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”.

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.

 

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 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).

 

River Thames

The River Thames is a popular location for Weybridge residents to participate in many different types of recreation.  In this joint blog article Pete Hampson describes what the River Thames has meant for him over this past year and then Judy Sarsby reports on recent developments on unauthorised moorings. 

Pete Hampson writes: 
“Sitting at the confluence of the Wey and the Thames, Weybridge affords its residents some lovely surroundings, a fact that was brought home to me this year as lockdowns and other restrictions limited where we could go and what we were able to do.  

As a cyclist and keen walker, I can regularly be found making my way along one of our rivers and, in the case of the Thames, rowing along on it.  Since March I’ve been working from home and during the first lockdown my daily exercise often took me cycling along the Thames path.  In May we rowers were allowed back onto the river, socially distanced single sculling being the order of the day – single sculling closer than 2 metres to another boat generally provides a more immediate concern than potential COVID spread.  

In the absence of the normal water-traffic, nature had taken full command of the river, and when non-motorised craft were allowed to venture back we returned to an ornithologists dream with a great abundance of young bird life to be found: amongst the usual coots, mallards, moorhens, swans and geese, there were grebes, herons and even kingfishers to be spotted. 

Over the course of the summer, recreational river use flourished; canoeists and paddle boarders were out on the Wey, and in addition to their number on the Thames, we saw skiffs, oar-boards, kayaks, sailing boats, and plenty of swimmers alongside the usual pleasure craft mixing in with us rowers.  Meanwhile along the bank, anglers, walkers, runners and cyclists were making the most of the glorious weather and the wonderful surroundings.  Businesses were popping up, renting out equipment for people to enjoy, and providing classes to those wanting to try something new. And as the pubs re-opened, there were full beer gardens of patrons relaxing by the waters edge.

Now as we come to the end of the year, and endure a further lockdown, I’m again returning to my cycling and walking along the towpaths of our local riverbanks, and am heartened to see the many others who are managing to spend time out and about during these short days. Our rivers bring enormous benefit to us, improving our health, happiness and prosperity, but as with all natural resources they also need our protection.  Ensuring that we can continue to enjoy them for generations to come requires us to not only be aware of the risks they face, but play an active role in their conservation.”

Judy Sarsby adds
I recently interviewed local Olympic rower Pauline Peel (Bird). Please follow this link to view the video: Pauline Peel interview

One of the problems faced by users of the River Thames is the presence of boats mooring permanently on both public and private land without permission.  Councillor Ashley Tilling is a fellow member of Weybridge Rowing Club and of Thames Valley Skiff Club and we have witnessed a significant increase in boats moored without permission along the river.

Many users of the river and local residents have raised a variety of concerns about these vessels. Their visual appearance is often dilapidated, there are questions about how the boats dispose of their general waste and on the Molesey stretch the boat residents have even fenced off areas of the towpath to claim as their own gardens. Towpath walkers have found this intimidating.    

The EA (Environment Agency) is responsible for policing the river and in September this year they told Elmbridge Borough Council that of 148 boats moored on the river only 53 had permission. More than six out of ten boats that the Agency checked had no permission to be on the mooring they were occupying.

The EA moorings are intended to be used free for the first 24 hours and are then chargeable up to a maximum of 72 hours. After the 72 hours the vessel is expected to move on and there is now a no return period of 24 hours. New signs have been erected explaining the charges and advising on how to pay. 

Maintaining an available supply of temporary moorings is very important to allow vessels to make passage, over several days, up and down the River Thames. If all the temporary moorings are blocked by vessels using them permanently then vessels on passage are forced to find an ad hoc unauthorised mooring. In October last year the EA at long last responded to these concerns and engaged an enforcement company to actively check licences and monitor moored boats. There was some success before the latest lockdown and it is hoped that work to move -on vessels moored without authorisation will commence apace over the summer months so that we can better enjoy our wonderful stretch of river.

Desborough Island

The vision I think we should all support is for Desborough Island to be an outdoor, green sports facility that utilises this beautiful Weybridge island to its maximum potential. Outdoor sport can go hand in hand with diverse wildlife, the new proposed Wetlands and enhancing the appeal of the green spaces.

Currently on the island we have rugby, football, cricket and netball. Rowing and canoeing have long been sports enjoyed on the river and, this year, paddle boarding and wild swimming saw a huge increase in participation so that more and different people enjoyed the outdoor sports our river has to offer.

It could be even better. We could have a running path and cycle circuit all around the island and boating facilities for sports people with a disability. If we were to develop the existing area of Vandals and maybe employ a caretaker-come ranger to maintain the facilities and patrol the island, we would have an enviable green outside sport and wildlife island for all local residents to enjoy throughout the year.

We should cherish this beautiful site and look after the wildlife whilst enhancing our outdoor sports facilities for people of all ages and abilities.

Judy Sarsby

Local Boundary Posts

If you’ve seen one of these on Desborough Island or close to Cowey Sale, you may wonder what they are for. They actually date back to the Victorian era and mark the Coal Tax boundary. So anyone bringing coal into the Metropolitan Police District (plus the City of London) would have to pay Coal Tax. The purpose of the posts was to give notice of where the boundary ran so that no-one could claim ignorance of liability to pay the duties.

The 24/25 VICT refers to the years of Queen Victoria’s reign in which the Act requiring the payment of the duty was passed (i.e. 1861-62 session). CAP 42 refers to the relevant chapter of the parliamentary Act. 

In the 1880s the City and the Metropolitan Board of Works wanted the duties to continue in the face of growing opposition from the public and national politicians, but when the MBW was replaced by the London County Council in 1889, the new council declined to support renewal. An act was passed in that year abolishing the duties, the last of which was collected in 1890. The abolition was opposed with some underhand tactics: a parliamentary select committee sitting in 1887 found that signatures on a petition in support of keeping the tax had been forged!

The posts thus represent the final phase of the duties in the face of growing opposition. They had been collected for over 300 years but within 30 years of the posts going up were abolished.

See how many you can spot! There were originally around 280 posts of which around 210 remain.

Planning refusal in Weybridge

EE applied to build telecommunications equipment comprising a monopole that would stand 15m high with associated antennas and dishes as well as three adjacent cabinets. The structures were to be situated on an area of pavement located adjacent to the railway station and Heath Road South car park.

The Council refused planning permission and EE appealed. The application therefore goes to HMG’s Planning Inspectorate for their judgement. In this case the Inspector upheld the Council’s decision, ruling that:

  • The predominant development pattern on this side of the highway is one of built form, as well as street furniture, that is low in height. The monopole would be at-odds with this and the general topography of the area. It would be significantly taller than the adjacent boundary treatment, street furniture, railway building and even against the backdrop of nearby trees.
  • The appellant accepts that the monopole would be visible, but I do not accept the assertion that it would have very little impact over a wider area. The telecommunications equipment would be out of keeping with the street-scene and otherwise spatially open character of the area, having particular regard to the low height of development on this side of the highway. It would therefore be visually intrusive and prominent from numerous public vantage points, given its siting, and would increase visual clutter.

Vicki Macleod for Weybridge in the Surrey Elections 4th May 2017

On Thursday 4th May, you have a  chance to elect a new councillor to represent Weybridge on Surrey County Council.

Your local Liberal Democrat candidate is long term Weybridge resident Vicki Macleod.

You may know Vicki from her work in our local community, perhaps from her five years chairing the Friends of The Weybridge Centre charity. or as a school governor.

Vicki‘s priority is to give Weybridge a stronger voice for better delivery of the services local people need, including:

  • Better maintained and safer local roads and pavements
  • Local school places for Weybridge children
  • Responsible budget management by Surrey County Council

Many people see Surrey County Council as remote and inefficient with its history of mismanagement. Vicki will work with other councillors to put pressure on the administration for more effective financial management and for budgets that reflect local needs.  Her longer term aim is to see some of the services currently run by Surrey brought into local Elmbridge control.

Read more at elmbridgelibdems.org.uk

 

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: