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.

 

Planning refusals: 85 Queens Road (former Café Rouge)

85 Queens Road: four applications 2020/0265, 0473, 1288 and 1333

At the South Area Planning Sub-Committee held on Thursday 20th August four applications for changes to the former Café Rouge building were considered. Three of these were for more residential accommodation on the site and one was for extending restaurant seating space. The planning procedure allows a developer to make multiple applications for the same site but requires that each application has to be taken on its own merits. In this case there were two very similar applications, one to provide five flats on the site, the other to add three flats. The planning committee could have permitted both and it would then be up to the developer to choose which one to implement.

The application to convert the first and second floors into four flats and add a flat in a rear extension whilst retaining a smaller restaurant (2020/0265) was refused. Councillors believed there would be a significant increase to the parking stress already experienced in this location, particularly in Princes Road and South Road. This was in light of an application for nine flats on the Wessex site in South Road, recently permitted on appeal, and concerns over the cumulative effect this could have on demand for parking spaces. 

The developer had also applied to build a mansard roof with dormer windows (2020/0473) for a two-bedroom flat. Councillors raised concerns about the increase to perceived overlooking of gardens and properties on South Road. However, it was deemed there were insufficient technical grounds to support this reason to refuse. The argument was that, as there were already windows on the second floor, windows in the mansard roof would not add to overlooking. Additionally, the separation distance was greater than the 22 metres recommended as a minimum separation distance between facades. Despite the building not being a locally listed building, i.e. a heritage asset, the majority of councillors supported refusal due to the effect the roof would have on the character of this unusual art deco building and on the overall impact to the local street scene. 

A further application for three additional flats (2020/1288) was rejected for the same reason – parking stress – as that for the five flats. 

Finally, the application for an extension to the restaurant (2020/1333) was approved given that, under the current Covid-19 circumstances, additional space in the restaurant could be of significant benefit to the long-term success of the business.

 

 

Planning refusal: Clive House, Queens Road

Clive House, 12-18 Queens Road: applications 2018/2252 and 2019/2286

Clive House is a two storey, flat roofed construction set back from Queens Road so that it doesn’t dominate the street scene. The proposals put forward from Pegasus Life were to demolish the existing office building and replace it with 31 or 30 ‘age restricted’ apartments.

Councillors on the South Area Planning Sub-Committee refused the applications on the grounds that the proposed buildings would be in conflict with the Council’s design policies in that they would be predominantly three storey buildings with steeply pitched roof spaces which would appear oversized in the street scene. They would also harm the character and appearance of the surrounding area particularly with regard to the neighbouring Salisbury House.

The developer appealed and a few weeks ago the result of that appeal was received from the government’s Planning Inspectorate.

The Inspector dismissed the appeals. She agreed with the councillors’ reasons to reject the applications and made particular reference to the effect on the adjacent Salisbury House. This is not a heritage asset of the highest significance, but it was deemed that the proposed developments afforded it significant harm as it is of local historic value and an irreplaceable resource.

 

 

Planning appeal upheld: St Catherine’s, Thames Street/Beales Lane

St Catherine’s, Thames Street: application 2019/0386

PA Housing, who administer the majority of social housing in Elmbridge, made an application last year to demolish the two storey, brick built St Catherine’s House on the corner of Beales Lane and Thames Street and replace it with a part two and part three-storey building for 28 residential dwellings: 9 x 1 bed, 13 x 2 bed and 6 x 3 bed units.

The Area Planning Sub-Committee refused the application on the grounds that its height and mass would harm the character and appearance of the area as well as its adverse effect on traffic flow and increase to parking stress. There were also concerns on overlooking and loss of privacy to houses opposite on Beales Lane. The developer appealed and the Planning Inspector arranged a hearing at which all parties could express their views. The Inspector also visited the site and the surrounding area.

After quite a long wait, we were informed that the appeal was allowed and planning consent given.

 

 

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.

Local Plan – Coronavirus update

Update on the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Local Plan

The pandemic is having an impact on the current timetable (known as the Local Development Scheme – LDS) for producing the council’s Local Plan.  The council’s timetable was based on Officers being in a position to submit a draft local plan to Cabinet in June and to the full Council in July.  It included a final public consultation in September. Unfortunately, a number of external consultants and infrastructure providers have had to furlough or repurpose their staff in response to the pandemic.  As a result, they have not been able to submit their reports or inform the council when they will be able to submit them.  Due to the current uncertainty it is not clear how long their staff will be furloughed or repurposed and therefore, at present, the council is not in a position to set a revised timetable.

Although the full impact of the changed circumstances and the economic challenges from COVID-19 will not be known for many months, probably years, the council still has to produce a Local Plan if it is not to lose all control over future development in Elmbridge. However the government is maintaining that the current crisis cannot be used as a reason to delay the Local Plan.  We will be writing to the government with our concerns and seeking clarification about the present situation.

Our current experiences are highlighting the importance of, amongst other things, ensuring that new homes will be able to accommodate residents’ future needs.  Previous changes (the development of internet shopping, the financial crash of 2008, the decline of our high streets, the climate change agenda to name but a few) have all had, and continue to have, an impact on the built environment. The present challenges are expected to have an even greater impact. It is therefore essential that the new Local Plan allows for the development of innovative and imaginative solutions. For example, it will need to reflect changes in working patterns, and changes to commuting and its impact on traffic.

We have therefore asked the planning officers to review their work to date on the draft Local Plan in light of the pandemic.  We need to make sure that it will provide the council and the people of Elmbridge with a Plan capable of meeting the range of new challenges we are likely to be facing when this crisis eases, and the consequences are clearer.

Planning Application 2019/0657: Wessex, South Road

Earlier this year your local Area Planning Sub-Committee of councillors decided to refuse permission for a developer to demolish the existing house, Wessex, and build a block of nine flats in South Road, leading off Queen’s Road next to Tesco. An appeal was made by the developer against this decision and on 22 April the government’s Planning Inspectorate allowed the appeal, that is over-turned the decision of the Council committee.

Councillors had rejected the appeal because of the effect the proposed development would have on the narrow South Road, particularly in terms of safety, parking and access, and the implications for occupiers of nearby residential properties.

The Inspector commented that South Road is narrow in places and, due to the limited width and presence of yellow lines and on street parking, it only allows one car to pass at a time. But he considered:

‘that the parking restrictions in the area (including the CPZ) in combination with the accessibility of the location and the smaller dwelling types proposed, would serve to reduce the likelihood that many occupiers of the proposed development would choose to own a car. Highway pressure resulting from the vehicles of future occupants of the dwellings could therefore be adequately managed, subject to provision being made to exclude future occupants from benefiting from residents parking permits.’

Councillors also have to consider the effect of a development on the character of the area. The Inspector acknowledged that the proposed building would be larger than the existing dwelling, commenting that:

‘it would also have a more contemporary appearance, in particular due to the flat roof and window details. As this is a prominent site the development would change the appearance of the immediate locality. Notwithstanding this, the character of this part of South Road is derived from both the larger scale properties closer to Queens Road and the more modest buildings that are evident as you move away from it. In this regard, the character of the immediate area is mixed and a building off the scale and appearance proposed would not therefore be out of character.’

In terms of the impact on neighbouring properties, he evaluated: ‘I find this to be satisfactory in terms of preserving the privacy conditions of occupiers of South Lodge’ and ‘the east elevation of the proposed development would include windows/Juliet balconies facing towards the rear of properties on High Pine Close. Given the separation distances and other built forms nearby, it is considered that the proposed development would not impact on the privacy conditions of occupiers of these and other properties nearby.’

The appellant (the developer) is allowed to apply for costs to cover the amount they have spent to put the appeal case together. Interestingly, in this case the Inspector found that the Council did not act unreasonably in refusing the application. The application for an award of costs was therefore refused.

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:

New Weybridge Conservation area

templemereElmbridge is proposing to designate a new conservation area in Weybridge. In recognition of the unique 1960s built Templemere Estate, the borough has produced a Character Area Appraisal and Management Plan consultation document and is keen to hear the views of local residents and organisations.

A conservation area is defined as, “an area of special interest; the character and appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance”. The character appraisal document provides written definition, analysis and appraisal of what makes an individual area special and identifies actions for protection and improvement. The final document will be used by planners and the local community as a basis for understanding the area, informing decision making, monitoring and management.

There are 25 conservation areas designated in Elmbridge and these include historic town centres at Esher and Weybridge, village greens at Giggs Hill in Thames Ditton and The Tilt in Cobham, a 1920s philanthropic retirement village at Whiteley Village, motor racing circuit at Brooklands and 17th century river navigation channels along the River Wey. Lakeside Drive in Esher was the first example of modern 20th century architecture which was awarded conservation area status by the borough in 2014.

Community involvement is an essential part of any appraisal and the consultation document has been produced as part of a collaborative process involving local residents, amenity and conservation societies and planning officers and was co-coordinated by heritage consultants. There is now a six-week period of public consultation, which will run from 5 December. The appraisal document is available to view on the borough’s website and printed copies can also be viewed in the reception area of the Civic Centre on Esher High Street.

Affordable Housing for Elmbridge

monopoly_housesElmbridge’s new Liberal Democrat led administration is developing plans to increase the number of affordable and social homes across the borough.  There is much planning to do before significant results can be seen.  However, the borough hopes to bring forward a scheme for 38 new affordable homes, subject to the agreement of the borough’s council on Wednesday, 7 December.