Brooklands College development approved

Illustrative Master plan from Cala Homes

At Elmbridge Borough Council’s Planning Committee on Tuesday 5th December the application to redevelop the Brooklands College site was approved.

The application involves providing a total of 320 new homes in blocks of flats, town houses and the refurbishment of the listed Brooklands mansion into luxury apartments. The College put forward a development of such a significant scale on Greenbelt land largely to pay off £20m of a £25m debt it had incurred when contracting apprentice training to a company that subsequently went bust. The money is owed to the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), an agency of the DofE.

The debate in the Planning Committee meeting involved discussions on whether paying off the debt was a legitimate use of the planning process and constituted the Very Special Circumstances (VSC) necessary for building houses and flats on Greenbelt land, whether the design, mass, bulk and height of the proposed buildings were acceptable and whether there would be undue additional pressure on our roads. Despite being advised that paying off the debt did not constitute VSC, and with a number of councillors expressing concern about the scale of the proposed buildings and the effect on our already congested roads, the application was approved by a majority.

Clearly there are advantages to the proposals, including:

  • Upgrading the College’s teaching facilities;
  • Increasing the provision on site for local students requiring a high level of Special Education Needs, supported with funds from Surrey County Council;
  • Delivering a new sports centre and community space for the use of the College and the wider local community;
  • Refurbishing the site’s listed mansion, returning it to its historic residential use and restoring its terraced gardens;
  • 40% of properties will be affordable homes providing a mix of rented housing, shared ownership and discounted first homes;
  • Opening up 12 hectares of woodland for newly accessible public use;
  • Reopening pedestrian and cycling access across the railway bridge giving residents living south of the railway better access to Brooklands College, Heathside School and into Weybridge;
  • Remediating and building on areas that were former landfill sites.


Weybridge Business Park

In March this year, Runnymede Borough Council rejected plans for a 20,000 square metre warehouse on the now derelict site of Weybridge Business Park because it would be overbearing and have a damaging environmental impact.

The developers returned with revised plans for a number of smaller industrial units rather than the one large warehouse and this came before the RBC Planning Committee at the end of October. The council seemed to consider that the was an improved design due to its reduction in size and some additional landscaping. Along with the Weybridge Society, local councillors asked EBC to comment on the adverse effect the development would have on traffic through Weybridge, but unfortunately there was no objection raised from either the Local Highway Authority (SCC) or National Highways. Indeed, RBC determined that a reason for refusal on highway grounds could not be substantiated.

But conditions were imposed to restrict the hours of operations from 7am to 9pm and to limit the amount of floor space that could be occupied by one occupier so that units couldn’t be joined together to effectively provide one large warehouse.

However, the developers, Bridge Industrial, are appealing the decision to refuse their first application in March. The Weybridge Society is working hard, along with members of the Poets Corner Residents Group (PCRG) who live near the site, to prevent the appeal being heard in February from overturning the decision.

Petition for HGV weight limit

With Brooklands becoming a distribution centre for more and more companies, including Amazon, there are now more HGVs travelling through Weybridge and using the Balfour Road mini roundabout to turn into and out of Church Street. This is causing traffic jams, damage to barriers and pavements, and is dangerous to cyclists and pedestrians when the lorries mount the pavements to turn.

Neither Church Street nor the mini roundabout have been designed for this type of traffic and there have been 2 incidents with fatalities in the last 5 years on Balfour Road.

A petition to Surrey County Council was submitted in autumn 2022 to try to stop HGVs coming through Weybridge on the A317, received 270 signatures but was rejected on the grounds that it is a Surrey Priority One network with the comment that there “are no plans at this time to introduce a weight restriction.”

However, undeterred and seeing the escalation of the problem, we have joined with our St George’s ward councillor colleagues to promote a petition to introduce an 18 ton HGV weight limit on Brooklands Road. This is a B road and, if implemented, would achieve the aim of banning HGVs over 18 tonnes from using Heath Road to and from the town centre. There is still time to support the petition through this link or use the QR code below:  https://mycouncil.surreycc.gov.uk/mgEPetitionDisplay.aspx?ID=541 

The petition is due to close on the 29th December.

Large numbers enjoy expanded Weybridge Festival

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.”

A balanced and sustainable budget for Elmbridge

We remain a financially strong and resilient Council

On 8 February, Elmbridge Cabinet, of which I am a member, will be asked to recommend the council’s revenue and capital budget and the level of council tax for 2023/24. We have been working hard to produce a balanced budget against a backdrop of high inflation, rising interest rates and increasing energy costs, all leading to increased costs for the council.

Our 2030 Vision will help us to focus on delivering the needs of the community. It is a vision that says despite the economic pressures, we will support and enable Elmbridge’s sustainable future, we will back our local businesses and we will enable our community to help us drive Elmbridge forward. To ensure our vision for Elmbridge is more than a strategy document, we have in place a transformation programme that puts us in a strong position to be financially sustainable in future years.

For 2023/24 we are setting a balanced and sustainable budget brought about through a determination to create savings within the council, without reducing service quality.

Our transformation programme is the means by which we shape Elmbridge for the future; it will enable our vision. This programme is already delivering savings which have contributed to the 2023/24 budget, including:

  • A new leisure services contract with Places Leisure which will start in April 2023 and has secured savings of £200k in year one, while further enhancing facilities at the Xcel Leisure Complex.
  • Through service efficiencies, our community support services will save £110k, while developing a connected community to help improve the lives of our most vulnerable residents.

Overall, for our 2023/24 budget, we have identified additional income and efficiency savings of £1.8 million, while using prudently held reserves to meet some of our spending pressures due to high inflation and the impact of operational changes; these include Surrey County Council’s recent decision to withdraw from our joint car parking enforcement contract, which will cost our Council an additional £400k a year.

Supporting our community as costs rise

We never forget that some of our residents are dealing with the cost-of-living crisis every day, and they need us now more than ever.

  • Our 2023/24 budget continues to support our voluntary sector partners by providing core funding of £450k and,
  • through our careful financial management, we can commit an additional £250k to the cost-of-living crisis fund,increasing it to £500k to help the most vulnerable in our borough. We are working with our voluntary and community group partners in Elmbridge to allocate this funding so that it reaches the people who need it most, as quickly as possible.

Investing in a sustainable and thriving Elmbridge

A sustainable and thriving Elmbridge, needs more than efficiencies and cost savings, it needs investment which is what we will be doing to support Elmbridge’s future.

  • We have an ambitious capital programme where we plan to spend £4.2 million over the next 3 years, of which £1.6 million helps us towards our carbon neutral commitment, demonstrating our determination to work towards a sustainable Elmbridge.
  • £1 million of this will be invested in decarbonising our fleet over the next 3 years, with £460K in 2023/24, as set out in the draft Green Fleet Strategy also coming to 8 February Cabinet. This investment is supported by Surrey County Council, as we continue to work in partnership towards a sustainable Elmbridge.

Protecting our community

Working with our partners at the Environment Agency and Surrey County Council, the Elmbridge Drowning Prevention Strategy, sets out to reduce the number of water incidents in the borough through training and improved awareness. Our 2023/24 budget commits £30k for 2023-2024 to deliver additional drowning prevention projects including free swimming lessons for 12- 18-year-old non swimmers during the summer delivered by Places Leisure.

Below inflation increase in council tax

For Elmbridge council tax in 2023/24 we are proposing a below inflation increase of 2.98%, which is an increase of £7.05 a year or 14p a week for a band D property.

We will continue to support residents struggling to pay their council tax.

The future

The increased cost of living, global financial uncertainty and government policy changes means we will continue to face challenges to our financial position in the coming years. However, we have a strong track record of financial management, and we are confident that through our vision for the borough, backed up by the transformation programme, we will deliver a sustainable and thriving Elmbridge for our residents and businesses.

Cllr Ashley Tilling

Lloyds Bank in Weybridge to close

Sad to report that the Lloyds Bank in Weybridge will be closing on 10 May 2023. All regular customers have been notified by letter and we have been informed that the branches at West Byfleet and Walton are staying open and that everyday banking services (paying in cheques and cash, paying bills and withdrawing cash) continue to be available at the Post Office.

The closure will leave another vacant unit on the High Street, although the new businesses that have recently opened, including in the former Barclays Bank, give some hope that it won’t stay empty for long.

Great news about Weybridge Hall

At last Wednesday’s Elmbridge Cabinet meeting, approval was given to selling Weybridge Hall to Swift Entertainment for its use as a Theatre and Arts Centre. Your ward councillors are really pleased that their continual pressing for the Hall to continue as an entertainment venue, either as a cinema or theatre, is set to come to fruition and will give a boost to the night-time economy of Weybridge. This landmark building at the centre of the town will now be reopened as a venue for the community run by a proven operator – Swift recently refurbished and now successfully run Esher Theatre.

Swift will invest £1.5 million on refurbishments and installations to make it a state-of-the-art facility: a theatre on the ground floor with recording, dance and art studios on the upper floors.Architects drawing of the proposed Floor Plan

A planning concern from Runnymede Council

Weybridge Business Park

All offices on the main Business Park on Hamm Moor Lane have been emptied and the site owner has applied to Runnymede Council, application RU.22/0776, for permission to build three warehouse units. The largest of these, with 10 loading bays and 12 waiting bays, is believed to be earmarked as an Amazon distribution centre.

It has been pointed out in letter of representation that the impact on local roads of the estimated 99 HGVs per day, as well as numerous delivery vans and commuter transport (of up to 450 employees), would be significant and would almost certainly affect traffic in Weybridge High Street, Heath Road and Portmore Park Road. Indeed, National Highways has asked for a 56 day delay in any decision so that a further review of the methods used to calculate the trip generation in the Transport Assessment can be reviewed. However, the consultant acting for the applicant has responded by providing data that shows a reduction in the number of vehicle movements from the level of previous occupancy of the site.

Cllr Ashley Tilling writes that EBC were consulted and responded in June but as traffic impact is a matter for SCC as our Highways Authority they understandably could not find any planning grounds on which they could raise an objection (EBC 2022/1662). To voice your concerns you should contact your County Councillor or local MP, Dr Ben Spencer.



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

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.