Community Infrastructure Bids 2021

Community Infrastructure Project Bids

On Monday 14 June, the Elmbridge Borough councillors for Weybridge and Oatlands and Burwood Park sat down to try and distribute around £202,500 from the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) fund across 20 bids for funding received in 2020 and 2021.  The total value of the bids submitted was over £1,257,000.  This presented quite a challenge to your councillors at the Local Spending Board meeting.

What sort of projects?

The nature of projects requesting bids ranged from those submitted by Surrey County Council for local highway junction and cycleway improvements; those submitted by Elmbridge Borough Council for improvement of community assets and the majority, those from community organisations, charities and sports clubs, for improvements to their facilities and buildings.

For councillors this was a challenging task and one which we knew would result in disappointment for many of the organisations involved. Many very worthwhile projects were not granted any funding. See further below for details about the bid scrutiny process.

So which bids were actually granted funding?

In the event, nine bids were allocated funding as follows (see details of the bids below):

Application 1 – Seven Hills Road Footway/Cycleway (Surrey County Council) – Full grant of £50,000

Application 2 – Re-Surfacing of Car Park and Provision of Bike Rack (St Mary Oatlands Church) – Partial grant of £15,000 of the £30,000 sought

Application 3 – Baker Street Junction Improvements for Pedestrians (Surrey County Council) – Full grant of £25,000

Application 4 – Brooklands Community Park – Car Park Extension (Elmbridge Borough Council) – Full grant of £32,500

Application 6 – Scout HQ Repair & Camping Equipment Store (1st Weybridge (Brooklands Own) Scout Group) – Partial grant of £6,500 of the £22,500 sought

Application 8 – Cricket green improvement works (Weybridge Cricket Club) – Partial grant of £44,5000 against the £84,500 sought

Application 9 – Weybridge Men’s Shed (Weybridge Men’s Shed) – partial grant of £12,047 against the £34,803 sought

Application 10 – Walton & Hersham Arena Pitch Improvements: Floodlighting (Walton & Hersham Youth Football Club) – Full grant of £8,690.22

Application 13 – Hydrotherapy Pool Improvements (Walton Leigh School) – Partial grant of £8,341.85 against the £25,000 sought.

The bids in more detail

Seven Hills Road Footway/Cycleway (Surrey County Council)

The proposed project would replace the existing footpath with a larger multiuser path. It would enable increased safety and capacity for residents and formalise usage for both pedestrians and cyclists. It would also improve traffic flow as vehicles won’t have to overtake cyclists. The project will provide a key nonmotorised user (NMU) route in the area and promote active travel. The majority of the funding has been secured, and the CIL application is for the remaining £50,000 for the project.

Re-Surfacing of Car Park and Provision of Bike Rack (St Mary Oatlands Church)

The project proposes to resurface the existing car park using eco-friendly methods, improving the layout, and subsequent flow of traffic, and to install a bike rack to encourage more usage of sustainable travel to the facility. The facility and car park are used by a variety of users, including community groups and nearby schools, so the project will improve usage and safety. A portion of the funding has been secured, and the CIL application is for the remaining £30,000 for the project.

Baker Street Junction Improvements for Pedestrians (Surrey County Council)

The proposed scheme is to improve the crossing facilities for pedestrians at the two junctions of Baker Street with the A317 (eastern end – Monument Hill and western end – High Street). The improved alignment of the routes will improve safety and the ease of usage for pedestrians, which will encourage more residents in the area to choose active travel means. Over half of the funding has been secured and £25,000 in CIL funding is being requested for the project.

Brooklands Community Park – Car Park Extension (Elmbridge Borough Council)

The proposed project is to extend the car parking provision by 50 spaces, as well as improving the flow of the current car park to eliminate the current requirement for users to reverse out, which will improve the safety of all users of the park. £32,500 in CIL funding is being requested for the project.

Scout HQ Repair & Camping Equipment Store (1st Weybridge (Brooklands Own) Scout Group)

The project proposes to install a new externally accessed storage area and improve the drainage to reduce the flooding in the building’s hall facility. The new storage area would enable the outside space and the hall to be used separately by different groups at the same to increase the capacity for the community to use the space as well. A portion of the funding has been secured, and the CIL application is for the remaining £22,500 for the project.

Cricket green improvement works (Weybridge Cricket Club)

The proposed project seeks to upgrade the pitch and area surface through groundworks and the installation of an irrigation sprinkler system, which will reduce the flooding risk to parts of the site and enable more usage of the pitch and area through the year. A portion of the funding has been secured, and the CIL application is for the remaining £84,500 for the project.

Weybridge Men’s Shed (Weybridge Men’s Shed

The project is project is to fit out the newly built shed with resources and utility connections to provide a space for those dealing with social exclusion, loneliness or depression to come for wellbeing support and community inclusion in the area. £20,756 in CIL funding is being requested for the project.

Walton & Hersham Arena Pitch Improvements: Floodlighting (Walton & Hersham Youth Football Club)

The project is for portable floodlights and storage which will increase the time that users can play on the pitches throughout the year by the various teams and groups, providing an increase in the usage of the pitches and decreased pressure on other lit pitches in the surrounding area. £8,690.22 in CIL funding is being requested for the project.

Hydrotherapy Pool Improvements (Walton Leigh School

The project proposes to upgrade the changing and shower facilities for the pool to enable better wheelchair access and increased usage by the students and community members using the specialist facility. A portion of the funding has been secured, a funding application is awaiting confirmation, and the CIL application is for £25,000 for the project.

The CIL bidding and scrutiny process

All bids for funding need to meet criteria set by the council. These are designed to evaluate the suitability and value of the projects in the context of CIL funding. Bids are score against the criteria and ranked accordingly. The criteria used are:

  • The extent to which the project mitigates the impact of development within the Borough
  • The level of benefits to residents, including evidence of community support
  • The level of match funding attached to the project
  • Value for money of the scheme and added value that CIL could deliver, and
  • Deliverability

In a year when there was a significant gap between that amount of funding sought versus the amount available, the scoring system had a significant impact. This meant that the highest scoring bids were more likely to receive funding. Additionally, one of the allocation rules is that the CIL funds are available only for a year and that there should be a high probability that the total cost of the project will be raised by the bidder, so that the project is carried out within a year. (See above, deliverability within the year is one of the criteria for bids).

Funds are retrospectively paid to projects at project completion and project spending is scrutinised by council officers to check that the funds given were spent in accordance with the bid specifications.

Where do the funds come from?

Elmbridge charges developers a tax for new development known as the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL).

National government said this new tax was to be raised for the purposes of providing new or improved infrastructure in Elmbridge.  The new tax began in April 2013 and has raised a considerable amount in the eight years since its introduction.

The money raised is split so that Elmbridge retains 75% for strategic infrastructure projects and 25% is given to towns.  This is allocated to each town in proportion the the tax raised in each town, which reflects the amount of development there has been.

 

Warning on public health cuts in Surrey

healthcareFigures released by the national department of health show the Conservative national government is planning to cut £2.2m from the public health budget across Surrey.

This will have a direct impact on efforts to improve health at local level because the public health budget relieves pressure on English NHS hospitals and clinics by helping people to solve their own health problems before they become serious.

For example, the budget helps finance work to promote exercise, give up smoking and tackle drug addiction.

Cllr Hazel Watson, Surrey’s Leader of the Liberal Democrats opposition, said: “These planned cuts of £2.2m to Surrey’s public health budget are the wrong cuts, made in the wrong way.  The public health budget is an important support system for our NHS and these planned cuts represent a false economy which will only end up costing the government and the NHS more than is saved.

Are you registered to vote?

voteRegistering to vote is essential. It means you have the right to vote at elections and can even improve your credit rating.

In order to know who is eligible to register to vote, the borough of Elmbridge has delivered Household Enquiry Forms to every home.  Everyone in each household is required by law to provide the information, and one person from each household needs to reply to the form, confirming who lives in each property. Elmbridge uses the information to publish a revised Register of Electors on 1 December 2015.

Go on website

Everyone should ensure a form has been completed for their household. They come filled in with existing information and if no changes need to be made, this can be confirmed online by visiting the borough’s website. Security codes on the form make this a simple operation. The form also contains information about alternative ways of responding.

Those failing to respond to the form might not appear on the revised electoral register and could lose their right to vote. Registering for other council services or paying council tax does not register you to vote. Furthermore, some organisations use the electoral register to check identities, which could make it more difficult to obtain some services if you are not on the register.

Enquiry form not registration

The Household Enquiry Form is used to update information – it is not a registration form. The borough uses information provided on the enquiry form to send out registration forms to any new electors. If you are a new elector, you can avoid having an individual registration form sent to you by registering online.

With the introduction of Individual Electoral Registration, each person is required to register to vote individually. When you register to vote, you will be required to verify your identity by supplying your National Insurance number and date of birth.

For more information visit www.gov.uk/register-to-vote and www.aboutmyvote.co.uk/

National Government cuts public health budget in Surrey

budget cutsThe Department for Health has released figures showing the Conservative government is planning to cut the public health budget in Surrey buy over £2,000,000. The budget pays to help improve people’s health so there is less pressure on the English health service.

Work undertaken by public health budgets includes encouraging people to exercise more, give up smoking, drink less, come off drugs and drink and avoid sexually transmitted diseases.

This cut will mean that local residents are less likely to make good decisions on their health, and when they do need help it is less likely to be available to them. Cutting the budget in the middle of the financial year means it will be really difficult to make these cuts. Liberal Democrats believe these are the wrong cuts, made in the wrong way and they will end up costing the Government and the NHS more than is saved.

Centralisation rebuffed

Housing-AffordabilityLast year the Coalition national administration made changes to the planning process that adversely affected Elmbridge’s ability to support the provision of affordable housing.  It did this by introducing a vacant building credit and imposed threshold for affordable housing.  These measures reduced the powers of local government to determine its own policies on affordable housing.  Elmbridge is one of the most expensive places to live in the country and so the need for affordable housing is very great.

Holistically anyone born in Elmbridge should be able to afford to live here.  It is incumbent on the Elmbridge government to ensure that such housing is available, either as social or affordable housing.  Imagine if the English government said that if you cannot afford to live in England you must emigrate to Spain or Chad.

Recently the High Court effectively judged the planning policy changes made by the national administration through its Written Ministerial Statement to be unlawful.

Quite simply put, Elmbridge now needs to revert to using its previous policies but there are many planning applications passing through the system from pre application enquiries to decisions pending appeals to the national planning inspectorate.  The borough may not revisit decisions that have already been made under the recent regime changes.

There is a risk that the Conservative national administration will challenge the court’s decision, which would be expensive and time consuming, bearing in mind the robustness of that decision.  However, there is nothing stopping the national administration going through the process again taking care to take into account all of the court’s concerns, in which case we can expect to see version two of the changed policy in the near future.

Chancellor forces sell-offs

monopoly_housesNational governments often claim that they support local democracy.  However the evidence is otherwise.

The Conservative national administration is forcing boroughs to sell off their more expensive housing stock.  This will reduce the ability and thus rein wealthy areas to pay housing association to sell of their own social housing stock.

These measures will have little impact on providing more housing.  If we want more housing where it is needed than we need to look closely at:

  • Ensuring that all places have a duty to house their own in their area. A village would have to purchase or build houses to enable anyone born in the village to live there.
  • Replacing business rates and council tax with land tax. This would end the current tax on building improvements and focus the tax on the value of the land instead.  This would bring more brownfield sites on stream quickly.
  • Removing stamp duty on house purchases. Stamp duty is a significant factor in discouraging people to move.  Removing stamp duty would encourage people to move rather than extending and thus help those further down the housing ladder.  This move would reduce the national exchequer’s revenue but the loss of this source of income could easily be compensated by reducing the capital gains exemption for domestic properties.  This would have a double desired effect of damping down house prices and encouraging people to spread their investments more widely into industry, bonds and commerce.

If locals had to provide homes for their own, the number of houses on offer would begin to suit the local demographic without having to change the planning laws and/or the national administration poking its nose into areas where it is not wanted or needed.

Elmbridge Sport hub EIA

environmental impact assessmentAfter the decision by the full Planning Committee regarding the sports hub, we have now received the outcome from the Secretary Of State regarding the need for an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and he has decided that an EIA is required.  The essence of what the Secretary Of State said is:

“Whilst this is a finely balanced case, the proposal does raise concerns to suggest the potential for significant environmental impacts through surface disturbance of the former landfill site, uncertainty about the extent of the contamination of the site and the potential for gas migration to both the River Thames and nearby residential properties.”

Whilst the borough is disappointed by this decision, especially as the issues mentioned above have already been addressed in the planning report, Elmbridge has begun on the EIA exercise as promised at the Committee meeting.  The EIA will be the subject of public consultation and will be presented to the Planning Committee in due course.  I will let you know timescale as soon as I have it.

Osborne centralises England again

Increased rentWhilst setting the national budget Chancellor Osborne announced that boroughs will have to charge higher rents to people on higher incomes.  Why does he think that he has a remit to decide what the level of social rents should be in Elmbridge?  Surely it is up to us, the people of Elmbridge, what we charge. What do you think?

Worse still the national government has the arrogance to demand that the social housing providers in Elmbridge must hand over to Westminster any extra revenue gained from the increase in rents.  If we did want to increase the rents in Elmbridge then the extra revenue is ours to keep to invest in more social housing (or anything else that we fancy).

Just imagine how Chancellor Osborne would protest if Brussels made such a rule on housing and demanded money from him!

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

More housing control from Westminster

Housing benefitsNational governments often claim that they support local democracy; however, the evidence is often otherwise.

Take housing benefit – part of the £12bn in welfare savings is to be made by the national government instructing boroughs to reduce their rents.  This will save the national government £1.4bn in housing benefit by reducing rents paid to social landlords.  The Institute of Fiscal Studies estimates that this will mean a loss of £2.5bn to boroughs which could be made available for new housing.  Overall government loses out but the centre gains and localities lose.

This measure will have the net effect of reducing the provision of housing.  If we want more housing where it is needed than we need to look closely at:

  • Ensuring that all places have a duty to house their own in their area. A village would have to build houses to enable anyone born in the village to live there – a town likewise.
  • Replacing business rates and council tax with land tax. This would end the tax on improvements and focus the tax on the value of the land instead.
  • Removing stamp duty on house purchases and fund this change by reducing the capital gains exemption for domestic properties. This would allow people to move house more frequently and encourage people to spread their investments to the betterment of the economy.

If locals had to provide homes for their own the number of houses would increase without having to change the planning laws and/or the national government poking its nose into areas where it is not wanted or needed.

More planning control from Westminster

brownfieldNational governments often claim that they support local democracy.  However the evidence is otherwise.

The recent announcement that Westminster will change the law to allow developers to build on brownfield land without planning permission is a case in point.  Taken at face value it means that any new development on land that has or has had a building on it will be allowed regardless of any local planning law or guidelines.  Effectively this means that there will be little or no protection against poorly conceived or designed development.

This is another case of Westminster meddling in local affairs.  Just imagine what the Westminster politicians would say if Brussels said Britain must have the same planning law as Romania.