Haines Bridge

 How can Haines Bridge be made safer for pedestrians?

It has been observed that Haines Bridge, which carries the Queen’s Road over the railway, puts pedestrians at risk since the bridge is so narrow. This leads to restricted width lanes for vehicles and thin strips of pavements. Queen’s Road is a busy main road and, if pedestrians coming from different directions have to cross on the pavements, it makes it very challenging for people to pass; this is particularly difficult for people with child buggies. 

A local resident also pointed out that the parapets are below regulation height. Ashley investigated and asked Network Rail to ensure that parapet alterations would be in the coming year’s budget. They have now informed us that they plan to install caging over the pavements. 

However, we have suggested that a longer-term solution of a new parallel pedestrian bridge should be investigated. While it is acknowledged that this would be expensive, this would make it safer for pedestrians and without widening the bridge itself. 

Here are a couple of examples that have been implemented elsewhere and could be used for inspiration.

1. A bridge in Florida: 
2. The Clifton Suspension Bridge: 

The Missing Link

As soon as Cllr Ashley Tilling became involved in discussions about the Brooklands Accessibility Project a couple of years ago, it seemed to him that a key option for linking Brooklands to the town centre was missing.

The Accessibility Project has already brought a much safer route for people on foot or bike making journeys to or via the station; it provides a properly surfaced and illuminated track from Brooklands to the station, the shared path along Heath Road and the improvements to the town paths. However, it has a big limitation in that all users have a severe restriction at the railway bridge where cyclists will have to dismount in order to safely pass pedestrians on the narrow pavement over the bridge. 

With the renewed interest in cycling and walking that the pandemic has presented, as well as the additional encouragement to leave cars at home, it seemed that there was an opportunity to investigate a ‘missing link’ route. This would make use of the closed railway bridge which was built to connect Locke King House (now Brooklands College) to the Brooklands race track. The path would open up an additional traffic-free route for all those travelling to and from Brooklands and the Locke King housing area with Brooklands College, Heathside School and the town centre without having to negotiate the narrow pavement on the road bridge. 

Ashley contacted Network Rail last year to ask if there was a possibility for them to give permission to use the railway bridge. Their recent reply is very encouraging. They have now conducted a paper-work investigation and physical structural check of the state of the bridge in question. This is their response:

The bridge in question is currently in reasonable condition and, subject to the relevant processes, we would in principle be in a position to transfer it to the local authority if they wished to dedicate public rights over it. 

He will now pursue this scheme with Surrey and Elmbridge Councils but your support for this would be most welcome. Please tell us what you think of this idea and whether you might use this bridge (you can use our comments section).

 

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.

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

 

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?