Town Path Local Inquiry

You will have noticed that the upgrading of the paths around Churchfields was completed in May. Not only were these busy paths widened to 3 metres wherever possible to make them safer for all users but the proposals put forward by Cllr Ashley Tilling (for lighting to be installed on the path between the playground and the allotments, to move the fences to provide a much safer s-bend next to the skate park, and for the route into town through the car park to be made good) were all agreed and implemented.

However, a Local Inquiry is to be held at 1000 on the 7th September (venue to be decided) to determine whether the paths should be shared for both cyclists and pedestrians. Written representations should be made by 10th August to Sarah.tudor@planninginspectorate.gov.uk, using the same address to register intentions to attend the inquiry.

To download the details of the Inquiry click on this link: Pre Inquiry noteDPIQ36302110 PIM Note 21 07 21

The New Local Plan

The draft Local Plan has been sent back to officers for further work

The Local Plan sets out the Council’s ‘Place Shaping’ vision for the next 10 to 15 years by showing areas in the borough which could be developed for housing. It has been years in the making and is in its final stages before presentation for public examination and then to the government’s Inspector.

The draft of the new Local Plan was recently presented to councillors who have asked officers to do some further work on it. The aim is to ensure it better represents the views and aspirations of the Borough’s councillors and residents. There are very serious concerns about the impact of any attempt to meet the government’s assessed housing requirement for Elmbridge of 641 dwellings a year for the next 15 years. This would have an impact on our Green Belt, open spaces and the character of our urban areas.

The Cabinet and the cross-party Local Plan Working Group therefore advised senior planning officers that the draft Local Plan, as presented, did not meet the aspirations of the vast majority of councillors and that further work was required before it could be published. The intention is that the short delay will ensure that the eventual Local Plan will have every chance of approval by the Planning Inspectorate. Lib Dem Leader Bruce McDonald described the move as: “Very significant. Our residents have told us so many times about their love for Elmbridge, its green spaces and their concerns for the Green Belt. I’m delighted to see the fruits of the numerous discussions we’ve been having. This is strong local democracy at work”.

Result of the Cobham by-election

Lib Dems win the Cobham & Downside by-election

In a surprise result last Thursday, 1st July, Lib Dem Robin Stephens became the Cobham and Downside ward councillor overturning many years of the ward being held by the Conservatives.

Robin ran a vigorous campaign helped by many supporters from across Elmbridge. He heard from many voters who wanted a local councillor who listens to them and puts residents first.

Source: elmbridge.gov.uk

Community Infrastructure Bids 2021

Community Infrastructure Project Bids

On Monday 14 June, the Elmbridge Borough councillors for Weybridge and Oatlands and Burwood Park sat down to try and distribute around £202,500 from the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) fund across 20 bids for funding received in 2020 and 2021.  The total value of the bids submitted was over £1,257,000.  This presented quite a challenge to your councillors at the Local Spending Board meeting.

What sort of projects?

The nature of projects requesting bids ranged from those submitted by Surrey County Council for local highway junction and cycleway improvements; those submitted by Elmbridge Borough Council for improvement of community assets and the majority, those from community organisations, charities and sports clubs, for improvements to their facilities and buildings.

For councillors this was a challenging task and one which we knew would result in disappointment for many of the organisations involved. Many very worthwhile projects were not granted any funding. See further below for details about the bid scrutiny process.

So which bids were actually granted funding?

In the event, nine bids were allocated funding as follows (see details of the bids below):

Application 1 – Seven Hills Road Footway/Cycleway (Surrey County Council) – Full grant of £50,000

Application 2 – Re-Surfacing of Car Park and Provision of Bike Rack (St Mary Oatlands Church) – Partial grant of £15,000 of the £30,000 sought

Application 3 – Baker Street Junction Improvements for Pedestrians (Surrey County Council) – Full grant of £25,000

Application 4 – Brooklands Community Park – Car Park Extension (Elmbridge Borough Council) – Full grant of £32,500

Application 6 – Scout HQ Repair & Camping Equipment Store (1st Weybridge (Brooklands Own) Scout Group) – Partial grant of £6,500 of the £22,500 sought

Application 8 – Cricket green improvement works (Weybridge Cricket Club) – Partial grant of £44,5000 against the £84,500 sought

Application 9 – Weybridge Men’s Shed (Weybridge Men’s Shed) – partial grant of £12,047 against the £34,803 sought

Application 10 – Walton & Hersham Arena Pitch Improvements: Floodlighting (Walton & Hersham Youth Football Club) – Full grant of £8,690.22

Application 13 – Hydrotherapy Pool Improvements (Walton Leigh School) – Partial grant of £8,341.85 against the £25,000 sought.

The bids in more detail

Seven Hills Road Footway/Cycleway (Surrey County Council)

The proposed project would replace the existing footpath with a larger multiuser path. It would enable increased safety and capacity for residents and formalise usage for both pedestrians and cyclists. It would also improve traffic flow as vehicles won’t have to overtake cyclists. The project will provide a key nonmotorised user (NMU) route in the area and promote active travel. The majority of the funding has been secured, and the CIL application is for the remaining £50,000 for the project.

Re-Surfacing of Car Park and Provision of Bike Rack (St Mary Oatlands Church)

The project proposes to resurface the existing car park using eco-friendly methods, improving the layout, and subsequent flow of traffic, and to install a bike rack to encourage more usage of sustainable travel to the facility. The facility and car park are used by a variety of users, including community groups and nearby schools, so the project will improve usage and safety. A portion of the funding has been secured, and the CIL application is for the remaining £30,000 for the project.

Baker Street Junction Improvements for Pedestrians (Surrey County Council)

The proposed scheme is to improve the crossing facilities for pedestrians at the two junctions of Baker Street with the A317 (eastern end – Monument Hill and western end – High Street). The improved alignment of the routes will improve safety and the ease of usage for pedestrians, which will encourage more residents in the area to choose active travel means. Over half of the funding has been secured and £25,000 in CIL funding is being requested for the project.

Brooklands Community Park – Car Park Extension (Elmbridge Borough Council)

The proposed project is to extend the car parking provision by 50 spaces, as well as improving the flow of the current car park to eliminate the current requirement for users to reverse out, which will improve the safety of all users of the park. £32,500 in CIL funding is being requested for the project.

Scout HQ Repair & Camping Equipment Store (1st Weybridge (Brooklands Own) Scout Group)

The project proposes to install a new externally accessed storage area and improve the drainage to reduce the flooding in the building’s hall facility. The new storage area would enable the outside space and the hall to be used separately by different groups at the same to increase the capacity for the community to use the space as well. A portion of the funding has been secured, and the CIL application is for the remaining £22,500 for the project.

Cricket green improvement works (Weybridge Cricket Club)

The proposed project seeks to upgrade the pitch and area surface through groundworks and the installation of an irrigation sprinkler system, which will reduce the flooding risk to parts of the site and enable more usage of the pitch and area through the year. A portion of the funding has been secured, and the CIL application is for the remaining £84,500 for the project.

Weybridge Men’s Shed (Weybridge Men’s Shed

The project is project is to fit out the newly built shed with resources and utility connections to provide a space for those dealing with social exclusion, loneliness or depression to come for wellbeing support and community inclusion in the area. £20,756 in CIL funding is being requested for the project.

Walton & Hersham Arena Pitch Improvements: Floodlighting (Walton & Hersham Youth Football Club)

The project is for portable floodlights and storage which will increase the time that users can play on the pitches throughout the year by the various teams and groups, providing an increase in the usage of the pitches and decreased pressure on other lit pitches in the surrounding area. £8,690.22 in CIL funding is being requested for the project.

Hydrotherapy Pool Improvements (Walton Leigh School

The project proposes to upgrade the changing and shower facilities for the pool to enable better wheelchair access and increased usage by the students and community members using the specialist facility. A portion of the funding has been secured, a funding application is awaiting confirmation, and the CIL application is for £25,000 for the project.

The CIL bidding and scrutiny process

All bids for funding need to meet criteria set by the council. These are designed to evaluate the suitability and value of the projects in the context of CIL funding. Bids are score against the criteria and ranked accordingly. The criteria used are:

  • The extent to which the project mitigates the impact of development within the Borough
  • The level of benefits to residents, including evidence of community support
  • The level of match funding attached to the project
  • Value for money of the scheme and added value that CIL could deliver, and
  • Deliverability

In a year when there was a significant gap between that amount of funding sought versus the amount available, the scoring system had a significant impact. This meant that the highest scoring bids were more likely to receive funding. Additionally, one of the allocation rules is that the CIL funds are available only for a year and that there should be a high probability that the total cost of the project will be raised by the bidder, so that the project is carried out within a year. (See above, deliverability within the year is one of the criteria for bids).

Funds are retrospectively paid to projects at project completion and project spending is scrutinised by council officers to check that the funds given were spent in accordance with the bid specifications.

Where do the funds come from?

Elmbridge charges developers a tax for new development known as the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL).

National government said this new tax was to be raised for the purposes of providing new or improved infrastructure in Elmbridge.  The new tax began in April 2013 and has raised a considerable amount in the eight years since its introduction.

The money raised is split so that Elmbridge retains 75% for strategic infrastructure projects and 25% is given to towns.  This is allocated to each town in proportion the the tax raised in each town, which reflects the amount of development there has been.

 

Weybridge and Oatlands Paddling Pools

The paddling pools at Oatlands and Churchfields Recreation Grounds are usually open for the school summer holidays. Your local councillors were rather surprised to be informed on the 21st May that the paddling pools in Churchfields and Oatlands Recreation Grounds would not be opening this summer as a result of the covid situation.

This was due to an operational decision taken by our officers (the Borough’s civil servants) at the Civic Centre in the middle of the second lockdown when they thought it unlikely that government restrictions would allow sufficient relaxation of social distancing rules to allow the pools to be opened safely.

At the request of councillors, a meeting with officers took place on Friday 28th May to review the position. Your councillors explained that the well-being of children was particularly important after more than a year of unusual and difficult circumstances for many families. It was therefore agreed that the position would be reviewed and that a schedule and cost for the necessary maintenance and water testing should be put in place to allow for the pools to open as usual.

 

Lib Dems and RAs continue in coalition

The Residents Associations and the Liberal Democrats have agreed to form the administration of Elmbridge Borough Council.

The elections on 6 May 2021 resulted in the Residents Associations and Liberal Democrats together holding a total of 26 seats. The Conservative Party holds 21 seats.

On 19 May the Council met for its Annual Meeting which made appointments to the Cabinet and the Committees for the Municipal Year 2021/22. The Cabinet will be:

Leader: Cllr Chris Sadler

Community and Corporate Development: Cllr Bruce McDonald (new Leader of the Lib Dem group)

Environment: Cllr Ashley Tilling (Lib Dem)

Housing: Cllr Neil Houston

Leisure and Culture: Cllr Janet Turner

Planning: Cllr Karen Randolph

Resources: Cllr Mike Rollings (new Deputy Leader of the Lib Dem group)

Social Affairs: Cllr Richard Williams

Transport: Cllr Peter Harman

New Mayor launches his Charity Appeal

Following his election as Mayor of Elmbridge at the Annual Meeting of the Council on Wednesday 19 May, Councillor Tony Popham held his charity launch via Zoom on Thursday 20 May. Councillor Tony Popham has chosen to support The Grace Dear Trust for his Mayoral term of office.

Judy Sarsby writes:

In a year like no other, when so many are struggling to stay positive, it was encouraging to hear that the new Mayor has chosen a charity that reflects the needs of the young people of the borough struggling with mental health. The Grace Dear Trust is a powerful and active mental health charity set up in the memory of a sister and daughter, Grace, lost to suicide in February 2017 aged just 27. Grace had been suffering with depression and anxiety from the age of 13. The aim of Grace’s father, Graham, and sister, Hope, is to help save the lives of other young people suffering with mental health issues. Mental health is still seriously underfunded and requires more effective approaches to prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

Their slogan “it’s ok not to be ok” communicates the message that we can all have feelings of depression, but that we can reach out so that we do not have to suffer alone as there is help available. Many young people struggle to understand their own feelings and don’t know how to talk about them; this can lead to them suffering in silence without seeking the help they need. The charity supported by the Mayor, who lives in Hersham and has a teenage daughter, raises money to deliver presentations to schools and organisations on the importance of good mental health. The charity partners with local schools and clubs, providing mental health training courses and sets up strategies to support club members and pupils. They have embraced the pairing of sport with good mental health and also set up a young persons’ theatre project where they talk about their feelings through creative and performing arts. The Grace Dear Trust is certainly an appropriate cause in a year when showing empathy, listening and community spirit are of optimum importance to the young.

https://www.nhs.uk/service-search/mental-health/find-an-urgent-mental-health-helpline

Local Election Results May 2021

There were no seismic shifts in the political representation in Elmbridge, but a number of long-serving councillors stood down making way for some new faces. In the Weybridge area we welcome Judy Sarsby as the new councillor for Weybridge Riverside and Ananya Banerjee for the Oatlands & Burwood Park ward. Peter Harman was re-elected in Weybridge St George’s Hills.

The LibDem council group elected a new leader, Bruce McDonald, newly elected in Claygate, and Deputy Leader, Mike Rollings. Read here about the new members of the administration for the Borough.

Tim Oliver continues to represent the Weybridge division in the County Council. However, you may have read about some crumbling of the ‘blue wall’ in the south east, part of which was the Lib Dems gaining 5 seats on Surrey County Council, resulting in the largest Lib Dem Group at County Hall since 1997. The Lib Dems now have 14 County Councillors in Surrey: 5 from Guildford, 4 from Waverley, 2 from Mole Valley, 2 from Woking and 1 from Tandridge. The party narrowly missed out on winning a further 5 seats by 173 votes or less. Read here about the Group’s new leader.

Overall, the Conservatives lost 14 seats in this Surrey County Council election, leaving them with 47 of the 81 seats on the Council.

Here are the Weybridge and Oatlands results in both Elmbridge Borough and Surrey County elections:

Oatlands Drive Crossing

Judy writes:

A friend with four boys at St James’ School expressed her concern about crossing with her children over Oatlands Drive when coming out of the path that runs from Grotto Road. Many parents with children have to cross this busy main road to reach the recreation ground or on their route to and from school. 

Grotto Road leads up the hill, from Thames Street, past St James’ School into an unusual traffic-free ‘green lane’ to Oatlands Drive. Unfortunately this lane is frequently overgrown and the path is narrow and obstructed by trees. Your ward councillors, Ashley and Vicki, asked Surrey County Council to draw up a scheme to install an improved and safer path for walkers and cyclists. Delayed by the pandemic, they have ensured it will come before the next council committee at which they hope it will secure funding approval.

Linking to this scheme, and to secure a much safer route to two of our schools (St James’ and St George’s Junior Schools), we are campaigning for a crossing on the busy stretch of Oatlands Drive close to where the ‘green lane’ meets the road.

Councillor Vicki McLeod recently took the opportunity to raise the issue with the leader of Surrey County Council. It has been confirmed that this will be considered as this area is under review, so hopefully we will be able to further enhance the safety of our Weybridge roads. We will continue to monitor the attention given to this issue by the council and trust that all families crossing at this point remain safe until a proper crossing is installed.  

 

Desborough Island

Our campaign to tidy up Desborough Island

As a keen rower with Weybridge Rowing Club, Weybridge Riverside candidate, Judy Sarsby, has noticed the increasing amount of rubbish being casually strewn around Desborough Island, some of it from fly-tippers. And so she set about forming an enthusiastic group of volunteers who meet every week to tidy up this lovely Weybridge open space. Everyone is welcome to join by getting in touch with Judy.

As summer begins and lockdown recedes, families, sports enthusiasts, walkers and picnickers venture onto the island to enjoy the peace and quiet, the fresh air and the flora and fauna. It appears that the example set by the litter-pickers has encouraged others to take their rubbish home, or at least to the bins at the entry to the island. On recent outings much less litter has been found on the green spaces, though there is still some fly-tipping.

Surrey County Council have recently announced that they will continue to help with funding of the Environment Agency’s scheme for a lower Thames flood relief channel from Staines to Shepperton. An exciting part of the plans include the formation of a wetland habitat on Desborough Island and improvements to access through forming an interconnected route along the channel for walkers and cyclists. 

We would welcome your ideas on the future of Desborough Island via our comments section below.