Borough of Elmbridge
Dum Defluant Amnes
(Latin: Until the rivers cease to flow)
Elmbridge shown within Surrey
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Region||South East England|
|Incorporated||1 April 1974|
|• Type||Non-metropolitan district council|
|• Body||Elmbridge Borough Council|
|• Leadership||Leader & Cabinet (Conservative (council NOC))|
|• MPs||Philip Hammond|
|• Total||37.2 sq mi (96.3 km2)|
|Area rank||221st (of 317)|
|• Rank||163rd (of 317)|
|• Density||3,700/sq mi (1,400/km2)|
|• Ethnicity||94.0% White|
|Time zone||UTC0 (GMT)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC+1 (BST)|
|ONS code||43UB (ONS)|
|OS grid reference|
History of Local Authority and politics
The borough shares a long boundary with Greater London—the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames to the north, with which the border is formed by the Thames itself, and the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames to the east. Running anticlockwise from the northwest, Elmbridge borders the Surrey boroughs of Spelthorne, Runnymede, Woking, Guildford and Mole Valley. Elmbridge is almost entirely within the bounds of the M25 motorway. There is only one civil parish, Claygate, while the remainder of the area has two rather than three tiers of local government. Responsibility for some designated services is with Surrey County Council, such as social services and transport.
In common with the nearby Surrey boroughs of Spelthorne and Epsom and Ewell, much of Elmbridge is a continuation of the built-up area of suburban London, and the areas of Molesey, Long Ditton, Thames Ditton, Hinchley Wood, Esher and Claygate lie within the social and commercial orbit of neighbouring Kingston upon Thames (East Elmbridge, for example, is served by Kingston Hospital, while Molesey, the Dittons and Claygate fell under the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Police for more than one-hundred and sixty years). During the period of review towards a 1992 report by the Local Government Boundary Commission for England (Report No 627, 'The Boundaries of Greater London and the London Boroughs'), the Commission received a submission 'from a small London borough (Kingston upon Thames), making a case for increased size'. The final report noted Kingston's claim 'that it could define its "objective community"', while a further report of the same year (Report No 666, 'Review of Greater London, the London Boroughs and the City of London') noted Kingston's recommendation to encompass 'within its authority a wider area of Elmbridge, including Long and Thames Ditton, Hinchley Wood, Weston Green and the Moleseys'. In the light of this, and in the light of Report 627's conclusion that 'there were considerable anomalies in the boundaries, especially the outer London boundary in South West London around Kingston', the report considered 'that there was a strong case to align the boundary [of Greater London] with the edge of the built-up area, thus bringing into London boroughs parts of Surrey'. The report thus recommended 'a wider review of these boundaries in the future'.
Elmbridge is named after the Elmbridge hundred, which appears in Domesday Book of 1086 as Amelebrige. The district was formed on 1 April 1974 following the Local Government Act 1972. The name thus derives from the river Amele or Emley (now known as the River Mole) rather than Elm trees.
Prior to 1974, the borough was split between the Esher Urban District, whose council had existed since 1933, and the Walton and Weybridge Urban District. The council's arms were created upon the formation of the present day district, being formed out of symbols taken from the local towns and villages with the Latin motto meaning until the rivers cease. Its headquarters in Esher, the Civic Centre, opened in 1991.
After elections (held on a one third up-for-election basis in three out of four years) on 3 May 2012, there are 33 Conservative councillors, 20 Residents' Group councillors, 6 Liberal Democrats and two Hinchley Wood Residents' Association councillors.
Elevations, landscape and wildlife
The northern third of the borough is flatter and fertile with free draining slightly acid loamy soil, similar to the south, as described in the Surrey article. In the next third, the first of the remarkable acid soil heaths in west Surrey begin to appear in places here [n 1], characterised by undulating heaths: these sandy and stony reliefs start in the east in the Esher Commons, covering the central swathe of the area including Oxshott Heath and Woods and areas of Weybridge and areas surrounding Wisley, a natural soil for pines, other evergreen trees as well as heather and gorse, described as naturally wet, very acid sandy and loamy soil which is just 1.9% of English soil and 0.2% of Welsh soil. Claremont Landscape Garden and Fan Court (now independent school) is on part of this elevated soil as is St George's Hill. Most undeveloped land in Elmbridge is Metropolitan Green Belt.
The central band of forest/heath includes part of the Wisley and Ockham Commons reserve within the national wildlife trust scheme: see Surrey Wildlife Trust, several pine heath based golf courses and in the north there are reservoirs, on the side of which there is sheep grazing.
The Mole, passing the Grade I Church in Stoke D'Abernon, Cobham Mill at Grade II and Painshill Park and the Wey, passing Silvermere Golf Course and the Brooklands circuit, hotel and retail park, cut through the borough from south to north reaching the River Thames which denotes the northern border, stretching from Weybridge to Thames Ditton apart from inclusion of inhabited islands such as Wheatley's Ait[n 2]. The Wey and Mole have sources beyond gentle valleys which cut through the high North Downs to the south.
Settlements within the Borough
- From East to West:
- Long Ditton
- Thames Ditton
- Hinchley Wood
- Weston Green
- Molesey (East Molesey)
- Esher including West End
- Hersham including Burwood Park[n 3]
- Molesey (West Molesey)
- Walton on Thames including Fieldcommon and Ashley Park
- Cobham including Fairmile and the hamlets of Hatchford and Downside
- Stoke D'Abernon
- Weybridge including St George's Hill
Affluence and The "Grandees"
Home to some of the county's highest earners, Elmbridge is known for its varied landscapes, large average garden size, proximity to London (parts of the borough lie closer to Charing Cross than many outlying areas of Greater London) and an assortment of very large homes (mansions), especially in southern and western parts of the borough, such as Cobham, Oxshott, Weybridge and Esher. In 2011 Elmbridge was named the best place to live in the country in the 'Quality of Life Survey' for the third consecutive year. In the most recent survey in 2013, Elmbridge finished in sixth place.
This area has been labelled England's Beverly Hills by sections of the press. Famous residents, past and present, include Sir Cliff Richard, Mick Jagger, George Harrison, John Lennon, Ringo Starr, Ronnie Wood, Andy Murray, Kate Winslet, John Terry, Gary Lineker, Mick Hucknall, Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba, Theo Paphitis, Chris Tarrant, Peter Crouch, Michael Aspel and Shilpa Shetty.
Somewhat ironically St George's Hill, Weybridge, now a private estate for the very wealthy, was famously the site of one of the earliest experiments in common ownership of land by ordinary people. These were "The Diggers", one of the radical groups set up in the aftermath of the English Civil War and the execution of King Charles I in 1649. They seized land in the area and lived by simple farming. As well as debates about religion and how the country should be run at this time these groups complained that even the Parliamentary side in the Civil War was dominated by "Grandees" i.e. wealthy nobles who often spent their time in comfort conducting fatuous debates in Parliament while the less well off risked their lives in the war to defeat an absolutist system. They were the subject of a long campaign of harassment by a local landowner and were eventually removed in a questionable legal case. The wealthy leaders of their own side were also deeply alarmed about some of these radical ideas and also suppressed them. These events and facts are the subject of long standing authoritative historical study at most Universities in the UK but have recently been removed from this section by persons or organisations unknown.
Policing and crime
According to police statistics Elmbridge as a whole easily topped the table for burglaries for boroughs in Surrey in the period January–August 2017. Weybridge had the highest number in the borough. 'Get Surrey' The Surrey Advertiser's online news outlet reported police statistics in July 2017 showing that Elmbridge had by far the worst burglary numbers of any of the 11 boroughs in Surrey at that time. The figures were: 672 burglaries across the borough in that period, 170 more than Runnymede, the second highest area which had 502. Surrey Heath and Epsom and Ewell had the lowest numbers. Surrey Heath was lowest with 238 burglaries. Figures for the full year August 2017 to July 2018 collated by the third party website UKCrimeStats.com show an increase in burglaries for Elmbridge to 780 for the longer period with Vehicle Crime running at 781 cases. Surprisingly for such a generally affluent area Violent Crime tops the strictly criminal categories with 1,928 cases. There were 914 cases of Criminal Damage and Arson. In the same period this source shows Burglary in Runnymede as 542 cases, Vehicle Crime as 488 cases and Violent Crime as 1,545 cases. Surrey Heath had 408, 431 and 1466 cases respectively and Epsom and Ewell North had 83, 143 and 130 cases in these categories although the time period is not exactly comparable. Thus Elmbridge still appears to have the most serious crime of comparable boroughs in Surrey, a situation that seems to be getting worse.
The Borough has also seen a series of very serious crimes in the recent period including three violent unsolved murders which have attracted extensive national attention, two in Molesey one in adjacent Walton. Police are reported to have broken up a "mass fight" in Weybridge on 5 June 2018 involving nine men armed with baseball bats and knives, arresting five. In the latest attacks in the Borough local press reported a stabbing at Weybridge Railway station on December 19, 2018 and an arson attack on an elderly man's house in West Molesey on Christmas Day 2018.
Other very serious crimes across the Borough have attracted extensive press coverage. Some pockets within the borough have significant levels of violent crime, especially Molesey and Walton. It is unknown what effect the levels of burglaries and violence are having on property prices and insurance rates in the area.
Surrey police historically have often had a very poor clear up rate and have received severe criticisms from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary. There was considerable criticism of the former Chief Constable between 2012–15, Lynne Owens, by the controversial Independent Police and Crime Commissioner for Surrey, Kevin Hurley, who was the first to hold that post until 2016. A BBC news report of 2 February 2016 stated that Hurley said he had considered seeking her dismissal before she took over a national policing role as head of the National Crime Agency in 2016. According to the report concerns about public protection and child safeguarding in Surrey were down to a "failure of leadership", he said. Hurley himself however,elected on a "zero tolerance" platform in 2014, was rejected by the electorate in 2016 following bellicose statements including about a criminal case involving a neighbour dispute and immigrants in Calais widely reported nationally. Even victims of long term serial harassment, violence, threats, stalking and serious crime found these objectionable. The election result suggested that the majority of Surrey citizens were hoping for competent, efficient, even handed, honest and non-political policing properly conducted within a democratic remit. Hurley was reported in "Surrey Life" as being a resident of Esher in 2014 but when seeking re-election he attempted to give an address at Imber Sports Club, East Molesey (formerly the Metropolitan Police sports and social club) rather than a home address. This was on the grounds that "I'm clearly an obvious target to get my head cut off" because of service in the Middle East and a counter terrorist role - rather a new tone. According to an article on the subject in "GetSurrey" of April 2016 (now "SurreyLive") this was rejected by the Returning Officer for the election at Reigate and Banstead Borough Council - the assumption being that he now lived in that Borough.
High profile controversies have dogged policing in Surrey for some years. The Police Federation's headquarters in neighbouring Leatherhead were described as "profligate" by then MP David Davis in February 2014 and their activities came under fire in the national media in the wake of the so-called "Plebgate" affair of 2012 in which then Home Secretary, now Prime Minister Theresa May criticised the police role following various findings against seven officers, one being imprisoned and dismissed and three others dismissed for gross misconduct. Surrey Police themselves have also received intensive national press scrutiny because of their part in a series of disturbing cases with national impact such as the Jimmy Savile scandal, the Deepcut Barracks shootings, the Breck Bednar murder and the collapsed 2018 Jonathan King case in which Judge Deborah Taylor said that Surrey Police had made "numerous, repeated and compounded" errors during the investigation which would result in King not getting a fair trial. These matters were linked to Walton on Thames, Elmbridge. King claimed Surrey Police had "deep, institutional faults". Aspects of their handling of the Levi Bellfield case - the notorious serial murderer who lived at an address in Walton on Thames, Elmbridge at one point - have also been criticised - the case being the subject of a prominent ITV dramatisation starring Martin Clunes in early 2019. A number of cases involving individual officers have attracted extensive local and national coverage. Questions about the competence of Surrey Police have now developed an international dimension with the finding of a coroner in December 2018 that Russian whistleblower on organised crime, Alexander Perepilichnyy who died while jogging near his home in Weybridge, Elmbridge probably died of natural causes but claims of poisoning could not be proven because of Surrey Police failing to "properly probe" the incident. Surrey's Detective Chief Superintendent admitted that "organisational errors" were made during the investigation.
Surrey Police was also one of the forces that reviewed all current rape cases in 2018 after a defendant was cleared when they submitted new evidence to the CPS at the last minute. He had spent two years on bail. Surrey Police said “We accept that there were flaws in the initial investigation. It was not expedient and the investigator did not ...follow what we would consider to be a reasonable line of enquiry.” The wider non-disclosure scandal engulfed the CPS itself when the Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, stood down later in 2018 after very severe criticism over several rape and high profile cases where serious allegations proved unfounded or were thrown out.
According to official statistics released by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) for 2017-18 Surrey Police are the second most complained about force in the country with approaching 450 complaints per 1000 employees in 2017-18.
Elmbridge has been at the forefront of issues connected with illegal traveller sites in Surrey which have seen a significant increase in recent years. Elmbridge Borough as whole had the equal largest number of illegal transient traveller incursions in Surrey in recent years and now figures suggest it has the highest. There has been extensive press coverage of the issue which has been ongoing and contentious in recent times and the national press has begun reporting the issue. In 2013 nearly 80 people signed a petition to Elmbridge Council concerning an illegal traveller camp on land adjacent to Molesham Way, Molesey and eventually the site was cleared and barriers erected. However, travellers later returned to the adjacent car park and the cycle repeated itself. There have been traveller incursions in virtually all parts of the Borough including Cobham, Weybridge and Esher some of them quite large and on 26 August 2018 The "Daily Mail Online" reported that there had been a total of 45 illegal encampments across Surrey since the start of June 2018 with 27 of the encampments over the summer being in Elmbridge.
In 2015 the Traveller Movement, a traveller charity, complained about Elmbridge Council to the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Elsewhere there have been stand offs with residents and the police have been repeatedly been involved enforcing actions against traveller groups and also issuing warnings to residents that they faced arrest where they have attempted to block sites or take other actions. In the same report, the Chief Constable of Surrey, Nick Ephgrave complained about the lack of police resources to deal with the "unprecedented" number of illegal sites in 2018.
There are no permanent traveller sites in East or West Molesey where there have been various incursions in recent times, but there is believed to be a significant settled traveller population in the Field Common area to the south of Molesey Heath and in adjacent Hersham, which featured in the TV series "My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding". There have been returns to other areas such as land adjacent to Molesham Way in Molesey and other nearby areas, possibly for related reasons although it is believed that travellers and gypsy groups have a long association with the area perhaps because of un-builtup low lying flood prone riverside areas or perhaps because of historic entertainments such a horse racing, bare knuckle boxing and other activities in the Hurst Park area.
In January 2019 the Elmbridge Museum website said it had "just started a project working with local traveller, gypsy and roma groups, which will represent their history and culture to the wider community. The initiative is part of a wider research project led by the Surrey History Centre, which is researching the history of gypsies in the county for the past 500 years".
The main north-south road is the A244 for instance to London Heathrow Airport and starts in the borough at Walton Bridge leading to Esher and Oxshott then to Leatherhead. The east-west Leatherhead to Horsell, Woking road, the A245 leads by Cobham and Brooklands, Weybridge.
As to rail, the South West Main Line cuts through the borough, with four stations from Esher to Weybridge, one of which several express services call at: Walton on Thames in the Ashley Park estate of the south of the town. The branch lines have services with four stations in the borough via Cobham and Stoke D'Abernon to Guildford; and a branch to Thames Ditton and Hampton Court railway station in East Molesey, both within Transport for London's Zone 6.
Cycling is very popular, with the Thames Path passing through the north of the borough and the 2012 Summer Olympics hosting both of the main road cycling events in the borough with most of the road section around Hampton Court and with the sections of the routes taken to and from Box Hill.
The economy is diverse, with a strong local service sector, including numerous bars and restaurants, homes built and being built for city workers as the majority of locations have access to one of the Home Counties fastest commutes, trades including interior supplies, fitting, gardening, golf course/landscape management and a developed public/education sector. Of international renown are the employers Sony Corporation, Procter & Gamble, JTI (formerly Gallaher) and Toshiba Information Systems alongside the local corporate venues and day-out attractions of Sandown Park Racecourse and Mercedes-Benz World. As of 2012, Elmbridge residents had average weekly earnings of £1162.
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