What can residents do to influence development of our part of Weybridge, in the face of pressure for much higher housing density? That was the primary focus of the Portmore Park & District community meeting on 26 June. Other topics included green spaces and paths, flooding, and the parking review. Wall displays covered overviews of local issues, topics and developments, to inform and stimulate thinking. Forty four local residents participated, including three Weybridge Riverside Elmbridge councillors. County cllr Tim Oliver was unable to attend but sent a written update. There was some lively, constructive and positive discussion throughout the event.
Elmbridge Local Plan, and where to put new homes
The meeting drew lessons from the high-density development proposals for Beales Lane (141 local objections, refused) and Bridge House in the High Street (19 objections, consent imminent). Residents at our meeting hope for a less massive, less dominant development in Beales Lane, preferably of houses, certainly something more in keeping with the surroundings.
Government demands mean the planning authority is under pressure to squeeze in higher density developments: the forthcoming Elmbridge Local Plan must find space for 9,480 new homes in the next fifteen years. There will be difficult choices: either much higher density in towns or allowing development on some Green Belt land, or both. The question is where non-damaging high density might be achieved, with adequate infrastructure.
This is already a live issue in other parts of Elmbridge, where residents have become highly mobilised following the 2017 Elmbridge Green Belt review consultations – they want increased density to be elsewhere, and their target towns seem to be Walton and Weybridge.
What can people do locally? Actions discussed were: Take part in the public consultation on Elmbridge Local Plan options, which will run for six weeks from August. Get involved, raise awareness. Work towards constructive answers. Form a neighbourhood forum. Consider a neighbourhood plan.
The importance of green spaces
Other topics at the PPDRA meeting included positive news on local green spaces and paths.
There was strong appreciation of Broadwater Path – used by most participants since being made an accessible public footpath with a two metre wide crushed stone surface – and its role in enabling an application (with Elmbridge support) for national funding to conserve Broadwater lake. Making Footpath 36 (Grenside Road to the Thames) more accessible would also be welcome.
The meeting welcomed the retention of the whole of Churchfields Allotments, and heard about community efforts to enhance the maintenance of the allotment site. There was no support for building a car park on the Churchfields Recreation Ground bowling green.
A resident raised the very poor state of the roundabout by Morrisons. Participants compared this with the excellent condition of some roundabouts in adjacent boroughs, where garden centres sponsor roundabout landscape maintenance in exchange for discreet advertising signs. There was strong support for Elmbridge to adopt this.
There has been little news on further progress with the £700,000,000 River Thames Scheme for flood diversion measures between Datchet and Teddington, which is still seeking to fill a £350,000,000 funding shortfall. But there has been a rehearsal of temporary flood barrier use to protect Walton Lane and Dorney Grove.
The meeting heard of years of active local resident liaison with the Environment Agency, over River Thames Scheme proposals — a major flood diversion channel would discharge opposite the canoe club — and flood modelling. This included PPDRA lobbying to reverse plans (happily subsequently changed) to cut into the south bank on the Desborough Channel, which would have meant relocating the Thames Path closer to the Walton Lane road. Work on the River Thames Scheme recently seems to have gone rather quiet, with some EA personnel moved to other work.
Walton Lane residents have been in continuing contact over local temporary flood response measures. In October 2018 there was a successful Environment Agency rehearsal of putting up a temporary flood barrier from Weybridge Point to the first Desborough Bridge.
The meeting included a discussion on parking, and contrasted the 2009 and 2019 Elmbridge Parking reviews.
A decade ago, in 2009, Surrey County Council proposed a large Controlled Parking Zone west of Thames Street, a north Weybridge CPZ. The proposals proved very unpopular. They were rejected by local residents for multiple reasons, including loss of capacity leaving some residents unable to park near their homes, a parking ban along Portmore Park Road opening the way to more and faster rat run traffic, and serious displacement issues along the CPZ’s eastern boundaries.
The 2019 review in contrast sets out more localised changes. The proposals aim to: increase safety; make it easier for residents to park close to their homes in Dorchester & Gascoigne Roads; maintain on-street parking capacity; avoid displacement; and create space for daytime two hour waiting by shoppers. These are all aims which are in line with principles long supported by PPDRA and by many residents.
Several participants felt more CPZ space should be allocated for joint use, to permit shopper/visitor two hour waiting as well as long stay residents’ parking.
Grenside Road & St George’s Junior School
Parking problems persist in Grenside Road, and there was disappointment that nothing has been done in the parking review to improve this, beyond the useful addition of double yellows lines on the Grenside Road junction with Grotto Road to help improve safety.
It was noted that St George’s Junior School on-site staff parking is limited, resulting in many staff vehicles having to park on-street. PPDRA understands that the school was advised by an Elmbridge planning officer that a potential application for car parking space on their newly acquired land at the end of Grenside Road would be unlikely to succeed. PPDRA has suggested that the school might consider seeking consent to put a staff car park on their new land immediately next to the Bannatyne Health Club car park, as the least damaging location.
Thames Street warehouse
A resident raised the continuing issue of concern around inadequate asbestos management on the Thames Street warehouse site. It was agreed that the issue might usefully be given additional publicity in the Weybridge Society newsletter, and PPDRA will follow that up.
Collaboration with the Weybridge Society
It was suggested that closer collaboration with the Weybridge Society would be sensible on major issues affecting our town. It was agreed that collaboration is a good thing, and the committee would again follow this up.
PPDRA Committee 2019-20
The meeting thanked members of the committee for their contribution over the past year, with particular thanks to two committee members who were standing down: Doug Myers of Walton Lane, and Ian Bonnett of The Willows, who has served as Treasurer for many years.
Members of the Association were delighted to welcome Michael Freeman back onto the committee (in the role of Treasurer), following his term as Elmbridge Borough Councillor, and to welcome onto the committee Lester Gange of Walton Lane. We are still seeking a new committee member from the Dorchester Road/Thames Street area.
The committee elected for 2019-20 comprises:
– Miles Macleod (Chair), Clinton Close
– Michael Freeman (Treasurer), The Swansway, PPR
– Jane Heard (Secretary), Portmore Park Road
– Eleanor Butler, Church Walk
– Lester Gange, Walton Lane
– Pippa Graeme, Elmgrove Road
– Sarah Jane Groves, Grenside Road
– Barbara Molony-Oates, Greenlands Road
– Pauline O’Sullivan, Wey Road
– Diane Phillips, Portmore Park Road
– William Rutherford, Mount Pleasant