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.

 

Town Centre Traffic – a radical approach

A Radical Approach to Town Centre Traffic and Regeneration

We often wonder what will help our High Street survive and thrive. In Weybridge, through traffic is a significant negative feature and we believe that removing this traffic, which simply goes through our town, would help our High Street flourish.

Why and how would we do this?
One of the many things we have learned through the Covid 19 crisis is the value and importance of our open spaces – Churchfields Park, The Cricket Green and, for the more adventurous, Desborough Island. These have proved invaluable and well-used. What we lack in Weybridge is town centre open spaces and we will need these to help re-establish the once thriving cafe culture of our town.

The questions are where to have open spaces and how will we create them?
We are talking here about pedestrian spaces in our town centre. And in Weybridge, this would mean stopping traffic driving through the town centre itself. Impossible? Too radical to even think of!!?

Well, let’s think about it for a moment before we dismiss the idea. And let’s think in terms of how could this benefit the town, its businesses and its residents? Let’s think also in terms of what town centre services local residents will want to be able to access by car, what habitual behaviours may we need to modify and what we already do differently because of the pandemic? How many of those working at home will continue to do so? Quite a few we believe. How many of us now walk or cycle to do our shopping? Do you remember in March and early April, amidst all our concerns about the virus and how we would cope in lockdown, the bliss of a quiet, traffic free High Street? We could have this again and permanently, or something close to this.

Through traffic or a piazza and performance space?
Much of our congestion in Weybridge is caused by people driving through our High Street to get somewhere else. This does not build a thriving town. This through traffic would cease and find other routes if we created a small piazza straddling the High Street between Lloyds Bank and Robert Dyas. This could be a space for enjoying an outdoor coffee and chat – rather like Singaporean food courts, where you can buy from anywhere.  Flexibly designed, it could be transformed into a performance space. There would, of course, have to be a route through for emergency vehicles, as we see so often in European towns with pedestrianised centres.

Which services do we absolutely need to get to by car?
Clearly some people need to use a car for all services, but all these would still be accessible, just sometimes with a slightly longer journey. With less traffic this need not be slower. For local people, access to medical services with parking will remain an important element, and of course will be possible with this plan, as access to Churchfields Car Park remains open.  Banks will continue to be accessible from Churchfields and, with quieter streets, it may even be possible to increase short stay on-street parking, especially for Blue Badge holders. Truly, the only downside is a slightly longer journey for some, and for most doing this there will be the benefit of quieter roads.

But  . . .  
By now you might be wondering who loses in this scenario and what will happen to local traffic wanting to access the other end of town? And won’t new rat runs be created?

For sure the whole town wins from a re-energised centre, cleaner air, a place for people to gather safely. There would still be access to Churchfields Car Park from Church Street and Balfour Road and to Baker Street from the High Street (though this might be managed so that there was only one lane and pavements in Baker Street were widened, creating a second open space).

The level of traffic would be very much lower and Baker Street would no longer be a rat run used by people in a hurry to get somewhere.

The people most likely to lose out are the households on and off Heath Road who will lose direct access to the supermarket end of the High Street. If they wanted to drive to shop there, they would have to travel via the Station roundabout and Hanger Hill and approach via Monument Hill. This would put two (?) miles on their round journey.

It’s also the case that residents on and off Baker Street would need to take a longer journey to exit Weybridge along the A 317 and to get to the medical centre by car.  But improved pavements could mean that some, who would prefer to walk there or use a mobility scooter, would be safer.

What about new rat runs?
For such a change to work, residential streets which could become alternative routes for through drivers will need to be protected. This can be done. Streets we have identified as needing protection are: Portmore Park Road, and streets off it, and Elgin Road. Can you think of others? The simplest form of protection for these would be barriers or ‘rising’ bollards which are controlled to allow residents, their carers and visitors to pass into the street. This can be done using number plate recognition.

Other issues?
Yes, this would be a bold move! Maybe there are other problems associated with this idea.  But isn’t it time we adjusted the balance in our town?

How your local Foodbank has kept going during lockdown

People in Weybridge are sometimes perplexed that Foodbank donations from Weybridge shoppers go to the Runnymede Foodbank. They also ask where donations can be made and how the distribution service has been managed since it left St James’s Parish Church in March.

We are happy to report that, since lockdown, the Foodbank has continued to provide food parcels to local residents and throughout the parliamentary constituency of Runnymede and Weybridge. But some things have changed. To find out more, we turned to Runnymede Borough Council (RBC) colleagues for an update.

What we discovered was the major contribution RBC has made and how two of our Lib Dem colleagues on RBC have helped since lockdown. At a very early stage in lockdown, the manager of the Runnymede Foodbank highlighted to the RBC Community Services Committee his very serious concerns on how to maintain the service with rising levels of need, limited warehouse accommodation and some volunteers self-isolating.

RBC stepped in to help the Foodbank by providing warehouse accommodation and councillors volunteered to help keep the service going. The new warehouse facility near Egham became fully operational on the 6th April.  Initially RBC councillors managed the warehousing and distribution service on a 7 day a week basis, aided by local volunteers from across the borough. A substantial number of new volunteers have been working alongside established volunteers since this time.

Under pandemic conditions the Foodbank has run differently. All requested provisions are now delivered to households rather than being collected from the foodbank.  This was seen as essential to maintain social distancing for volunteers. This also meant there could be deliveries to those who were self-isolating.

The Chertsey Foodbank management team, who were unfortunately laid low with Covid-19 early on, have been progressively taking back the management responsibility from the RBC councillors. And the RBC councillors who kept the Foodbank going are now returning to other duties. While the RBC input drew on all parties, two Lyne Lib Dem councillors played a very significant part in keeping the operation going. These are Theresa Burton who organised volunteer staffing, developed the systems to support the operation and liaised with the Chertsey Foodbank charity team, and Don Whyte who has been managing the warehouse two days a week.

If you want to make your contribution to keeping this very valuable service going then there are many ways in which you can help.  You can donate items at Morrisons and Waitrose; you can make a financial contribution; you can organise a street collection and you can volunteer. Volunteering is done a flexible basis, so volunteers can chip in when they are free and do not have to make a firm commitment to being somewhere every week for a specific time.

If you plan to donate goods or run a street collection, please be aware that currently the most needed items are:

  • Laundry powder or liquid
  • Washing up liquid
  • Shampoo
  • Deodorant
  • Soap
  • Canned pasta – spaghetti, macaroni cheeses, etc
  • Sponge puddings
  • Rice

Please give generously: https://runnymede.foodbank.org.uk

 

Foodbank information

Runnymede & Weybridge Foodbank

Tel: 01932 838 383

Runnymede Borough Council is taking all calls for residents in Weybridge. They are operating a full doorstep delivery service to all foodbank clients. See the Runnymede Foodbank website

Foodbank Donations

Waitrose has a donation point for long life foodstuffs and there are volunteers around Weybridge who are acting as collection points.

Financial Donations

Foodbanks welcome assistance in the form of financial donations so that they can buy essential items such as nappies and sanitary products which are not normally donated. For Weybridge, a new donations page has been set up: Weybridge donations

Alternatively, a financial donation can be made to the Trussell Trust, who look after more than 1,200 food bank centres across the UK.  They provide a minimum of three days emergency food and support to people experiencing crisis.

  • Make a one-off donation to the Trussell Trust;  or
  • Text TRUSSELL then your amount (eg TRUSSELL 5 for a £5 donation) to 70085

PPE for Care Homes

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On the second Thursday of “clapping for carers” it was encouraging to see so many venture on to the street and cheer and clap near our local care home. The co-owner of Heath Lodge reached out and explained they had a confirmed case of Covid-19 within one of their homes and were seriously short of PPE. I’m not a medic or key worker, but this instantly reminded me I had a skill set to offer! I had retired from my sourcing and manufacturing company five years earlier but now could reopen the lines of communication and search for reliable makers and suppliers of masks and gowns. I contacted my old  colleagues and we set to work. Vicki Macleod, helped connect us with a government official who put us in touch directly with the NHS Procurement team.  We are now feeding through details and estimates for manufacturing and supplying PPE, including gowns. We’re also trying to help local hospitals, care homes and key workers through Surrey County Council.

The time difference makes for a long day and insomnia has never proved more welcome to working practice! NHS technical specifications, safety standards and test reports certainly maintain focus. We’re not there yet, there is a substantial need still to be met. But by doing something I know how to do well, that may ultimately bring protection to so many who give so much to others, is without question, a privilege.