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.

 

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.

Volunteering during the lockdowns

An interview with Cllr Ashley Tilling 

Focus: How did you get involved with volunteering during the Covid-19 pandemic?  

When the national call for NHS Volunteers was broadcast in April I put my name forward. But for a couple of weeks I heard nothing. I then​ bumped into a neighbour who was involved in the Surrey First Responder volunteer scheme – organising the collection and delivery of medicines to people who were shielding, isolating or too ill to go out. He was very happy for me to join his small team.

Focus: How does the scheme work? 

On Tuesday and Thursday afternoons I received a list of prescriptions requiring to be picked up from pharmacies and to whom they were to be delivered. Some of these were marked urgent, so needed to be collected that afternoon, while others could wait until the following morning. 

Focus: Typically how many people were on your list?

Usually between four and six scattered around Elmbridge. I decided to use the scheme to try to keep fit and so dusted off my road bike. A typical route would be from Weybridge to Hersham, Esher, Claygate, Thames Ditton, Molesey and back via Walton on Thames, collecting and delivering along the way. Between April and July, I had made well over 80 deliveries all over Elmbridge. I was also recently called up again and helped during ‘Lockdown 2’. 

Focus: Have there been any challenges?   

Sometimes I would turn up at a pharmacy to find that they had not received the prescription on my list – it then took some persuasion and co-operation from the pharmacist to sort this out with the issuing GP practices. Finding the location for a delivery could also be a headache – a lucky encounter with a passing postman once helped!

A regular Weybridge recipient comments:

“We are so grateful for our prescriptions being delivered. Both my husband and I have multiple prescriptions, all cheerfully delivered. We have shielded since before the first lockdown and are so looking forward to the vaccination. Thank you to all those who have worked delivering our medicines”.

 

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.

Proposed improvements to our town paths

The Brooklands Accessibility Project has been a major scheme to provide safer walking and cycling between Weybridge and Brooklands. So far this has provided the new path along Heath Road to the station, a wider path with a tarmacadam surface from Lonsdale Road to Seven Arches Bridge, and improvements to the path past Brooklands Museum, through the park and onto the A245.

Phase Four of the project was dependent on the cost of the first three phases but it was envisaged that some money would be available to improve the route into Weybridge town centre. This phase takes the route from the crossing on Heath Road, along Melrose Road and makes use of the paths around the allotments and Churchfields Park to finish in the town. These are a wonderful asset at the heart of the town and give a very pleasant option for residents away from the noise and risk of using the roads. To make these paths safer for all users, Phase Four proposes to widen the paths by clearing the earth alongside the fence sections around the allotments, cutting back any overhanging vegetation and laying macadam up to the fence edge.

I have proposed that a small section of allotment fencing near the skate park should be moved back in order to smooth out the rather dangerous right angled corner. 

I have also asked Surrey County Council’s Project Manager for the current cut-through track (see photo) to Churchfields car park be formally implemented as a better option for users going to the town centre than the path that goes to Church Lane and to the roundabout at the Church Street/Balfour Road junction. Furthermore, I am hoping that there will be enough money to pay for much-needed lighting of the path alongside the playground section.

 

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.

 

 

Eliminate the bad – retain the good

The coronavirus has had a significant impact on all of us and we are desperate to eradicate it. But despite all the negative impact, can we maintain the positives that we have seen?

The environment

Many cars have been idle in the driveway and people have started walking and cycling both for their daily shopping and for their daily exercise; this has a positive impact on both the health of the individual and on the climate. There are many stories of how people are enjoying the clearer skies, whilst others talk about how they enjoy hearing birdsong now that the noise from traffic and air travel has significantly reduced.

For many years Weybridge High Street has had particularly poor air quality due to traffic congestion. Last year it was selected as one of two places in Elmbridge (the other being Hampton Court) for continuous air quality monitoring and recent figures show that average levels of NO2 have fallen from previously high concentrations of up to 55 μg/m3 to approximately 24 μg/m3 by the end of April. (National policy is that nitrogen dioxide concentrations should not regularly exceed 40 μg/m3.)

Wouldn’t it be good if our renewed awareness of our environment was translated into long term action for sustainable improvements? Can we maintain the current air quality when the emergency measures start to be lifted? Should we introduce an Elmbridge low emissions zone? Can we plant more trees and hedges? Will Surrey County Council install more cycle lanes and change all buses to be electric or fuel-cell powered? Can we encourage more children to walk or cycle to school?

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