Plans to regenerate Weybridge are moving at a fast pace, as key authorities and organisations are now working together closely to prioritise rebuilding a well-equipped health and wellbeing facility and rehouse the town’s library and other services.
The project, designed by HLM Architects, is being driven by North West Surrey Integrated Care Partnership and a group of major stakeholders. This includes Surrey County Council, Elmbridge Borough Council, local NHS providers, NHS Property Services, the Weybridge Society and other organisations in Weybridge. They met in early October to discuss how to build on existing ideas and plans and lay the groundwork for designing a new set of town centre buildings.
Re-providing health care and other services has been a pressing issue for Weybridge for some time, as its GP practices and other medical services have been operating from temporary units since 2017, following a fire that completely destroyed the town’s old hospital buildings. Meanwhile, Weybridge’s 1960s library building is also at the end of its life and needs either vast repairs or replacement. Local residents have long lobbied for an integrated solution to both problems, with a view to construction of a community centre that brings many services together.
This vision lately gained new impetus and a broader remit, as separately the ICP has been working with Well North Enterprises, a social enterprise led by Lord Andrew Mawson OBE, on a wider programme of transformation. That programme, Well North West Surrey, embraces a major emphasis on prevention, early intervention and new ways of working post-COVID. It is also working with four boroughs and SCC on joined-up regeneration plans, including moving outpatient clinics at St Peter’s Hospital closer to the communities they serve, like Weybridge.
In Weybridge, the regeneration project will adopt a ‘campus approach’ that seeks to build on and integrate services across both sides of Church Street, which runs between the old hospital site and the library.
The participation of Well North Enterprises was crucial in bringing together decision-makers for the project. Prior to the October meeting, which articulated local concerns and began to organise and plan the project, Well North held more than 60 conversations with individual residents and representatives of various authorities and charities. The town’s main residents’ association, the Weybridge Society, which since 2018 had presented its own vision for an integrated approach, is now a key participant in the project.
Neil Orpwood, Associate Director – Healthcare, HLM Architects, said: “This project is aimed both at integrating services and activities across the statutory, private and voluntary sectors, as well as bringing forward a much-needed, broader regenerated town centre. The vision is to create a town centre that has a unified feel, with high quality architecture, landscaping and adequate linkages to existing green spaces, transport and traffic flow. Further, the project will help meet the gap in terms of housing needs throughout the region, while sustainability and climate change concerns have also played a key role in shaping the plans.”
Tim Oliver, Leader of Surrey County Council and Councillor for Weybridge, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for Weybridge, and now we have all the right partners working together alongside local residents, I’m confident we’re going to deliver something that will be of huge benefit to the community here. We will build top notch primary care facilities, that are part of a broader health and wellbeing offer. We will be providing updated library facilities to create a real community hub where people can come together and access a whole range of social, cultural, educational and economic services and opportunities.”
Ray Lee, Strategic Director, Elmbridge Borough Council, said: “Elmbridge Borough Council is supportive and fully involved in this project which will shape the future provision of health and wellbeing services for local residents. We applaud the innovation of bringing together in one project, County, Borough and NHS providers. We look forward to continuation of valued services for older and vulnerable residents and shared spaces for community activities currently hosted in our Centre for the Community.”
Jack Wagstaff, Director of the North West Surrey Integrated Care Partnership, said: “This is a pioneering approach to reimagining how we support people to live happy and healthy lives. All too often people end up with a prescription or investigation which may not tackle the root cause of their problem. This is our chance to bring creative solutions to the underlying causes of ill health – poverty, unemployment, poor housing, lack of social connections. It’s exciting to be working alongside local people to create lasting change and support a flourishing and resilient Weybridge community.”
Lord Andrew Mawson, OBE: Chairman of Well North Enterprises and Chairman of Weybridge project, said: “My colleagues and I have been involved in bringing together integrated developments for many years, but the Weybridge scheme is a unique opportunity to explore new ways of working and the reshaping of our town centres, as the internet ever more becomes the defining principle of our age.”
David Arnold, Chairman of the Weybridge Society: “I am delighted that the basic idea of a community hub the Society put forward two years ago to the NHS and Surrey County Council has blossomed into a significantly improved concept. Its design will add a major contribution to the life, health, and wellbeing of Weybridge, creating a sense of community and pride in our town.”