Heathside School

Heathside

Surrey is seeking planning permission to raise Heathside’s school numbers. Originally Heathside School was given permission for 920 pupils but by 1996 it had increased its number, without planning permission, to 1352. On being challenged for this discrepancy it sought retrospective planning permission from the borough to increase its number in 2005. This was refused, again on transport grounds. Surrey appealed to the national government and the government planning inspector agreed to a new maximum number of pupils (the actual number attending the school at that time) on condition that the travel plan be reviewed every six months. This is a very weak condition as most travel plans are often lax in the beginning and are often unenforceable in any case.

This new planning application is caused by the need for more school places in the borough. Elmbridge has a secondary school age population of 12,000 pupils and that number is growing. Births in Elmbridge increased by 30% between 2002 and 2010 and the
borough plan indicates that up to 3,375 new homes are to be built between 2011
and 2026.  Yet Elmbridge has only four secondary schools – in Ditton (Hinchley Wood), Esher, Hersham (Rydens) and Weybridge (Heathside). It needs ten more schools of 840 pupils each (four classes in each year from years seven to thirteen).

Because of the taxation arrangements in Britain – unique in the developed world – Surrey relies on the national government for revenues to fund new schools. Unfortunately, this revenue has been reduced significantly in recent times and Surrey simply does not significant revenues of its own to build the schools it needs. So Cobham, Molesey and Walton do not have their own schools – putting pressure on those towns like Weybridge that do.

The cheap option is to increase the size of the present schools.  Heathside, originally a large 940 pupil school that has grown to 1,352 is set, should the application be successful, to increase to 1,475 pupils.

Elmbridge’s remit is purely related to the planning aspects of the project not the merits or otherwise of increasing the size of a school that has already outgrown its buildings.  This particular application will be decided on highway matters alone.

Interestingly, Elmbridge is not the competent authority when it comes to highway planning matters.  Surrey is the highway authority as well as the education authority.

The planning application is originated from Surrey which has a duty to school all of the children of the county.  The application arrives at Elmbridge which in turn asks Surrey, as highway authority, what it thinks of the application.

This puts Surrey in a difficult position – it is both poacher and gamekeeper.  Its decision must not just be one based on integrity but must be seen to be so by those most affected by the increase in numbers.

Any parent who has been anxious about their child’s school place will understand the massive pressure that Surrey is under to deliver those classroom places.

The Elmbridge planning application number is 2014/3765 and details can be found here.

Churchfields Play Area

Churchfields Park Playground-wey-soc333Thank you for all your comments, emails, pictures and for completing the questionnaire.  Your message got through to Elmbridge and the portfolio holder, Mary Sheldon, came to visit the park to see for herself.  Now is the time to email directly to her (msheldon@elmbridge.gov.uk) and copy to the officers concerned (leisure@elmbridge.gov.uk) as to why Weybridge having a totally refurbished play area is so important to you and your children.

It is always better if such emails are written in your own words and are short and to the point.  At this stage it is a matter of getting the play area into the budget for next year, for about £150,000.  If the play area gets earmarked for next year’s budget then in the spring we can look more closely as to what equipment needs to be be there.  We do not need the details now.

I want to know if you have any particular rides in mind.  Please complete this questionnaire.

Please email me if you want to support the campaign to have Churchfields play area upgraded.

It would be great if you could forward this email to your friends and anyone you know who has children or grandchildren who play in the park.

Borough elections – big changes ahead

ballot-boxThe borough wants to know what you think.  There is a consultation that will last until Sunday, 2 November 2014.  Your comments are welcome  – give your views here.

History
Here is a little background.  Local government elections have been held for centuries – even before there was a parliament in Westminster. In the beginning only men with property could vote but even then there was a debate between those who wanted frequent elections – to keep those elected on their toes – and those who thought that the councillors should be elected for longer than a year in order that they could gain experience in the role.  Eventually a compromise was reached – have elections every year but elect councillors for four years.  This is known as election by thirds.

Recently
There has been a big debate in the borough’s council – how many councillors should there be.  Currently, there are sixty councillors who are intended to represent the approximately 100,000 electors in the borough (there are 132,000 residents).  This means that, on average, there are 1,666 electors for each councillor.

Originally, it had been agreed that although the number of councillors may change the frequency of elections should remain as they are now – by thirds.  In the old days the borough could have changed its representational arrangements and that would have been the end of it.  However, the borough may no longer determine the number of its own councillors – it has to ask the national government to make any changes (more’s the pity).  Therefore the borough sought the intervention of the Boundary Commission to change the number of our councillors – if necessary.

Be careful what you wish for
For the record I voted against asking the Boundary Commission for a review.  In my opinion the main change that is needed is to move from the current “winner takes all” (FPTP) to the “preference voting” (STV) method of elections.  Scotland has STV for local government elections already – hence their higher turnout at election times.  STV gives the electors far more power than FPTP.  So instead of a meaningful change we are getting a great upheaval for very little benefit.

Today
Unfortunately, once we are in the hands of the Boundary Commission we have to play by their rules.  The Boundary Commission has decided – because of its interpretation of the law –   that in boroughs that have elections by thirds, it will begin reviews with a presumption of delivering a uniform pattern of three councillor wards.  It has made this decision because it believes that people do not have the wit to understand how elections work and would be confused if there were elections across the country but none in their locality – another case of dumbing down.

Weybridge
For Weybridge to be fairly represented in Elmbridge borough’s council it requires ten councillors. The town has four wards: two are two member wards and two are three member wards. So if we want elections by thirds we would have to get rid of our two member wards and share wards with Walton and Hersham.  To avoid this we would have to have elections every four years.  A regrettable step in my view.

Regardless of what you want, or the councillors want (of any party) the Boundary Commission will make its recommendation to the national parliament and that parliament will decide.

Regardless of the commission’s proposals, some, if not all, ward boundaries will change because that it what the commission does.  Then there will have to be an extra whole council election.  The earliest date for this election would be May 2016.

Below I have produced a table that should highlight the merits of each types of election.  please tell me if you have any questions or thoughts.  I’ll do my best to answer them.

Options Election by thirds All-up elections
Benefits Greater accountability as councillors are required to engage and defend decisions on a more frequent basis.A potentially greater mix of new and experienced councillors because just after each election there will be new councillors and third year councillors.Voters have a more frequent opportunity of changing the administration.The national political cycle has less effect on the local election results

Greater consistency of councillors by reducing the potential for large scale change at the same time.

Fewer candidates required each year for nominations, thereby reducing the chance of non-contested seats.

Political make-up of the council is potentially more reflective of the changing views of the electorate.

First-time voters and recent incomers may vote within the year.

Wards of different sizes namely three, two [or even single member wards] could be maintained, which might better reflect the diversity of communities that make up the borough.Modest financial savings in the cost of administering elections depending on whether there are other elections (such as Surrey County Council, National or European elections) in that year.The ability for the administration to take a four year view without worrying about an election within a year.All political parties find it difficult to mount elections every year.
Disadvantages As all wards must have three councillors (exceptions may be made in some very special circumstances) the link between wards and village identities could be lost.There is a modest extra cost for administering elections in three years out of four.The administration is always conscious of an election within a year.All political parties struggle to mount campaigns each year. Less accountability as councillors are only required to engage and defend decisions only every four years with the possibility that the most unpopular decisions would be taken at the beginning of the four year term and more popular decisions towards the end of the four year term regardless of what is right for the Borough.It is possible to have a council entirely consisting of new councillors – with no experience.Voters have to wait four years to remove the administration.A full set of councillors required in one year thereby increasing the chance of non-contested seats – especially single member wards.

It is possible for the council to swing dramatically from one political party to another

First-time voters and recent incomers may have to wait up to four years to vote.

 

 

Elmbridge Cycling Strategy

CyclingEvery time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.  H G. Wells

Cllr Margaret Hicks, who represents Hersham at Surrey and is also the chair of Surrey Elmbridge Local Committee, has been keen to develop strategies in a number of areas under her purview.  This is all to the good in my opinion – it aids joined up thinking for one.

Margaret has already begun on a parking strategy and now it is the turn for the committee to develop a joint Surrey/Elmbridge strategy for cycling in the borough.

Vision  An Elmbridge of physically, mentally and spiritually healthy people of all ages enjoying fresh air and a high quality of life.

Mission To enable all the people of Elmbridge – who wish to do so – to cycle safely.

Strategy
To achieve our mission our strategy is based on our being:

  • Utilitarian. We focus on a person’s ability to cycle from home to the key places that make their life work: their school or workplace, their station, their town centre. Therefore routes to these places are dealt with first.
  • Network based. We understand that the benefits are far greater if networks are created
  • Inclusive.  We bring as many agencies, organisations and groups and people together to compound the benefits and spread the message.
  • Incremental. Although we have a clear and ambitious vision we know that many small steps made by many people eases the journey
  • Anticipatory. We take advantage of possible opportunities that might arise by anticipating requirements before they occur
  • Communicative. We engage with everyone and keep them informed
  • Sustainable. We strive to be socially and environmentally sustainable in everything that we do.

What would you like to see in a cycling strategy?

When I see most parents cycling with their children to primary school then I know we’d have cracked it.  It is much quicker to cycle than walk – although walking can be fun too.

All my family are fortunate enough to walk to school/work as they are so close.

Dream a little Midsummer Night’s Dream with ‘Shakespeare in The Park’

As part of national 450th anniversary events celebrating the birth of William Shakespeare, Shout! is looking for young Elmbridge actors to take part in ‘Shakespeare in the Park’.  The week-long theatre workshop is open for 10-16 year olds and culminates with three performances on the final day in parks across Elmbridge.

Taking inspiration from ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, one of Shakespeare’s most loved plays, young people will be encouraged to release their energy, free their voices, to listen, to think and to be creative. The travelling players will present a performance on the final day exploring the connections between Shakespeare’s theatre and storytelling.

The workshop and rehearsals will take place at the Riverhouse Barn Arts Centre, Manor Road, Walton KT12 2PF,  10:00 to 16:00 every day, from Monday, 11 to Friday, 15 August.

Live performances will take place on Friday, 15 August at the following venues:

  • 11:00 at Churchfields Recreation Ground, Weybridge
  • 13:00 at The Cobham Medicine Gardens, Cobham
  • 15:00 at Riverside Gardens, Walton

The cost for the workshop is £75 for the week with a More Card and £90 without.

For further details and bookings please call Leisure and Cultural Services on 01372 474634 or email leisure@elmbridge.gov.uk

Let’s Talk Elmbridge

Let's tallk Elmbridge June 2014Let’s talk Elmbridge is the borough’s programme of events to consult, engage and inform burghers about Elmbridge issues and how the administration plans to deal with them.

The next Let’s talk Elmbridge event will be on at 11:00 till 13:00 on Wednesday, 13 August at Excel.  This event will be a marketplace with stall focusing on different aspects of borough work and policy.  There will be activities for children too.

Surrey’s 2014 Parking Proposals

Double-yellow-lines-on-a-road-and-pavement-curb-2101582

Many of you will remember that I reported last February about Surrey’s progress on parking proposals in Weybridge.  At that time I was told that Surrey was considering parking changes in the following streets: Beales LaneChurch StreetElmgrove RoadGascoigne RoadOakdale RoadPortmore Park Road and Thames Street.  

I invited people to add their street if parking was of concern to them.  In April I reported that Surrey staff would be ready to recommend changes to the Surrey Local Committee in late May.  Three proposals have made it through:

Elmgrove Road – to extend the hours of operation of parking bays to 9:00 to 18:00 to improve parking amenity for residents (in Elmgrove Road).

Portmore-Thames

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Portmore Park Road junction with Thames Street.  The introduction of at any time restrictions on both corners of the junction.

68 Portmore Park-01

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Portmore Park Road around the traffic island near number 68.  The introduction of at any time restrictions on both sides of the street.

Other proposals in the town are: in Brooklands Road, Daneswood Close, Grove Place, Hanger Hill, High Street, Julian Hill, Locke King Road, Pine Grove, Queens Road, Rosslyn Park.

The report going to the Surrey Local committee can be found here.  Detailed map can be found here.

I have just been appointed to this committee so I would welcome any comments that you have – the first meeting is on Monday, 16 June 2014.  It will not be too late afterwards.

Morrisons back again

Morrisons Lorry-02Morrisons withdrew their previous application to relax the planning restrictions on their site (the reference number for the previous application is 2014/0484).

Now Morrisons has applied again to reduce the conditions imposed at the time of the original planning permission.  Their proposal last time is contained in this letter.

Morrisons’ current application is 2014/1892 and their letter explains their new proposal. The differences, as far I can see, is as follows:

Night time delivery
The first application requested that deliveries be allowed all night as long as they were governed by the quiet delivery system.  This time they are not extending the deliveries overnight but they want to abolish the quiet delivery system in the evening.

Sunday, public and bank holiday deliveries
The first application requested deliveries at all times.  This time Morrisons is requesting deliveries from 9:00 to 16:00 without operating the quiet delivery system.

Plant Noise
I can see no difference between their two requests to the loosening of the noise restrictions.

It is interesting to note that Morrisons initial planning application for a store was refused and then they applied again with a modified proposal which was permitted.  This time their initial request for the removal of conditions was withdrawn and the new application is reduced in scale.

Many local people objected to such a large supermarket in the town centre.  Others, who supported the development, did so with the proviso that a number of concerns were met with the appropriate conditions. One of those concerns was the increase in noise and the other the possible increase in movement of lorries during the night.

Morrison wants to remove these conditions because it feels that they are unnecessary and unduly onerous.  Many people have told me that Morrisons should have raised this matter during its original application – it accepted it then and should do so now.

Make sure your views are known by emailing tplan@elmbridge.gov.uk, quoting reference 2014/1892, before 20 June 2014.

Please remember that I am a member of the West Area Planning Sub-committee and the Planning Committee (the committees to which these types of applications are sent) and it is my duty to examine all planning applications on their merits. Elmbridge’s staff will have already examined the application and I, like them, must only apply planning law.

In a similar fashion, any comments you make will only be considered valid if they are based on planning law.  I can point you to the relevant parts of the law or you can seek help from the Weybridge Society which is very knowledgeable on planning law.