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Delivering a thriving and sustainable future for Elmbridge

Delivering a thriving and sustainable future for Elmbridge

The Elmbridge Draft Local Plan: next steps

Delivering a thriving and sustainable future for Elmbridge will take time and planning. The Draft Local Plan is the first step on that journey. The Plan not only supports a development future for the borough free from green belt release, but it also sets out a vision for a digital Elmbridge; one where we become a hub for an agile workforce, offering flexible workspace, fast connections, accessible transport options and welcoming hospitality.

Elmbridge has that potential through the Draft Local Plan.

Within the Plan you will read about the opportunities we have to support the evolution of our high streets and parades; to enable them to become spaces for shopping, entertainment, activities and socialising.  You will also see the Plan protects our employment sites to allow for the increasing demand for smaller, start-up workspace offering flexible, multi-let work areas for smaller businesses. Elmbridge can be a hub for such enterprise, potentially creating employment for our communities.

Elmbridge is a great place to live and work – the green spaces and woodlands, the rail network, the national and international companies based here, the independent businesses helping our high streets and parades to thrive, the people, the community spirit – it is all here and we want to ensure it continues to thrive and become one of the best places to live and work in the country.

A robust Draft Local Plan

Considering all of this and its importance to Elmbridge, in the last few weeks we have further strengthened the policies and evidence bases for the Draft Local Plan to ensure we have the most robust Plan for the borough; a Plan that has our residents and businesses at its heart.

This was always to be a Draft Local Plan for the whole borough, supported by all and with that spirit in mind, we will bring the Draft Local Plan back to Elmbridge Cabinet and Council on the following dates:

  • Cabinet meeting on 8 June and Council meeting on 13 June.

This additional strengthening of the Plan does not change the timetable we have previously set out; the Regulation 19 representation will start on 17 June as scheduled.

Regulation 19

The next step is the Regulation 19 representation. Starting on 17 June and running for 6 weeks until 29 July 2022. This is your chance to let the National Planning Inspectorate know your views on whether the Elmbridge Draft Local Plan is legally compliant and sound.

A full questions and answers set on the Regulation 19 representation is available on our website.

We have had numerous consultations through the last six years, asking about specific sites, specific development, green belt use etc etc, Regulation 19 is different:

  • This is the last stage of public engagement before submitting the Draft Plan to the Planning Inspectorate for examination.
  • This is a consultation on the finalised proposed Local Plan policies; earlier consultations sought views on different options and issues which had to be considered before the council finalised this draft Local Plan.
  • All responses will be sent to the Planning Inspectorate
  • Only comments on the soundness and legal compliance of the Plan can be made and it must be targeted to a specific policy or paragraph in the Draft Plan.
  • An online form will be made available when the Regulation 19 representation goes live.

The online form will be available via our website from 17 June and widely promoted via social media and our Elmbridge News newsletter – please feel free to share. We have also created a short video animation explaining the process which will also go live on 17 June.

Protecting the green belt

The Plan lists all the potential sites in Elmbridge which could support development in the next 5-15years. Some of these are council owned sites such as Torrington Lodge car park Claygate and Ashley Road car park Thames Ditton and others have been offered by the landowner. This has been done to protect green belt in Elmbridge. While they have been available to view for quite some time via our website, we appreciate that the full listing came as a surprise and even shock to some of our residents.

We would like to reassure that inclusion in the Draft Local Plan does not give planning permission for the development to go ahead and any future applications will go through the same process as any other application in Elmbridge. Additionally, in many cases, the existing use could be retained as part of the redevelopment through optimising and increasing the density on site, which would allow any community facilities to continue operating.

It is also worth noting that we are required to review the Plan against housing delivery every 5 years to test whether the sites are coming forward as we anticipated. Some may remain and some may not.

We would also like to be up front now and let you know the key changes to these listings as outlined below:

  • Walton Audi and Claygate Lawn Tennis Club, have been removed
  • Weybridge Hospital site has been changed from 60 to 30 net units
  • The Civic Centre in Esher and Hersham Shopping Centre have been added

The same thinking applies to the new listing, inclusion in the Draft Local Plan does not mean permission has been granted for development and any future applications will go through the same process as any other application in Elmbridge.

The Elmbridge Civic Centre

The Civic Centre has been included in this Draft Local Plan listing, with potential development in 11-15 years’ time.

As Elmbridge moves towards a thriving and sustainable future, the Plan sets out a vision for a digital Elmbridge; one where we become a hub for an agile workforce, offering flexible workspace, fast connections, accessible transport options and welcoming hospitality. Elmbridge Borough Council as an employer will be part of this future. A future with energy efficient buildings dramatically reducing our carbon emissions and demonstrating that our thriving and sustainable journey starts with us.

If hybrid working is the new norm, we have to consider, sooner rather than later, the workspace we currently have and the workspace we need. We have already started to look to rent out more space. We already co-locate with other public services - should we do more of that? Should we dramatically reduce our carbon emissions and close the building and relocate to a more efficient workspace? Should we rebuild a smaller greener building on site? All of these options are being discussed and we don’t have to wait 11-15 years to start on this journey.

By including the Civic Centre in the Draft Local Plan as a possible option we are not only showing the Planning Inspectorate how we can meet our development target in Elmbridge, but we are also keeping our options open as to the future of the Civic Centre as a working building over the next 5-10 years.

Hersham shopping centre

We have been asked by the owners to include Hersham Shopping Centre as a site listing in the Draft Local Plan. There are no specific plans in place at this time and no planning permission has been granted. We have advised the developer that community engagement will be essential. We believe the developer will propose a mixed used development, which will include residential and commercial units to meet the needs of the local community, but no specific plans are in place at the moment. The developer, will also consult with the current tenants we understand. 

Cherished local green spaces

We cherish our local green spaces in Elmbridge; these are part of what makes Elmbridge a good place to live and work. They offer the physical and mental health support we all need. They allow you a space to teach your child to ride a bike. They allow you to come together with friends. They allow you space to be on your own.

The Draft Local Plan continues to protect these cherished local green spaces. They are not under threat through the Draft Local Plan. Our commitment to our local green spaces is affirmed within the Draft Plan, indeed one of the guiding principles of the Plan is ‘protecting and enhancing the quality of the environment’. Green spaces across the borough will be protected.

In addition, national policy recognises the importance of particular green areas to local communities and allows for their designation as ‘Local Green Spaces’. The Draft Local Plan designates 43 local green spaces as being special to local communities based on the wildlife they are home to, their beauty, their cultural or heritage significance, the tranquillity they provide or their public recreational value.  These are in addition to our 32 other protected open spaces such as Village Greens, our Commons and our Sites of Special Scientific Interest.

All our open green spaces are afforded a great deal of protection in the Draft Plan.

However, following feedback from residents, a review of the sites was undertaken, and we can confirm that we now have 51 sites designated as being special to local communities, including Cobham Rugby Club and The Dell, Weston Green Road.

Sustainable Elmbridge

Becoming a carbon neutral organisation by 2030 continues to be very much our plan for Elmbridge Borough Council. Sitting alongside that is our responsibility to our residents to do all we can to ensure a sustainable future for the borough. The Draft Local Plan enables better connectivity through walking and cycling infrastructure (working with our partners at Surrey Highways and Surrey County Council), it will increase the number of electric vehicle chargers in the borough and through the developing Design Code, it will support home building which prioritises energy efficiency, recycling, all with a net zero aim in mind.

An exemplar Plan for Elmbridge

Councils around the country are submitting their Draft Local Plans to the Planning Inspectorate; some are withdrawing their plans, and some are rethinking. The Elmbridge Draft Local Plan has been developed with the needs of residents and businesses at its heart. It is a Plan that will help secure a thriving and sustainable future for Elmbridge. It will allow us to be at the centre of a digital, agile future. We believe this Plan will support our residents as their lives continue to evolve post the COVID pandemic, it will support our businesses as they strive for success and it will support an agile workforce seeking more and more to balance work and play.

We are proud to bring this Plan forward for Regulation 19 and we look forward to continuing to discuss its merits with our residents and business.

Cllr Chris Sadler            Leader of Elmbridge Borough Council

Cllr Karen Randolph      Portfolio Holder for Planning

Cllr Bruce McDonald     Deputy Leader Elmbridge Borough Council


You may be interested in other Draft Local Plan articles




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