated areas and the proximity to vulnerable individuals, for example, children, infants and elderly
control high risk areas by spraying (Spring) or removing nests manually (Mid-June – August), where appropriate, and manage low risk areas through on-site information.
Through several Freedom of Information requests, the Liberal Democrat Party has discovered that Surrey’s Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner (PPC) has cost the taxpayer £3.2 million since 2019, paying out huge sums for social media and office costs as community police officers were removed from patrolling streets and dealing with crimes.
Since 2021, Surrey Commissioner Lisa Townsend has had three staff members to run her social media presence and has increased her office costs by £180,000 – the equivalent of seven community police officers (PCSOs). Yet since Townsend was elected, Surrey has slashed 39 community officers from the streets!
In April, Liberal Democrat Leader, Ed Davey, called on the Government to scrap commissioners amid falling community officer numbers. Since 2019, England and Wales have lost 1,284 community police officers, despite tens of millions spent on PCCs. The costs of the country’s PCCs could have funded an additional estimated 3,830 community officers on an average salary of £26,634. It is shocking to see a local Conservative politician waste so much money on social media and office costs whilst officer numbers are slashed.
According to discussions with the office of the PCC recently, the recruitment of PCSO’s by Surrey Police ground to a halt last year to hit savings targets. Whilst recruitment has now resumed, it will take some years to return to previous levels.
2023 was the year of our new King and for Weybridge, a new festival. The week long programme started with a dinner catered and served by Brooklands College students and finished with the Community Fair on the 24th June. An exhibition by local artists, photographers and sculptors spanned the halls and walls of the library and Oatlands Park Hotel; concerts and plays, restaurant and cafe lunches and dinners, literary and art talks and a quiz, were enjoyed by many all over the town.
Over one hundred stalls, two stages hosting local choirs and soloists, a beer tent run by Weybridge Vandals and the best cream teas hosted by the Soroptimists and the local Ukrainian population in the Community Centre, all came together at the Community Fair based on Churchfields Recreation ground.
Councillor Judy Sarsby, who worked with the Weybridge Society to organise the Festival, said “an estimated 8000 attended these events and to see churches, schools, sports clubs and local organisations supporting each other was truly inspiring. We are very lucky to live in such a giving community.”
The River Thames Scheme (RTS) has produced a new animation to provide a straightforward summary of how the project will protect against flooding.
Entitled “How a Flood Channel Works” the video explains how the proposed new river channel and associated weir improvements will work by making the comparison with a road bypass and junction upgrades.
The RTS covers an area from Egham in Surrey to Teddington in Greater London and includes a new flood channel, built in two sections, that will reduce the risk of flooding to homes, businesses and infrastructure. The easterly section will meet the Thames opposite Elmbridge Canoe Club in Weybridge.
The scheme will also provide habitat for wildlife and a new feature in the landscape for recreation, including on Desborough Island. Footpaths and cycleways will run along the channel and through the new public spaces, linking different landscape elements with communities and providing better connections within and across the area.
The project is being delivered in partnership between the Environment Agency and Surrey County Council.
Our local MP, Dr Ben Spencer, accepted an invitation to row at Weybridge Rowing Club on the 6th June. A former college rower (he’s in the blue t-shirt in the middle of the boat), he was accompanied by Cllr Judy Sarsby, a member of the rowing club, as he rowed around Desborough Island in an eight. It was a good opportunity to point out some of the problems experienced by river users, including the illegally moored boats along the Desborough Cut, which a few weeks earlier had again caused the cancellation of the much-loved Weybridge Ladies Regatta, and sewage discharges by the water companies. He was talked through the key location for the future flood-relief channel into the Thames (the River Thames Scheme) and where the ‘Row Paddle Run’ charity event takes place to raise money for The Grâce Dear Trust for young people’s mental health. He experienced a busy morning of residents using the river for sport and pleasure.
Councillor Judy Sarsby stepped up the litter picking efforts around Desborough Island this summer, having initiated the Monday morning litter pick on the island two years ago.
Together with rowers from Weybridge Rowing Club, Judy paddled around the River Thames and pulled out floating plastics from the banks. A big thank you to Judy, who works so tirelessly on so many issues!
Keeping our rivers and waterways clean is as important as removing the litter from the land, not only for pollution reduction to enhance life for humans, animals and plants, but also for climate resilience.
If you would like to make an immediate impact locally and help with our litter pick, please get in touch with us at JSarsby@elmbridge.gov.uk. Come and be part of making a better river environment in our area!
The latest local elections were a resounding success for the Lib Dem party in Elmbridge as Lib Dems gained six new council seats and held on to three. Of Elmbridge’s total number of 48 councillors, the LibDems are now the biggest party with 19, whilst Conservatives have 12 and Residents associations in various groups count 17 councillors.
In a big win, Weybridge Riverside councillor Ashley Tilling was re-elected after serving four years and was also elected to Surrey County Council, the first Lib Dem from Elmbridge! At Surrey, Ashley will represent the Walton South and Oatlands division.
The vote counts for Elmbridge Borough Council for Weybridge Riverside ward were as follows:
Ashley Tilling, Lib Dem 1094 votes; Conservative 754 votes; Labour 220 votes.
Thank you to all who voted, whichever party you supported – the Lib Dems are here to represent all!
Whilst the election was a boost for Lib Dems, the turnout was disappointing at 39.6%, in part as the need for new photo identity proof led some people to turn back without voting. Without a doubt, it was shocking to see a uniformed policemen turned away at St Mary’s School Oatlands polling station as his warrant card with photo was not considered by the presiding officer as proof enough to vote! Those who used a postal vote did not need to provide proof of identity. Do contact Elmbridge Borough Council offices to get on the postal vote list if you need to. Ring 01372 474 474.
On 8 February, Elmbridge Cabinet recommended to Council a new Elmbridge Vision 2030; a Vision that encapsulates Elmbridge’s sense of community, that understands how our residents care about their environment, how they care about supporting each other and how they care about the vibrancy of their towns and villages.
The 2030 Vision has been co-created with our residents, businesses, colleagues, and Councillors, who all understand more than ever that Elmbridge has the potential to grasp the future, to be an enabler for growth and opportunity, that we should be ready to adapt to future working life, future high streets, and future living.
On 7th March, residents, businesses, and local partners are invited to the Civic Centre in Esher to hear more about our Council’s Vision 2030 and our aspirations for Elmbridge.
6-7pm arrival and networking
Meeting some of our partner organisations such as Surrey Police, The River Thames Scheme and our waste partners Joint Waste Solutions.
7-8pm Vision 2030 launch
Hear from The Leader, Cllr Chris Sadler, the Deputy Leader Cllr Bruce McDonald and the Chief Executive, Adam Chalmers. There will also be time for questions and answers.