Just reading the news release from Debenhams and although I have sympathy for the Surrey residents who have lost their jobs, this is good news for Woking. This is a reflection of our vision for Woking, hopefully their management can see that even with all the current disruption Woking is the place to be in the future.
During the election campaign many residents have asked what is happening about infrastructure with all these houses being built, so I thought I would try and update you on some of the work going on both at borough and county levels.
The main issue running through Woking is the A320 and the main pinch point in Victoria Arch. We have a bid into Homes England for a bid of over £100m, this will enable us to widen the arch to four lanes plus additional capacity for cyclist and pedestrians. We will also plan to make addition road improvements to the south of the arch and up towards Constitution Hill which will improve the ease of traffic approaching and leaving the town.
There will also be improvements to the dual carriage way to the north of the arch and past the town centre. I know there is disruption during the building works but when Victoria Square is completed Victoria Way will also have improvements that will also improve the traffic flow.
The A320 as a whole has now been added to the new Major Roads Network scheme and the government will be releasing further funds for improvements to this network which will also improve the roads in and out of Woking. There are also additional Homes England’s bids in for improvements to the area around the Ottershaw Roundabout to St Peters Hospital and also Slyfield in Guildford.
Although the Red car park is closed it will be quickly rebuilt and will include an additional two levels as part of Victoria Square and there will be a new Green car park. Once these are completed we also have plans to expand Heathside Road car park and Victoria Way.
The widening of Victoria Arch will not only improve the road network, but it will also improve the rail service to Woking. Currently there are two networks that merge just south of Woking and trains have to give way which limits the flow. The widening of the arch will allow an addition rail to run across it and Network Rail have plans to build a train bridge before the arch, so the two networks can merge, the station will be widened to allow fast trains to pass through without impacting on the station, this will increase the capacity for more trains to stop at Woking. There are also improvements planned between Woking and Waterloo which will also allow additional train movements and improve the service.
Buses and sustainable transport
Although it’s not Surrey’s duty to provide buses, we currently spend around £12m in supporting non-commercial routes in Surrey that either link communities or support children getting to school, and there are no plans to cut this spend. What we are doing is looking at how people get about, we have employed a company to look at Surrey and how better connections either bus, cycling or walking would encourage people to leave their cars at home and use alternative transport models. They are also looking at the routes we do sponsor to see if instead of large buses on these routes we could use smaller alternatives.
It is not the boroughs duty to supply school places and the county no longer has the power to open new schools as this must be done by a free school, the county can only increase the capacity at current locations to meet the need.
Although not its duty, Woking Borough Council took the proactive approach to support a bid from a free school to open a new secondary school in Woking as part of this new school there are new leisure facilities for the growing population of Woking.
Again, neither local authority’s duty, but again Woking Borough Council has been proactive, and as part of Victoria Square they have planned new health facilities and they are in negotiations to make sure these are run again for the increasing population.
Surrey County Council is also proactively leading a joint approach to health, we are working towards an integrated care system which will include the local hospitals, doctors and CCG to bring an improved and joined up approach to health in Surrey.
So, there is much work underway from both WBC and SCC to improve the infrastructure in Woking to support the developments taking place. Although we will try and limit the impact while this change is under way, we desperately need new infrastructure, so we need to suffer a little for our future and our children’s future.
Please be assured, Infrastructure is very much on the Agenda
The service is well-sighted on the new high-rise buildings in Woking, having been involved in the consultation process for building regulations. These will be new buildings which will have very different features to the Grenfell Tower including modern day firefighting lifts giving firefighters easy access to higher levels, and compartmentation which significantly reduces the spread of fire. We are also fortunate in Surrey to have the tallest Aerial Ladder Platform in the UK to deal with high-rise incidents.
Following the tragic Grenfell Tower fire, two major changes in legislation have occurred – Government consultation resulted in cladding being banned on all buildings over 80 metres. Secondly, new residential buildings over 30 metres now have sprinklers automatically fitted which suppress and significantly reduce the impact of the fire growth. Both of these factors significantly reduce the risk to both the public and our firefighters attending high-rise incidents. In addition, the immediate outcomes of the fire at Grenfell Tower, have arguably resulted in high-rise buildings receiving an extra level of scrutiny, and are therefore potentially safer than they were prior to this tragic incident.
With regards to training, breathing apparatus training in 2018-19 included input on high-rise incidents. The Service Leadership team and Learning and Development continue to review training needs based upon current and foreseen incident and premises risks.
The service has successfully bid for Community Infrastructure Levy funding in the past and will continue to consider this as an option. However, the Making Surrey Safer plan has not been developed with savings targets in mind. It has been developed in response to the findings of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) inspection in July 2018 which found “serious concerns” with SFRS. The inspectors found some areas of good practice but said its response to incidents is inefficient and it does not undertake enough activity to save lives by preventing emergencies happening in the first place. Overall SFRS was rated as inadequate in terms of efficiency and required improvement in the effectiveness of the services delivered, and the way that it looks after its people. Given the scale of these concerns, we do not believe that continuing with the status quo is an option.
The proposals in the Making Surrey Safer plan are based on the service’s Community Risk Profile which helps us understand where the risks associated with places in the county are, where the most vulnerable people are and when and where the risks are greater. The proposals also take account of five years of evidence about incidents in Surrey, and a comprehensive review of all nationally and locally available historical and predictive data, including all high-rise incidents experienced in the last five years.
The forward looking data considers the predicted population of the groups of people who are the most at risk from fires or other emergencies up to 2030. This data was independently verified prior to forming the consultation proposals.
The service also undertook modelling work which showed that we need 20 fire engines during the day and 16 at night to keep Surrey safe. The proposal would mean we have more than we need – five more during the day, more on a weekend day, and seven more at night. One of the reasons for providing this additional capacity is to account for larger and longer emergencies such as a significant high-rise incident.
The service continues to involve all staff in shaping the future. The Service Leadership Team is engaging with fire fighters of all levels to feedback and work with them to have the most impact in shaping the service’s thinking.
I am also assured that the service will continue to regularly review its distribution of resources as population numbers and distribution changes over time, to ensure it provides adequate resources that continue to meet the risk and changing needs of communities.
We have been receiving a lot of correspondence about the consultation and transformation of Surrey Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS).
Let me first make it clear these changes are not being led by politicians or officers sitting in County Hall, this transformation has been designed and led by senior fire officers with years of experience and supported by the National Fire Chiefs Council.
The only decisions we have made in respect of SFRS after being presented with a business case by the new senior officers last summer were:
- To remove all savings targets from the service for the next two years and allow them to transform SFRS to a modern service fit for the future.
- Although we have some of the best equipped fire engines in the south some of the fleet was getting old, so we set up a rolling programme to replace the oldest pumps and the first four have already been delivered.
- The front-line service was very reliant on overtime and was not sustainable. So, we agreed to a new recruitment process and there are almost 50 new fire fighters either on duty or in training and we are still recruiting.
Many of the recommendations that we made in the recent inspection report of SFRS had already been addressed by the new leadership team and changes were already being implemented. One key area the inspection report mentioned was that we needed to improve the use of our resources and have a greater focus on fire prevention and this work is also a keen aim of the transformation process.
The current transformation process has no savings target &
we are not closing any fire stations
- Some Key facts
• The key aim of a fire fighter is to save lives and buildings are secondary.
• ¾ of all people that have died in house fires in the last five years either lived alone or were vulnerable. The way to save these lives is prevention.
• The main factor that saves lives in this group is early awareness of a fire and then an escape plan once the fire has been detected.
• Under the transformation, welfare visits will increase in the first year from 2500 to 10,000
• The average amount of calls the service respond to across Surrey per week peaks during the day at 226 and drops during the night to 26.
• Using nationally recognised criteria, the minimum number of pumps required across Surrey is 20 during the day and 16 at night. Under the transformation we will have 25 during the day and 23 at night. This will increase to 30 during the day at weekends when we will carry out most of the welfare visits.
• Our safety plan for arrival of the first pump at any incident is 10 minutes the average across Surrey is currently under 8 minutes and it will still be under 8 minutes.
• This transformation work is supported by the National Fire Chiefs Council
Decisions made by experts to deliver a modern fire service for Surrey’s residents