Planning Consultation

Your chance to see and shape the next twenty years of planning in Elmbridge

At 7pm, Tuesday, 10 January in the Library building on the first floor

Weybridge will see the first of six public exhibitions outlining the borough’s proposals for providing more affordable and social housing.  This is in response to the national government’s call for local government to produce proposals for meeting housing needs in their areas.

Key documents will be available in hard copy and officers and councillors 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 10 February.

This is the first of several public consultation meetings, so if you cannot make it tonight, there are others you can attend.  Dates and venues to follow.

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

Successful conviction for removal of protected trees

woodland_english_autumn_sunlitOn Monday, 20 June 2016, James Scott, formerly of Pennyfield, Cobham, was convicted at Guildford Crown Court of breaching a Woodland Tree Preservation Order, contrary to the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and the Tree Preservation Order Regulations 2012.

Mr Scott had felled and burned thousands of trees at Corbie Wood on the Seven Hills Road on the Weybridge/Hersham border.  The borough originally agreed to the clearance of shallow-rooted trees from large areas of overgrown concrete at the ten-acre site, a relic of its wartime past, after many had been made dangerous following severe storms in October 2013. However, he continued to fell trees on other parts of the woodland, despite the fact he had no permission. Following four days of evidence Mr Scott changed his plea to guilty and, after explaining his financial situation, was sentenced to a £500 fine and ordered to pay a contribution of £1,000 towards the borough’s costs.  This successful prosecution also carried a criminal conviction. The borough plans to serve a tree replanting notice on the landowner to restore some of the lost trees and woodland at Corbie Wood.


Lost Tree

Monument Tree websiteRemember this tree?

One of the trees planted by Morrisons to replace it has been removed because of damage and needs to be replaced.

Monument  New Tree website

Condition nine of the original decision notice relating to the Morrison store clearly states, inter alia, that:

If within a period of five years from the date of planting any tree, that tree, or any planted in replacement for it, is removed, uprooted or destroyed or dies, another tree of the same species and size as that originally planted shall be planted in the same place, unless the borough gives its written consent to any variation.

I have had this followed up with the borough’s planning enforcement team.

Green Belt Threat

Green Belt CountrysideThe national government has asked all local governments to review their green belts with a view to opening them up for development – Elmbridge is no exception.  Half the borough is designated as green belt (not to be confused with rural landscapes as above) and so its defence will have to be argued robustly.  We will be doing so with vigour.

The new administration of Liberal Democrats and its coalition allies is already building a coherent justification of our green belt and will ensure that is purpose of preventing urban coalescence is maintained.  A definitive Elmbridge policy on Green Belt in relation to local housing needs must be in place by the end of 2018.  That might seems far away but there is much work to do.

Elmbridge has to define why it needs it green belt.  It cannot just see “because”.  There has to be a reason in planning terms.  We can protect countryside for a number of reasons regardless of whether it is in the green belt or not.  It could be a site of special scientific interest, a defined view, an ancient woodland, a common or land owned by the National Trust.

The National Planning Policy Framework determines, in paragraph eighty, that the Green Belt serves five purposes:

  1. to check the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas;
  2. to prevent neighbouring towns merging into one another;
  3. to assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment;
  4. to preserve the setting and special character of historic towns; and
  5. to assist in urban regeneration, by encouraging the recycling of derelict and other urban land.

In Elmbridge we cannot use points four and five because they do not apply but clearly one can use the first three.  Regarding point one – how much of a gap do you think there should be between London and the towns in Elmbridge?  Presently there is no gap between Ditton and Surbiton; none between Molesey and Ditton; but there is a gap between Molesey and Walton and Ditton and Esher.  Weybridge already coalesces with Walton but the gap between Weybridge and Hersham is only about 100m wide.

In Weybridge our countryside is often further protected because the land is in the flood plain, owned by the National Trust or common land.

Morrisons Deliveries

Morrisons-02Morrisons had applied to have the its delivery times times extended with a variation of condition four (deliveries/servicing) of planning permission 2015/0138 (delivery times) to allow deliveries between 5:00 and 23:00, seven days a week.  This would include bank and public holidays.

Whilst no-one had actually complained about noise following the previous extension and the application was conditional for one year only the it was generally felt that 5:00 was too early in the morning on a Sunday, especially when one felt that the shop only opens at 10:00 on Sunday.   Supermarket logistics are quite complicated especially in the south-east and delivery times are set more for distribution efficiency rather than the time the shop actually opens.

There were moves to allow the deliveries a little earlier than at present but unfortunately the planning committee may only refuse or permit it may not vary the application itself.

The applicant may now appeal against Elmbridge’s decision or submit a less extreme application next time.

Site Visits

Warehouse Thames Street websiteAs a member of the Elmbridge Planning Committee I have to consider planning applications throughout Weybridge and Cobham.

To investigate them further the ten members of the committee are offered site visits.  The visits are always the Thursday before the Monday committee, on a three week cycle.

Today, as is often the case, only the Chair of the Committee, Cllr Cheyne, and I turned up. Sometimes Cllr Fairclough turns up for Weybridge visits and Cllr Mitchell turns up for Cobham visits.  So we have three visitors at each site.  I cannot remember an occasion when all ten Councillors turned up.

Perhaps before you vote you might like to ask your favoured candidates whether they intend to turn up for site visits if they are on the planning committee.

Next Monday, Thames Street Warehouse will be on the agenda again to confirm compliance with conditions.

Morrisons Again

Proposed view of Morrisons SmallMorrisons has applied to Elmbridge to extend its delivery times.  The current limits are Monday to Saturday – 7:00 to 23:00 and Sunday and Bank Holidays 9:00 to 15:00. All commercial vehicles must vacate the site by 23:00 Monday to Saturday and 15:00 Sunday and Bank Holidays.  Between 21:00 and 23:00 the Quiet Delivery System must be used.

Morrisons’ proposal is that the limits be set to the hours of 5:00 to 23:00, every day. From 5:00 to 7:00 in the morning and from 21:00 to 23:00 in the evening the Quiet Delivery System will be used.

Further details can be found here and you can give your comments here.  You will notice that there appears to be no plans in the new hours on Sunday, Public and Bank Holidays to use the Quiet Delivery System in a way that makes them different from normal workdays.

Now Planned Difference
Monday to Saturday 7:00 to 23:00 5:00 to 23:00 5:00 to 7:00
Sunday, Public and Bank holidays 9:00 to 15:00 5:00 to 23:00 5:00 to 9:00 and
15:00 to 23:00

Grotto Pub Site

Monument Hill GrottoFurther planning permission for this site, which already has planning permission for nine flats, was sought for two extra flats.  I asked that planning consent be denied on the grounds of parking stress and the bulk and height of the proposal – it now being four floors high instead of three.

The majority of the other councillors felt the proposal was not out of keeping with the other buildings in the locality as Manor Court was higher as were the office blocks.  However, neither of those buildings were hard up against the highway and Manor Court is quite set back.

I was outvoted last time over the parking stress and this time the other councillors felt that as we had not refused the applicant before for parking stress we could not revisit this aspect even though the extra two flats would increase the problem.  Surrey planning staff consider that parking is not required for flats which are “near the station and the town centre”.  There will be at least eleven cars in this site and no-where to park.

I also raised concerns over the light in Albany Court.  The planning officer showed me that the proposed building would not conflict with the 25% rule.  This rule is to protect light in established dwelling in the locality.  Taking a line at 25% degree from horizontal from the ground level windows in Albany Court would not meet the proposed building.  And in any case that rule applies for only the first 15m and the proposed building was 17m away.

I was outvoted by the majority (I am the only Lib Dem on the committee and all the other were Conservatives) and outline planning permission was given.

I number of people has raised the issues of pedestrian safety on this corner.  I totally agree that the junction of Baker Street and Monument Hill needs to be redesigned but without Surrey’s active engagement this planning permission itself would not be affected. Previous planning comments here.