Council Finances

Council Finances after a Challenging Year

The EBC Residents Group/Lib Dem Administration put forward for approval a detailed Budget for 2021/22 at the Council meeting on 24th February 2021. This sets out the challenging circumstances the council is facing and the share of this year’s council tax increase which will come to Elmbridge.

“The COVID–19 pandemic has hit all local councils’ budgets, and, contrary to earlier promises, central Government has only covered part of the extra costs and the lost income arising from the impact of restrictions on business activity this financial year. The estimated net cost to the Council in this financial year 2020/2021 is about £4 million.

During the pandemic the council has paid out over £30 million in direct support to businesses, awarded over 100 grants to help independent retailers adapt to social distancing, supported over 25 shops to sell on-line with the Digital High Streets grant and helped launch over 20 new businesses over the last year.

Fortunately, the Administration has been building reserves for day to day expenditures over recent years. As at 31 March 2020, the Council’s revenue reserves (including the General Fund, but excluding Statutory Reserves and CIL funds) stood at almost £23 million, compared to almost £19 million as at 31 March 2016 just before the RA/LD Administration took office.

The Budget for the coming year is a balanced Budget which incorporates over £2.3 million of savings, including a freeze on Councillor Allowances. In addition, like almost all the other Surrey Districts and Boroughs, the share of the overall Council Tax bill will be increased by £5 a year for a Band D property, which equates to an increase of 2.2%. £37.62 of the total increase in your (Band D) Council Tax bill, roughly two thirds of it, goes to Surrey County Council, a percentage increase of 2.5%. £15 of the increase (5.5% in percentage terms) goes to Surrey Police. Less than one tenth of the increase in your Council Tax bill is kept by Elmbridge Borough Council. 

The Administration believes that the Budget for 2021/22 is constructed on a prudent basis which recognises the uncertainties inherent in the current economic situation. While further use of revenue reserves is expected in the coming year, the central forecast is that revenue reserves will not fall below £12 million as at 31 March 2022.

 

Support from the Planning Inspectorate!!

Former Cafe Rouge, Queens Road

At last a Planning Inspector has agreed with a decision of your local councillors with regard to off-street parking provision! 

As anyone who lives in Weybridge Riverside or in the triangle near Queen’s road knows, parking spaces for residents are at a premium. This acute pressure on both day and night time parking is known technically as ‘parking stress’.

Councillors Vicki Macleod and Ashley Tilling have long argued that planning permission should not be granted to developments which do not provide adequate off-street parking.  The development at the former Grotto pub is a case in point.  

More recently, fellow councillors on the committee have agreed with your local councillors and this has led to a number of proposals being turned down because of inadequate parking – for example one in Baker Street and another in South Road.  Both of these refusals were turned over by national Planning Inspectors and the developments went ahead, with inadequate parking or indeed in South Road, no parking for residents of the new builds. 

In August last year, the local planning committee refused permission on three applications for flats in the old Cafe Rouge building (2020/0265, 0473 and 1288) because of inadequate parking.  We were notified on Thursday 1st April that for the first time in our memory (and we don’t think this was an April Fool) the committee’s refusal on the grounds of inadequate parking provision was upheld by the Inspector.  In summing up his observations and reasoning, the Inspector said:

“I therefore find that the proposed development would be harmful to residential living conditions through increased parking pressures on nearby local roads. It would conflict with Policy DM7 b) of the Elmbridge Local Plan Development Management Plan April 2015 which seeks that the proposed parking provision should be appropriate to the development and not result in an increase in onstreet parking stress that would be detrimental to the amenities of local residents.

This is a major step forward for Weybridge as it now gives Inspectorate backing to our arguments on the need for adequate off-street parking provision to be made for new developments in and near our town centre.

This gives us hope that we may again get Inspector backing in the case of Clive House in Queen’s Road (2020/2438).  Here, the planning committee on Wednesday 30th April refused permission for an additional floor to be built on top of the existing building and one of the reasons given for refusal was lack of adequate off-street parking. The second reason for refusal was the harm to the character of the area because of the imposing mass that would be created by adding another floor.

 

Bizarre spate of tree vandalism

This week, Weybridge has been subjected to a bizarre form of vandalism – cutting down small trees situated on public land.

Councillor Vicki Macleod was alerted to the first in-town instance – on the green in Thames Street – last Wednesday 31st March by a local resident.  She spoke with households in Thames Street and posted on the local Facebook group.  She also reported the incident to an Elmbridge Officer in the Green Spaces team and was given the crime reference so she could get through to the police directly.  

Later on Wednesday another local resident told Vicki he had seen someone leave the green, get in a red car and drive away.  It was only on seeing Vicki’s post that he put two and two together.  Vicki passed this information on to the local police – Elmbridge Beat – via Facebook Messenger.

Then at 10.40 that evening Vicki was contacted by one of the people she had spoken with earlier who heard sawing, looked out of the window and spotted an individual who got into a car and sped off.  He had come back to cut his tree into three pieces!

Sadly, the following day, Friday, reports came in of another tree that had been cut down outside Manor Court.  Then on Saturday there was a report of another tree cut down off the Queen’s Road, by the cricket ground and Manby Lodge School and one in Pantile Road near the Oatlands Recreation ground.  Police were called to the cricket ground where there was also a noisy gathering. Unfortunately they did not find the perpetrator.  

A red car was spotted near the site of tree vandalism on more than one occasion.

It is not certain whether these incidents are linked to the recent felling of trees at Cowey Sale, along the Desborough Cut and in Walton-on-Thames. If you have seen or heard anything suspicious, please contact Elmbridge Beat and state the crime number 45210028887.

 

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.

 

The future of Weybridge town centre

In July 2017 Weybridge Hospital was burnt to the ground.  The hospital accomodated the two Weybridge General Practices, a “Walk-in” Centre and other services like physiotherapy. NHS Property Services acted quickly to provide a high quality temporary replacement building.  Work was already underway on considering the scope of a new building.  At the same time the NHS was considering the question of what kinds of primary care services should be provided across Surrey.  Councillor Vicki Macleod has been working hard, on behalf of local residents, to provide quality input into these plans, and brings us all up to date below.  

New optimism
After nearly three years of waiting to hear how GP and core NHS primary services were to be reprovisioned in Weybridge, there is finally a great step forward and optimism that concrete plans will start to emerge.

Why has it taken so long?
Two key reasons it has taken this long are:

  • the national changes brought in by the NHS on the future of urgent treatment services and lengthy NHS project timelines 
  • the renewal or refurbishment of Weybridge Library.  

Given the location of the sites involved – opposite each other in the town centre – and the idea of a community hub, proposed by the Weybridge Society, all the authorities involved seized this as an opportunity to do something bold and imaginative with the sites and the way in which health and community services interconnect.  Previously these were all located in different buildings on different town centre sites.  In the future there will be mixed provision.  

What sites are involved?
The key sites are what is referred to as ‘the Hospital site’ on one side of Church Street and the Library site across the road.  However, current thinking has expanded into considering the wider area in which these are located and now included are Churchfields car park, the former Sure Start Centre and the Centre for the Community on Churchfield Road.  

The current situation is that three separate authorities – NHS Property Services, Surrey County Council and Elmbridge Borough Council are the owners of the sites. The tradition is that they each use their sites for their own services and they rent those parts of the site they don’t occupy.  This has tended not to happen in a planned way in pursuit of joint goals.  A key difference in the current approach is to think strategically about the best place for services to be located and how to make co-location work to the benefit of all.  Included in this thinking is how to make the most of the wonderful green spaces we have in central Weybridge and how to protect and enhance the town centre iconic heritage sites of St James Parish Church and the Old Rectory.

What services will there be?
Clearly, core NHS Primary Care services will be provided, including GP surgeries and treatment rooms.  The local Integrated Care Partnership (ICP) (replacement for the North West Surrey Clinical Commissioning Group) are aware that they must use the need for reprovisioning primary care services after the devastating fire as an opportunity to get things right in Weybridge.  The new campus will also house the Library; space for the Centre for the Community services to elderly residents and other users such as Dementia groups and the Stroke group; youth services; possibly co-working space; possibly accommodation and space for commercial use – with the hope that social entrepreneurs will want to base themselves in central Weybridge.

Who is involved in bringing this about?
SCC and the ICP have engaged an organisation with a strong track record in community projects – Well North Enterprises, led by Lord Andrew Mawson – to lead in the early stages and help get the project off the ground.  Naturally there are representatives from key services and authorities, and alongside these, there are community activists, including the Weybridge Society and local borough councillors.  Currently the structure for taking the project forward involves a Strategic Board / Steering Group plus two task groups – one responsible for communication and making input to the design and configuration of services and spaces, the other responsible for the business case and operational aspects of the project.  Lesia Scholey of the Weybridge Society has been appointed as Project Champion and is leading on communication and community engagement.

When can we expect to hear more?
A public engagement event is planned for early February.  The project team are very clear that they  want to hear from people who would like  to get actively involved and who have energy and commitment to offer.  There is no shortage of ideas but the project will only meet its true aim of building a happier, healthier, better connected community if it engages the energy of those with the will to dig in and work.  Are you up for this? Do you want to bring about a better future for Weybridge?  If so, please get in touch at weybridge@elmbridgelibdems.org.uk

There is also a full description of the project in the Autumn/Spring edition of the of the Weybridge Society Newsletter which will be distributed soon to all households in Weybridge, or can be accessed here (https://www.weybridgesociety.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Magazine-Autumn-Winter-2020-min.pdf).  

The project is still in search of a name.  Some suggestions are:
#WellBeingWeybridge   #WayBetterWeybridge   #ReviveWeybridge   #RenewWeybridge  Please let Lesia know your thoughts, preferences and ideas by emailing her at: hubfeedback@weybridgesociety.org.uk

 

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

 

Wey Road and Round Oak Road

Many residents of Weybridge are beset by difficulties in finding space to park their cars, especially in some of the older streets around Weybridge town centre.  To alleviate this difficulty some streets have sought and been granted on street parking controls, and these residents usually find themselves paying Surrey County (SCC) for a Resident’s Parking Permit.

Currently, and bizarrely, Surrey Highways is now consulting Weybridge residents on a proposal to introduce on street parking controls in two roads where there is no on-street parking congestion.

There is no highways reason for the scheme that has been proposed for Wey Road and Round Oak Road:

  • there is very little on-street parking in these roads, so no need for restrictive controls; 
  • most houses and flats in these roads have ample off-street parking space; 
  • there are no safety issues caused by the small number of cars which do park in these roads.

In short, there is no need for on-street parking controls.

Many of the residents in the two roads concerned do not want this scheme introduced as they have no objection to the small number of cars which do park in these roads. Surrey County Council Elmbridge Local Committee have allowed the scheme to be considered despite the proposal falling outside the normal way of approaching such schemes i.e. via the formal SCC annual review of parking.

The highways officer saw no reason for introducing on-street parking controls, but is bound to put forward a proposal as the Local Committee agreed to consider it. There are other streets in Weybridge that are not being considered despite there being severe parking related congestion.

If you would like to make your views known you can do two things:

  1. Join the “Wey and Round Oak Road NO CPZ” action group by emailing saynotocontrols@gmail.com
  2. Fill in Surrey’s online survey by clicking on this link.  

Write your own reason for objection (question eight in the survey) but, in general, the reason is quite simple, parking controls are normally introduced to meet concerns about the four main parking criteria:

  • Safety
  • Access
  • Congestion
  • Parking stress

Even a casual observer would recognise that Wey Road does not fall into any of these criteria (except at the entrances which have been dealt with already). That is why the Surrey’s parking officers rejected the proposals outright when they undertook last year’s review.

 

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?

How your local Foodbank has kept going during lockdown

People in Weybridge are sometimes perplexed that Foodbank donations from Weybridge shoppers go to the Runnymede Foodbank. They also ask where donations can be made and how the distribution service has been managed since it left St James’s Parish Church in March.

We are happy to report that, since lockdown, the Foodbank has continued to provide food parcels to local residents and throughout the parliamentary constituency of Runnymede and Weybridge. But some things have changed. To find out more, we turned to Runnymede Borough Council (RBC) colleagues for an update.

What we discovered was the major contribution RBC has made and how two of our Lib Dem colleagues on RBC have helped since lockdown. At a very early stage in lockdown, the manager of the Runnymede Foodbank highlighted to the RBC Community Services Committee his very serious concerns on how to maintain the service with rising levels of need, limited warehouse accommodation and some volunteers self-isolating.

RBC stepped in to help the Foodbank by providing warehouse accommodation and councillors volunteered to help keep the service going. The new warehouse facility near Egham became fully operational on the 6th April.  Initially RBC councillors managed the warehousing and distribution service on a 7 day a week basis, aided by local volunteers from across the borough. A substantial number of new volunteers have been working alongside established volunteers since this time.

Under pandemic conditions the Foodbank has run differently. All requested provisions are now delivered to households rather than being collected from the foodbank.  This was seen as essential to maintain social distancing for volunteers. This also meant there could be deliveries to those who were self-isolating.

The Chertsey Foodbank management team, who were unfortunately laid low with Covid-19 early on, have been progressively taking back the management responsibility from the RBC councillors. And the RBC councillors who kept the Foodbank going are now returning to other duties. While the RBC input drew on all parties, two Lyne Lib Dem councillors played a very significant part in keeping the operation going. These are Theresa Burton who organised volunteer staffing, developed the systems to support the operation and liaised with the Chertsey Foodbank charity team, and Don Whyte who has been managing the warehouse two days a week.

If you want to make your contribution to keeping this very valuable service going then there are many ways in which you can help.  You can donate items at Morrisons and Waitrose; you can make a financial contribution; you can organise a street collection and you can volunteer. Volunteering is done a flexible basis, so volunteers can chip in when they are free and do not have to make a firm commitment to being somewhere every week for a specific time.

If you plan to donate goods or run a street collection, please be aware that currently the most needed items are:

  • Laundry powder or liquid
  • Washing up liquid
  • Shampoo
  • Deodorant
  • Soap
  • Canned pasta – spaghetti, macaroni cheeses, etc
  • Sponge puddings
  • Rice

Please give generously: https://runnymede.foodbank.org.uk

 

The future of Weybridge Town Centre

It is now nearly three years since Weybridge Health Centre was destroyed by fire.

In the intervening time there have been conversations involving local councillors, the Weybridge Society, the Weybridge Town Business Group and some local residents on the future of health facilities in Weybridge. The opportunity has been taken to look at how the Public Estate sites in Church Street in Weybridge town centre can be developed for the good of Weybridge. Public Estate sites are those sites owned by public bodies such as NHS Property Services, Surrey County Council, Elmbridge Borough Council.

NHS Provision
Discussions on what NHS services there will be in Weybridge town centre began at the same time as NHS England announced that Walk-In Centres were to be decommissioned.  For information, there were three Walk-In Centres run by the local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG): one in Weybridge, one in Woking and one at Ashford Hospital. NHS England had made the decision that a better service would be provided through doctor-led Urgent Treatment Centres and enhanced GP availability and other services.

The discussions on whether there will be an Urgent Treatment Centre in Weybridge have been carried out by the North West Surrey CCG and have involved a Stakeholder Reference Group made up from councillors, resident representatives from a number of bodies and local representatives from Healthwatch England.  There have also been two rounds of public engagement events. A considerable amount of evidence has been collected and considered.

The latest public announcement on this set out the seven options for locating UTCs on the North West Surrey area – covering Woking, Chertsey, Weybridge, Walton and Staines and surrounding areas.

The NWSCCG has now merged with other Surrey CCGs and the new grouping is known as Surrey Heartlands CCG.  On their site they say:

Public feedback will be used to shape the clinical model for urgent care services and to reach a preferred option or options. If that leads to a substantial change to any services that are currently provided, a full public consultation would take place before any final decisions are made. This shortlist has been reached following a detailed process involving clinicians, health and social care organisations, voluntary and community sector organisations and members of the public. 

This work has been stalled by the Covid 19 pandemic

Town Centre Developments
The Weybridge Society’s most recently published newsletter, Winter 2020 gives a good account of the potential developments in the town centre involving the two Church Street sites.

“Embracing the Society’s WRAP (Weybridge Rebuild and Advance Project) idea, in 2019 SCC secured a £100,000 government grant from the One Public Estate project and is now using it to work out how to combine as many services as possible under one roof. This work includes options appraisal and master-planning to assess a comprehensive regeneration plan of a number of town-centre sites in multiple public sector ownership: Weybridge Health Centre, Surrey County Council Library, Surrey Youth Centre . . .”

Currently Elmbridge Borough Council property is not being considered in the plans being drawn up by Surrey. The EBC sites that were initially considered include the Centre for the Community site and the former EBC bowling green, more recently used for short tennis.

The latest news on developments is that the Library site is currently favoured as the site for locating new NHS provision, which will include GP practices, community health services, X-ray and other diagnostic services such as phlebotomy (blood tests). As no decision has yet been made on locating an Urgent Treatment Centre in Weybridge, design options have to include space for this.

One question now is what other services will be provided on the library site. Ideas include Library provision; community services – as currently delivered at the local Centre for the Community, including lunches for the elderly, meals on wheels preparation, stroke and dementia groups; youth provision; co-working space; a hireable community area for children’s playgroups, clubs, exercise groups and societies; and a public café.

And the old hospital site?  To quote again from the Weybridge Society’s Winter 2020 Newsletter:

“Combining these publicly owned sites into a shared building or hub (or other options) has the potential to release land for new housing, deliver new jobs, commercial space, efficiencies and wider economic development benefits to ensure the future vitality and viability of Weybridge’s town centre.”

The pressing need for extra-care accommodation for the frail elderly, and publicly funded care homes, as well as affordable smaller housing units will be all be factors in deciding what will be built on the old health centre site. And all proposals will have to fit with the EBC Planning framework a new version of which is currently being worked on by the EBC Planning team. This framework, known as the Local Plan, was due to be published in draft form during 2020.

As ever, we are interested to hear your views on how our town centre develops – including the benefits you see in this scheme and any problems you can foresee.  Whatever happens, this is a once in a generation opportunity to shape how a significant part of Weybridge will look and function in the next 30 to 50 years.

You can email us at weybridgelibdems@gmail.com or ask to join Weybridge Forum Facebook group to put your views and see those of others.