Haines Bridge

 How can Haines Bridge be made safer for pedestrians?

It has been observed that Haines Bridge, which carries the Queen’s Road over the railway, puts pedestrians at risk since the bridge is so narrow. This leads to restricted width lanes for vehicles and thin strips of pavements. Queen’s Road is a busy main road and, if pedestrians coming from different directions have to cross on the pavements, it makes it very challenging for people to pass; this is particularly difficult for people with child buggies. 

A local resident also pointed out that the parapets are below regulation height. Ashley investigated and asked Network Rail to ensure that parapet alterations would be in the coming year’s budget. They have now informed us that they plan to install caging over the pavements. 

However, we have suggested that a longer-term solution of a new parallel pedestrian bridge should be investigated. While it is acknowledged that this would be expensive, this would make it safer for pedestrians and without widening the bridge itself. 

Here are a couple of examples that have been implemented elsewhere and could be used for inspiration.

1. A bridge in Florida: 
2. The Clifton Suspension Bridge: 

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.

 

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).

 

The Borough with a Big Heart

Judy Sarsby writes:

When I saw the call Care4Calais put out for winter coats and boots for the refugees living in the French camps, I knew people in my borough, who had responded so well to the shout out for PPE in care homes, would respond. And they did. Elmbridge Excelled!  I shall be travelling to Calais on the 21st and will now be taking a large van, as the donations have flooded in from all around Elmbridge.

I work as a volunteer for the charity Elmbridge Can who help refugees settle in the borough, so I was not surprised when my colleagues stepped up. Their generosity and the generosity of the Elmbridge Lib Dems, of friends and of locals from Claygate to Weybridge has been exceptional. One chap got the whole street in Claygate involved and, after filling the car last week, I am going back again for more. 

I put a word out to friends in the Weybridge Rowing Club and had parcels left in the changing rooms and on the mail box at all hours. Given how much we all cleared out during lockdown the response has been wonderful. There are no words for the generosity extended by our people to those people in Calais so desperately in need. We would like to thank each and every one of those who donated for the kindness of their contribution.

The charity Care4Calais https://care4calais.org/donate-now/  supports refugees sleeping rough across France and Belgium. This drive is particularly focused on the immediate need to keep people warm and dry, not an easy task when most live in tents or makeshift shelters. The bitter cold of winter has now moved in and people are trying to stay alive in freezing conditions. 

During my time working with Elmbridge Can, local acquaintances have referred to my work with “illegal immigrants”. It saddens me that these people are not aware that refugees are not illegal immigrants. The people I help don’t want to enter our country illegally – the problem is that the situation in their home countries means they have to leave to protect themselves and their children. If you come from a country that is at war or you live under oppression it’s unlikely that country will issue you with a passport or visa, so there is no legal way for them to travel.

My granddaughter asked why our Syrian friends left their home. I explained that their home was bombed, the schools and the shops closed, their lives were at risk and life just couldn’t go on as normal. I said I hoped if that happened to us that someone would care enough to help. The refugee crisis is one of the greatest humanitarian issues of our generation and how we respond will define us for years to come. In Elmbridge, this month, we showed that we care enough to at least try and give what others so desperately need.

 

School Streets

Surrey County Council has decided to pilot “School Streets”.  A school street is where the road outside a school is closed to motor vehicles during school drop-off and pick-up times. 

In practice, this means the road is closed twice a day for 30 to 60 minutes. The restriction usually applies to both school traffic and through traffic. Exemptions are made for residents living in that street and for blue badge holders.  

Surrey hopes that the pilots will encourage active travel, improve air quality and promote road safety. School streets are also effective for enabling social distancing outside schools.  Surrey County Council has approved the principle of a school street pilot at Heath End School in Farnham and is inviting nominations for other school streets elsewhere in Surrey.

There are also plans to measure air quality around a sample of schools in all eleven Surrey districts and boroughs.  The measurement would be at child-head height to identify the level of air pollution children are being exposed to at school drop-off and pick-up.

School streets started in Italy in 1989 and were first introduced to the UK in 2015 when schemes began in Scotland.  Camden was the first site in London in 2017. Today there are over 130 school streets in Britain.  

Evaluations have shown that motorised traffic not only decreases on the school street where the scheme has been implemented, but also on surrounding streets. This suggests a change in behaviour with people swapping mode of transport to active travel.

It remains to be seen whether residents in Weybridge would welcome the introduction of school streets in our town.  Queuing traffic is a frequent feature of life in Weybridge and some may fear school streets would create more problems. It very much depends on the layout and context of each individual location. Please let us know what you think.

If you would like more information about School Streets it is available at  www.schoolstreets.org.uk   

 

Changes to Baker Street

The planned Active Travel Measures in Baker Street have now “gone live”.  You can read all about the background in the earlier article by Councillor Andrew Davis here.
Surrey County Council closed Baker Street to through traffic (except cycles) from 8am on Friday 16th October.  Don’t forget that Comments can be sent to Surrey County Council via email highways@surreycc.gov.uk or by phone on 0300 200 1003. And of course you are always welcome to comment on this website using the “Leave a Reply” section at the bottom of the page.

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.

 

Baker Street – Covid 19 Active Travel Measures

Finally Action is Taken
Following the British government’s recent announcements, Surrey has been working to identify potential active travel schemes across the county.  The government has given councils the authority to introduce emergency measures during the coronavirus pandemic to support social distancing within towns and to promote alternative ways to travel such as walking and cycling.

Surrey has been working with their partners to identify potential locations where improved spaces for walkers and cyclists would help residents to get out and about as lockdown is gradually lifted. One site that has been chosen to introduce these temporary measures is Baker Street.  This site has been chosen because of the shops and businesses but with the narrow footways there is not enough space for pedestrians to circulate and maintain social distancing.

Surrey will be introducing a tactical closure by means of three planters across the road – between Springfield Meadows and the Borough Council car park.  This will remove all through traffic from Baker Street. The road will be fully accessible for pedestrians and cyclists to return and support the shops and businesses like yourselves, with the removal of through traffic and resulting reduced overall traffic levels helping to provide space.

Only cyclists will be permitted to pass through the tactical closure on the road.  Access for pedestrians will not be affected.  All other vehicles will have to use alternate routes to access

Access for residents of Parkside and Springfield Meadows will be via the Hifgh Street and access for Hillcrest residents will be via Monument Hill. Road access to the off street car park will be via Monument Hill. The closure will be signed on the approaches to each end of Baker Street.

What is Surrey hoping to achieve?
It’s vital that people are able to stay safe when cycling and walking, and to have the space they need to pass each other safely. This is particularly necessary in response to the Government’s strategic objective:

“Local authorities in areas with high levels of public transport use should take measures to reallocate road space to people walking and cycling, both to encourage active travel and to enable social distancing during restart (social distancing in this context primarily refers to the need for people to stay two metres apart where possible when outdoors). Local authorities where public transport use is low should be considering all possible measures.  Measures should be taken as swiftly as possible, and in any event within weeks, given the urgent need to change travel habits before the restart takes full effect

Funding
Surrey was granted £848,000 by the government to support the roll out of active travel schemes across the county, but not the full £1.69 million grant which Surrey had bid for. Surrey is therefore matching the money received from the government, so the projects can still go ahead.

Is this temporary?
These are temporary emergency active travel schemes and are intended to be for approximately three months. It is anticipated there will be additional longer term strategic active travel measures that will be prioritised and developed.

Why has there been no consultation?
These are temporary emergency active travel measures to meet the challenge of being able to stay safe when cycling and walking, and to have the space needed to pass each other safely, as we recover from the COVID 19 restrictions. This is in response to the reduced capacity on public transport and to build on the changes in travel choices that have seen a marked increase in active travel.  Throughout the development of this scheme, consultation has taken place with the publicly elected members for both Surrey County Council and Elmbridge Borough Council.  Surrey Police have also been consulted.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to consult with all affected residents and business owners about these temporary emergency active travel schemes due to the tight timescales set by the Government. However, the views of residents and business representatives are welcome and will be noted and taken into consideration.  This may lead to tweaks to the current pilot schemes as conditions settle down or issues are identified. These will help inform any changes of approach for emergency active travel measures in other locations.

What if it is not successful, will the measures be kept in place for the entire trial?
The scheme has been subject to an independent Road Safety Audit during its development, however sometimes schemes operate in practice differently to how they were designed, and safety assessed, even after the initial change has had time to settle.  These temporary measures will be continuously monitored to assess both for ongoing road safety and effectiveness at supporting cycling and walking.

Feedback from residents and businesses is vital throughout the duration of the scheme to ensure a successful outcome for Baker Street, and the surrounding community.  Comments can be by sent to Surrey via email highways@surreycc.gov.uk or by phone on 0300 200 1003.

Further Information
The Point Closure is scheduled to installed within the next 4-5 weeks. Advanced Warning Signs detailing the start date of the restrictions will be placed around Baker Street and surrounding roads to give motorists, businesses and residents warning of when the changes will start.

Up to date information on details of any works in progress, or planned to take place can be found on the Surrey County Council website here;  https://www.surreycc.gov.uk/roads-and-transport/roadworks-and-maintenance/maintenance/roads/department-for-transport-capital-funding/roads-and-pavements

 

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?

Council now knows its Carbon Footprint

Elmbridge Borough Council (EBC) has completed an important step on the journey to becoming carbon neutral by 2030 – it now knows its “Carbon Footprint”. Following a comprehensive audit, EBC now has a baseline data on the location and volume of carbon emissions across the council’s operations. The learning gained from the audit will be used to produce a Carbon Reduction Action Plan. In its first stage, the plan will focus on the Council’s own operations and those it has direct control over. This is to ensure the targets are realistic and can be met as soon as possible.

The audit was carried out by the Carbon Trust who are an expert partner for organisations around the world – supporting them in realising plans for a sustainable, low carbon future.  Included in the initial suggestions from the Carbon Trust are that the council should “Go Electric” by replacing diesel road vehicles and gas heating sources.

In 2019 Elmbridge Borough Council (EBC) declared a Climate Emergency following a motion by the Liberal Democrat/Residents Association Coalition. More Information can be found on the EBC website:-