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09/03/2022

A sustainable future for Elmbridge

Weybridge in Elmbridge / Malgosia Janicka, Shutterstock_1966195930

Elmbridge Borough Council in Surrey has just presented its draft local plan to its cabinet for consideration later this month*. Kim Tagliarini argues that it aims to shape a sustainable and thriving borough

After six years of drafting, redrafting, reviewing, discussing, engaging, consulting and so much more, it’s a milestone moment for the local authority.

When you live and breathe a project for so long, it’s an unsettling feeling to hand it over for ‘approval’. My team has been so immersed in the plan for many years, making sure we present the evidence and proposals in a compliant and engaging way, crafting our policy-based arguments and overall working through a plan that represents Elmbridge, its residents, businesses and councillors.

Throughout that time national policies have changed. Ministers have changed. The world has changed through the Covid-19 pandemic and all the while we have worked on the draft local plan for Elmbridge.

Here we are in March 2022 and I am proud of the plan we have presented to cabinet. It really does represent a sustainable and thriving future for Elmbridge.

Our residents are fiercely proud of the character of the borough; the 220 hectares of green space, the commons of special scientific interest, the parades of independent retailers, the high streets attracting national franchises, as well as passionate theatre and entertainment entrepreneurs. The draft local plan has to reflect that character but also has to present a plan for the future incorporating what is loved and needed, with the realities of future living. This is where placemaking comes in: the draft local plan doesn’t simply attribute housing targets, it works from the bottom up, focusing on places and people.

"The draft local plan has to reflect that character but also has to present a plan for the future incorporating what is loved and needed, with the realities of future living"

We know the pandemic has changed working patterns and instead of commuting to Canary Wharf, many of our residents are enjoying their local parades a few days a week – meeting colleagues for coffee, working in cafes and socialising more locally. The draft local plan needs to support this; encourage it and help it to thrive. We have a vision for our high streets, parades and employment areas - we want them to be experience-led, thriving centres buzzing with life all week long.

Good design is vital to the draft local plan. Well-designed places and buildings help to support mental health and wellbeing as much as walking on Esher Common. We want our residents and developers to embrace the benefits of excellent design, of - dare I say it - beauty, and we will be working with them on developing our design code later this year.

Speaking of walking, sustainable travel and connectivity is of course an important component of our plan. We know the future of sustainable travel will involve increased accessibility to walking and cycling paths and, the Elmbridge Draft Local Plan makes provision for that. We are fortunate that we have an existing cycling infrastructure in Elmbridge, but improvements in connectivity are needed to encourage our residents and visitors to abandon their car in favour of their bike.

Our commitment to sustainability is of course wider than sustainable travel; tackling climate change is at the heart of the draft local plan and our policies will mark a step change in the sustainability and environmental quality of new development across the borough.

We are presenting all of this to the Elmbridge cabinet without offering green belt for development. The draft local plan seeks to present a realistic and deliverable future for Elmbridge and presents a way forward that distributes sustainable, coordinated development around the borough, while presenting a vision for a thriving, sustainable Elmbridge community.

* The Elmbridge Draft Local Plan will be discussed at Elmbridge cabinet on 16 March 2022. More information on the plan can be found here.

Kim Tagliarini is head of planning and environmental health at Elmbridge Borough Council

Image credit | Malgosia Janicka, Shutterstock | Elmbridge Borough Council

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