Statement to RBC Planning Committee on RU14/0099                  8/10/2014

When this planning application first surfaced early this year, the main specific concern of the Egham Residents’ Association came from the indignity that the Royal Holloway College ‘Masterplan’ proposed to inflict on the Nobles Field playing field.

The scheme then included the building on the playing field of three blocks of student accommodation; one of them was to be up to 5 storeys in height, another was to be of four storeys, and the third of three-four storeys.

As Nobles Field is open Green Belt land, forming a distinct border between urban Egham and the countryside, we were outraged. We denounced this part of the scheme as “Green Belt rape’, and we make no apology for those words.

We are therefore very pleased that that part of the scheme has been subjected to major revision, and that it is no longer proposed to put student accommodation units on Nobles Field.

We are very much aware, however, that to some considerable extent, Egham’s gain from the revision to the Masterplan has been Englefield Green’s loss. And we are also troubled by the description of the revised plan as a new “illustrative layout”. What is to stop the college from re-revising the scheme back to the original “illustrative layout”? We hope and trust that the committee will make it clear this evening that that must not happen.

Furthermore, notwithstanding the revision that has occurred, we still oppose the Masterplan. We do so because of wider concerns about it.

I have lived in Egham since 1980. And my recollection is that for the first 20 years or so in which I have resided there, it was extremely rare to hear any adverse criticism of the college.

There were occasional complaints about rowdiness in the streets in the early hours of the morning. But, in more general terms, there was a consensus that the college was a prize asset for the town, and that it was very good to have it. By and large, the college was regarded as a good neighbour. Town and gown lived in harmony.

In this century, however, that consensus has largely disappeared. Complaints about the college are now commonplace in Egham, and many of the non-student residents today regard the college as a bad neighbour.

Why has this change of attitude occurred? Simply because of the expansion in student numbers that has already taken place.

The college – which currently accommodates only about one-third of its students on campus – has effectively been marching down Egham Hill into the town, and some of the Streets in Egham are now very different from what they were 15 years ago. In that time many family homes in roads such as Mooregrove Crescent, Nobles Way and Lynwood Avenue – to give but three examples – have been turned into houses of multiple occupation.

This has not been good for the families that remain in such roads. Their streets have come more and more to resemble unofficial extensions of the college campus. And this has not been good for their environment. The houses under student occupancy are often very easy to spot; they tend to be the ones with scruffy gardens, over-spilling bins and a generally unloved look.

If approved and implemented, this planning application would continue and reinforce that process. There is a proposed increase in student numbers of about 3500 – taking the total to 12,000 – and a proposed increase in on-campus student bedrooms of about 2600. So, close to another 1000 students would need to live off campus. That means yet more family homes in Egham being turned into houses of multiple occupancy.

The extra students would, moreover, impose further strain on a sometimes creaking transport infrastructure. It would become more common, for example, to arrive at Egham station and find one’s way to the ticket kiosk or machines barred by a long queue of students. Tesco – assuming it can stand up to the impending competition from Waitrose – would presumably be inclined still more to cater mainly for students.

A further, specific, transport point: The revised proposals for pedestrian crossings and traffic lights on the A30 also give us concern. Egham Hill is already often a scene of road traffic congestion, and the implementation of the college’s planning application could only make matters worse in this respect. By far the safest method of crossing the A30 for pedestrians is by footbridge, and we oppose the loss of the existing footbridges in the revised application. I was at a meeting, at the college, in April when Chertsey’s county councilor, Chris Norman, said that this planning application was bound to fail on highways grounds.

The ERA does not wish to be misunderstood, It is neither anti-Royal Holloway nor anti-student. Many of us were students, or have offspring who went to university. Many of us enjoy the cosmopolitan feel that the Holloway students bring to Egham.

But you really can have too much of a good thing. I was thinking of asking the committee to tell Holloway that it isn’t bigger than the community in which it is based. But, in term time, it is already well on the way to becoming so; there are about 8,500 Holloway students, and the population of the Egham ward is roughly 6500. Even if one adds the Englefield Green wards, the proportion of the student population is about double that found in Oxford.

The ERA urges the committee to block this application and to ask the college to think again. Why does it want further expansion? This question has not yet been satisfactorily answered. Is it seeking greater academic quality? Or is it committed to a business model that puts quantity first? Why cannot the college remain at its current size and thrive? The comments on this made in paragraph 3.12 of your agenda this evening are remarkably thin and vague. Is the college’s advice on this to be subjected to no detailed questioning or analysis?

We have yet to hear an academic speak in favour of the expansion. And if the college is becoming primarily a business, it should be subjected to the same planning constraints as other businesses.

If, moreover, there is a sound case for expansion, the scheme should include accommodating on campus a good number of the students who are now living in the community, thereby allowing some of Egham’s streets to recover their former character. It should not exacerbate a phenomenon by which Egham’s nature has already changed considerably for the worse.

Egham does not want to be College Town or Hollowayville. Your committee has an opportunity this evening, Mr Chairman, to reflect that feeling. We appeal to it to turn this application down.

Chris Fisher

On behalf of the Egham Residents’ Association

October 1, 2014

Re planning application RU14/1291 (Katherine House, 85 High Street, Egham  –  prior approval of proposed change of use to registered children’s nursery)

The Egham Residents’ Association wishes to object strongly to this application.

The proposed nursery would accommodate up to 120 children. Yet the application also envisages the provision of a mere 15 car parking spaces, some of which would no doubt be reserved for staff.

It is a well-known fact of life in today’s Britain that many parents are unwilling to take their children to and from school and nursery by any means other than car, even if their home is only half-a-mile away.

The planning application suggests that the proposed nursery would have a wide catchment area. Paragraph 9.1 of the design and access statement refers to Ashford. Similarly, paragraph 4.1 of the transport statement refers to Slough, Windsor, Ascot and Weybridge (and even Reading and London Waterloo). These references are made in connection with public transport. However, experience and common sense both strongly indicate that a high proportion of the children at the nursery would be taken to it or picked up from it in the cars of parents.

“Parents will pick up and drop off children from within the car park”, the design and access statement glibly declares. Plainly, many of the vehicles would arrive and then depart at about the same time in morning and afternoon peaks or rushes. So, it is only to easy to picture a scene in which the drivers of 50 or more cars are competing for about a dozen parking spaces. The scheme would involve attempting to pour more than a quart into a pint pot – with inevitably messy spillage resulting.

What would happen when parent drivers found that they couldn’t get into the car park at the rear of the nursery? Many of them would surely park by the High Street frontage or in Hummer Road, causing congestion and blockages. Hummer Road is one of the main access routes to the Tesco supermarket, and turning right from the High St into Hummer Road can already be very difficult, particularly in ‘rush hour’ conditions.

We fear that approval of this scheme would result in daily vehicular pandemonium at the High St end of Hummer Road. Indeed, this danger is so obvious – and the lack of car parking provision so manifest – that we struggle to take this application seriously. We trust that Runnymede Council’s planning committee will give it a very clear red light.

Chris Fisher

On behalf of the Egham Residents’ Association

To :      Lee Richards,

Planning Inspectorate,

Rooms 3/23 Wing,

Temple Key House,

2 The Square,

BRISTOL

BS1 6PN

 

By E-mail                                                        Appeal Ref : APP/Q3630/F/14/2214809

Date : 1st April, 2014

Dear Inspector

72 High Street, Egham TW20 9EY – Listed Buildings Enforcement Notice Appeal

We have recently been made aware that the owner of Hugo’s Restaurant at 72 High Street, Egham has lodged an appeal against Runnymede Borough Council’s enforcement notice seeking restoration of all damage, internal & external, done to the above property which has Listed Building status.

We fully support the local authority’s notice in this regard & as an Association we have worked hard over the years to maintain any special features of our Town & preserve any such Listed Buildings for the future. The current owners operated without building consent & have made several detrimental changes to this Victorian building, not least the covering of the old shop front with a laminated faux tile design which is unsightly.

In addition, it is over 2 years since the issue was brought to the owner’s attention & thus his argument in his appeal that he has not had enough time to repair the damage seems specious?

We strongly urge you therefore to reject the appeal when it is formally heard on 21st April & support Runnymede Borough Council’s enforcement notice.

Yours sincerely,

Adrian SKELT

Secretary,

Egham Residents Association