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

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

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:

Helping our High Street

There has been a significant impact on local businesses over the last year due to closures imposed under covid-19 lockdown rules. This has accelerated an existing trend away from high street shopping to on-line purchasing (32.5% of sales are now on-line). Weybridge has 25 empty retail units and both Santander and Barclays banks have recently announced that they are closing their Weybridge branches.

Elmbridge Borough Council has been administering grants to businesses to cover the time they have been mandated to close. Discretionary grants have been paid to those not mandated to close but who have suffered a large downturn in trade and up to £9000 one-off payments were given in January to retail, leisure and hospitality businesses forced to close in the third lockdown. 

The government’s Budget continued both the furlough scheme and the reduced rate of VAT  for tourism and hospitality businesses until September, while extending the business rates holiday for three months.

As we emerge slowly from lockdown constraints, the Council will be looking to further support businesses from its own funds. £2000 per business will be available to improve shopfronts and signage and £1000 to support improved footfall or sustainability. Further support is available in the form of a grant of up to £2000 to bring shops that have been empty for over 3 months back into commercial use.

32 independent retailers in Elmbridge have already benefited from a grant of up to £1500 from the Elmbridge Digital High Street Fund to help them convert to selling on-line and 82 start-up awards have been made so far to provide £1000 to set up new businesses. 

Further discretionary grants are in the pipeline. Currently there is no detail on these but the following links can be used to check on progress of these grants.

Council Meetings: Real or Virtual?

Virtual Council Meetings to end on May 7th

The Local Government Association (LGA), a cross-party body, has responded to the government’s announcement that emergency legislation allowing virtual council meetings will not be extended beyond May 7th.

Cllr James Jamieson, Chairman of the LGA, said: 

“This decision is extremely disappointing. The Government’s own roadmap out of lockdown states that indoor gatherings or events – organised by a business, charity, public body or similar organisation – cannot be organised until May 17 at the earliest. Yet councils will be unable to hold remote meetings from May 7. MPs will retain the right to participate remotely until at least June 21 but the powers-that-be in the House of Commons will not make time available to legislate for councillors to do the same. 

“The case is clear for the ability for councils to continue to be able to hold meetings flexibly. We urge the Government to reverse this decision and not force councils to have to hold COVID-19 secure face-to-face council meetings until all restrictions are lifted. 

“This also risks damaging the gains seen in public participation in remote council meetings during the pandemic and our vital local democratic process.

“Left with no choice, Lawyers in Local Government, the Association of Democratic Services and Hertfordshire County Council have made an application to the Courts to declare that councils already have the powers needed to hold online meetings. The LGA will be providing support in these proceedings as the representative body for councils.”

 

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).

 

Carton recycling now available

Good news! From Wednesday 17th February residents in the Weybridge and Walton areas will be able to recycle their food and drinks cartons (these are the ubiquitous Tetrapak, Elopak, etc. cartons for soup, fruit juice, non-dairy milk, etc.) and drinks cups.

Over the last year Cllr Ashley Tilling has been working with the recycling provider set up by the carton manufacturers (ACE UK) and with Elmbridge Borough Council to introduce recycling banks. Currently Elmbridge is the only borough in Surrey that does not provide carton recycling for its residents; 94% of all UK councils provide carton recycling.

Recycling reduces CO2 emissions in the supply chain and ensures our waste is recycled responsibly. Industry figures show that recycling food and drink cartons produces a net reduction in emissions of 452 kg CO2 per tonne. The new bring banks provide a great opportunity for residents in Weybridge and Walton to save food and drink cartons from going to landfill.

There will be recycling banks positioned in the station car parks in Weybridge and Walton. PLEASE Wash, Squash and Cap your cartons to maximise the numbers that can be collected. PLEASE do not put any other waste in the banks, such as paper, glass or cans. 

We are hoping this will be an initial trial; it would be much more convenient for banks to be placed in supermarket car parks, as they are in neighbouring Waitrose Woking and Waitrose West Byfleet, or town centre council car parks, as they are in Mole Valley. Please let EBC or your ward councillor know if you would like the council to extend the trial by providing banks in places that would give you greater opportunities to recycle your cartons.

Please pass on this email to friends so that they can add this to their other recycling efforts.