Elmbridge New Local Plan Exhibition & Consultation

There are four further dates for the public exhibition outlining Elmbridge’s proposals for providing more affordable and social housing.  This is in response to the government’s call for local authorities to produce proposals for meeting housing needs in their areas.

Exhibition Dates
Thursday 18 January, 7-9 pm, at Hinchley Wood School, Claygate Lane, Ditton
Monday 23 January, 7-9 pm, at The Cecil Hepworth Playhouse, Walton
Thursday 26 January, 7-9 pm at Civic Centre, Esher
Saturday 4 February, 10 am – 2 pm at Civic Centre, Esher

Key documents will be available in hard copy and councillors and staff and will be there to talk with you about the proposals.  Key features for residents to consider are around what happens to existing Green Belt boundaries.

The public consultation on these proposals closes on 10th February.  Post  your views here…

With regard to developing in the Green Belt, he Council’s three options are:

British Government orders Green Belt Review

Green Belt CountrysideAs many of you will know, the British Government has told the English boroughs to review their Green Belts with a view to opening land for development.  If a borough refuses to do so then the British government has said it will take direct control.

This has left the Liberal Democrat led Elmbridge administration little option but to revise our own local plan.  We wish to built a broad local approach and the Conservative opposition has been very much involved in every stage of the development.

Before we can agree a new local plan we have to pass though a number of stages and we need you to help in that process so we have published a strategic options consultation.   The document asks many questions and raises a number of issues.

We want to consult as widely as possible and will use every available means to engage with the public.  Part of this process is to have a number of consultations at various stages in the drafting of the plan.  The first drop in sessions will be at:

7pm – 9pm, Monday, 23 January at the Playhouse, Walton
7pm – 9pm, Thursday, 26 January at the Civic Centre, Esher
10am – 2pm, Saturday, 4 February at the Civic Centre, Esher

The events will consist of exhibition boards where the headlines of the consultation document will be displayed.  The evidence base documents supporting the consultation will also be available to review and representatives from Elmbridge’s planning policy team will be on-hand to answer any of your questions.

Your can attend any of the events.  The exhibition will be borough-wide, that is not specific to any particular town.

This process is subject to the agreement to the borough’s council  on Wednesday, 7 December

Tesco Bags of Help

Tesco Bags of HelpThe money raised from the 5p bag charge in Tesco stores in Weybridge will be used to pay for a local projects to improve green spaces in the communities. Projects that will get the green light as a result of the funding will include building new pocket parks, sports facilities, woodland walks and community gardens.

Administration of the local funding will be managed by the community charity with a green heart, Groundwork, which specialises in transforming communities and the local environment for the better/

Click here for more information.

Cote Planning Application

Cote Brasserie-01Whilst few people would have an objection to a new restaurant run by Cote to be established in Weybridge I listened to the concerns of people living in the vicinity.  As with all planning decisions, the matter has to be determined under the planning guidelines and policies set out by the various levels of government: borough, county and state.

My sense of the debate was that although many burghers would believe that the application would cause an unacceptable impact on local on-street parking in the evening  – contrary to Elmbridge policy DM14; the fact that Surrey – the highway authority – thought otherwise killed such a case.

The argument is that if the committee had refused to permit the development on the grounds of parking stress or such a similar reason then the applicant could have appealed against the decision to the national government and would win because parking is a transport matter dealt with by Surrey.  On this basis Elmbridge may not gainsay Surrey. Elmbridge might even have to pay costs.

However, I discussed Surrey’s transport planning remit with the very Surrey planning staff who deal with such applications.  They told me that some aspects of transport are indeed the concern of Surrey but not all of them.  Surrey’s three concerns are – as guided by the national government’s national planning policy framework: to reduce the need for major transport infrastructure; that safe and suitable access to the site can be achieved for all people; and, residual cumulative impacts of development are not severe.  They felt that Elmbridge could apply its own judgement especially DM14 – the policy on the evening economy.

I regret to say that I was unable to persuade my fellow councillors of the merits of such a course of action.  The vote to grant permission, as I recall, was as follows:

  • For: Cllr Gray, Cllr Grey, Cllr Knight, Cllr Samuels
  • Against: Cllr Davis
  • Abstained: Cllr Cheyne (chairman), Cllr Foale
  • Absent: Cllr L Brown, Cllr Fairclough, Cllr D Mitchell

There were several conditions placed on the development – here are the significant ones:

Condition four

NOISE AND VIBRATION – The extract system shall be installed and maintained so that noise or vibration cannot be heard or felt at or beyond the boundary of the nearest premises. If there are residential units within the same building then sound insuIation works must be carried out to ensure that noise and vibration cannot be heard or felt within the units.

Condition five

HOURS OF OPENING (RESTAURANTS ETC) – The use hereby permitted shall not be open to customers outside the following times 08:00-23:30 Monday to Saturday and 08:00-23:00 Sunday and Bank Holidays.

Condition six

USE OF FLAT ROOF AND OF EXTERNAL STAIRCASE – The flat roof and the external staircase hereby permitted shall not be used other than as a fire escape. Prior to the commencement of the development details including a “glass bolt” or similar suitable locking system .to the first floor external fire door shall be submitted to and approved in writing by the local planning authority. The approved details shall be implemented and maintained as such in perpetuity.

Condition seven

ODOUR CONTROL – The premises shall be designed, constructed and~ maintained so that no fumes or odours are detectable at or beyond the boundary of the nearest premises.  The duct must be designed, constructed and maintained in such a manner that its interior is capable of being cleaned.

Condition eight

BIN STORAGE – Prior to beginning the development, plans and elevations of bin stores required to accommodate refuse and recycling shall be submitted to and approved in writing by the local planning authority. The bin stores shall be implemented in accordance with the approved details and permanently maintained for use by the development hereby permitted.

Condition nine

OUTDOOR MUSIC – No music shall be provided outside the structure of the building.

Condition ten

DELIVERIES OF GOODS – Deliveries and collections from the premises shall only be carried out between the hours of 08.00 and 22.00

Condition eleven

HANDLING OF GOODS OR MATERIALS OR COLLECTION OF WASTE – Activities which are audible beyond the site boundary including disposal of refuse and in particular disposal of glass bottles in to the external bins shall only be carried out between the hours of 08.00 and 2200.

Condition twelve

NOISE CONTROL VIA WINDOWS AND DOORS – External windows and doors serving the licensed area shall be kept closed between the hours of 20:00 and 08:00 (inclusive) when regulated entertainment is being provided other than for normal access and egress.

Surrey will be expected to take account of the needs of residents in its Weybridge parking review that it plans to undertake in December.

I will ask for the the improvement, lighting and sign posting of Church Path to be included in the safe routes to school programme.

Hospital to go?

Call me sentimental but another little bit of Weybridge’s history could be about to disappear under the demolisher’s wrecking ball.  We have lost our town hall (replaced by Lloyd’s Bank), the fire station (replaced by Nikki’s Café) and now our old hospital could be replaced by a retirement community.  Fortunately, we still have our original power station in Church Path.

Balfour road 2

Long before there was a national health service the people of Weybridge clubbed together to build our very own hospital.  Land off the newly laid-out Balfour Road was donated to the new hospital in 1889 by Hugh Locke-King.  The building stands today.  As the population of Weybridge increase a new hospital was built off the High Street in 1928 and that, in turn was replaced by the present walk in centre.  Although not a listed building, Locke-King House in Balfour Road is within the Weybridge conservation area.

The proposal is to demolish the old hospital and replace it with 18 double bedroom, retired-person flats with 22 underground car parking spaces.  See here for more details.

Balfour road floor plan

Apart from any other planning consideration – of which there are many, an important issue to consider is the narrow footway in front of the building.  Surrey County has often said that the reason that it cannot provide cycle paths is because along proposed routes there is insufficient width of carriageway.  Outside this property there is not even space for pedestrians.

Narrow railing balfour road

RTPI awards Elmbridge’s Planning Services

rtpi_awards_for_research_excellence_logoPlanning Services team has been ‘highly commended’ in the Local Authority Team of the Year category at the 2015 Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) Planning Excellence Awards on Monday 6 July.

The demand for planning services in Elmbridge has increased rapidly in recent years.  Yet the resources available to deal with such growth has been restrained.  So it is gratifying for Elmbridge planning to be awarded such an important national award.

Good practice in a diverse number of areas, the delivery of a large supermarket and listed school scheme and improved process to provide excellent customer service, were just some of the reasons that the judges deemed Elmbridge ‘highly commended’.  The judges were also impressed with the team’s engagement with the traveller community, enabling this group to be included in planning decisions, and its commitment to employee development.

Earlier in the year, Elmbridge’s Land Charges team won an award at the 2015 Local Land Charges Awards and Elmbridge’s Building Control team was successful in the Local Authority Building Control South East Region Awards Ceremony in Brighton in June.

Elmbridge Sport hub EIA

environmental impact assessmentAfter the decision by the full Planning Committee regarding the sports hub, we have now received the outcome from the Secretary Of State regarding the need for an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and he has decided that an EIA is required.  The essence of what the Secretary Of State said is:

“Whilst this is a finely balanced case, the proposal does raise concerns to suggest the potential for significant environmental impacts through surface disturbance of the former landfill site, uncertainty about the extent of the contamination of the site and the potential for gas migration to both the River Thames and nearby residential properties.”

Whilst the borough is disappointed by this decision, especially as the issues mentioned above have already been addressed in the planning report, Elmbridge has begun on the EIA exercise as promised at the Committee meeting.  The EIA will be the subject of public consultation and will be presented to the Planning Committee in due course.  I will let you know timescale as soon as I have it.

More housing control from Westminster

Housing benefitsNational governments often claim that they support local democracy; however, the evidence is often otherwise.

Take housing benefit – part of the £12bn in welfare savings is to be made by the national government instructing boroughs to reduce their rents.  This will save the national government £1.4bn in housing benefit by reducing rents paid to social landlords.  The Institute of Fiscal Studies estimates that this will mean a loss of £2.5bn to boroughs which could be made available for new housing.  Overall government loses out but the centre gains and localities lose.

This measure will have the net effect of reducing the provision of housing.  If we want more housing where it is needed than we need to look closely at:

  • Ensuring that all places have a duty to house their own in their area. A village would have to build houses to enable anyone born in the village to live there – a town likewise.
  • Replacing business rates and council tax with land tax. This would end the tax on improvements and focus the tax on the value of the land instead.
  • Removing stamp duty on house purchases and fund this change by reducing the capital gains exemption for domestic properties. This would allow people to move house more frequently and encourage people to spread their investments to the betterment of the economy.

If locals had to provide homes for their own the number of houses would increase without having to change the planning laws and/or the national government poking its nose into areas where it is not wanted or needed.

More planning control from Westminster

brownfieldNational governments often claim that they support local democracy.  However the evidence is otherwise.

The recent announcement that Westminster will change the law to allow developers to build on brownfield land without planning permission is a case in point.  Taken at face value it means that any new development on land that has or has had a building on it will be allowed regardless of any local planning law or guidelines.  Effectively this means that there will be little or no protection against poorly conceived or designed development.

This is another case of Westminster meddling in local affairs.  Just imagine what the Westminster politicians would say if Brussels said Britain must have the same planning law as Romania.

Update on Cowey Sale Loos

Cowey Sale loosAs part of the Walton Bridge rebuild, Surrey undertook to build a new cafe and loo facility on Cowey Sale.  The building was built on behalf of Surrey by Costain and before it was handed over to Elmbridge our staff found that there were a number of outstanding problems that meant that it couldn’t be opened to the public.  These problems have turned into on-going discussions between Surrey and Costain.

Elmbridge employed an independent building surveyor to inspect and report on the condition of the new building.  They have now reported their findings, which echo and support our concerns on the outstanding defects that we have identified and which Surrey has relayed to Costain.  Although the liability for rectifying the defects remain with Surrey and Costain, Elmbridge’s staff assure me that they are doing their utmost to remedy the situation as soon as possible.  Whilst Elmbridge is reliant on Surrey following its proper contractual processes, Elmbridge staff continue to chase it for its contractor’s programme of works.  The independent surveyors will be retained to oversee, inspect and approve all of the works undertaken by Costain.

While the repairs are being carried out and in response to feedback from local residents, Surrey has installed temporary loos which it is intended will remain in place until the new building’s facilities can be fully opened.