Watch the live forum and Q & A with guest speaker John Percy Head of Development & Place at Cushman & Wakefield, Emma Day, MVDC Executive Head of Service and the Transform Leatherhead Team, from 7th March 2019 here:
As part of he presentation two short films were shown. Please see them here:
Leatherhead Theatre & the proposed cinema
Restaurants, cafes and markets
Q: Will the survey of High Street flow be published and explained?
A: As part of their presentation, the consultants, Arcadis, presented a summary of the survey results at the High Street Focus Group on 20th March to key stakeholders. We plan to provide a summary of the presentation on the Transform Leatherhead website.
Q: Can we remove vehicles from the High St save for emergency, disabled access and delivery?
A: That is one of the many options we will be reviewing, taking into consideration all the different views obtained from our Stakeholder Engagement. There are many different and polarising views that all need to be carefully considered from a Highway Safety point of view as well as their impact on economic viability.
Q: Why was I not informed of the [High Street] meeting or given any information about the proposed 'improvements'?
A: Only key stakeholders - organisations, businesses and residents in the immediate area, and Councillors - were invited to the first stakeholder focus group. However, we are planning further events to obtain wider stakeholder feedback including a second workshop, and a public consultation. These will be advertised in due course.
Q: To what extent is the closure of the High Street shops due to unaffordable rent?
Ashtead, Bookham and Fetcham have High Streets with a much better retail offer than Leatherhead; unless Leatherhead's population shows a substantial increase the footfall will not increase.
A: Most UK town centres are experiencing shop closures, and the percentage of vacant shops in Leatherhead is below the UK average. Rents are agreed individually between the property owner and occupier. Leatherhead has a large population with an above average available retail spend. A transformed High Street and Swan Centre will attract a higher proportion of this spend to the town.
Q: I love all the interesting street food options that are popping up in Leatherhead High Street. How do the proposed changes to the Swan Centre/High Street help to support these caterers?
A: The Master Plan for the Swan Centre proposes a retail and food and beverage offer targeted towards a mixture of convenience shopping and independent retailers. This, together with better public spaces will attract more 'pop up' style operators who can grow within the Centre as the town improves. In addition, the Leatherhead and District Chamber of Commerce who operate the Leatherhead market are working with MVDC to understand options for developing a viable and sustainable market offer for Leatherhead. We have met with two market operators, one from London, and one from Sussex, to inform that thinking.
Q: I would like to ask whether there is any chance that the Swan Centre might be given a roof, to transform it into a proper shopping mall? It would make it a much more appealing and comfortable area, particularly in bad weather, and an ideal setting for some of the market stalls at such times. At present, it's a wind tunnel and lets the rain in, which creates a pretty depressing shopping experience, and the section that is covered is very dark and gloomy, so improved lighting would help enormously. It might also persuade more retailers to take an interest and rent units in there. Surely a transformation like this would be much more valuable than the suggested rooftop vineyard/restaurant?
A: We have considered the idea of enclosing the Swan Centre very carefully. The advice we have received is that we should not be trying to create a shopping mall as we will not be able to compete with places like Bluewater, Westfield, Guildford or Kingston. Traditional covered shopping malls are costly to maintain and this increases the operational cost to the retailer. The recommendation we have is to open the space up more creating more of an open streetscape to attract markets and events, creating low cost spaces for independent and local retailers. Having said that, we appreciate the English weather, and there are some lower cost non-structural options for creating covered areas that can be explored as part of the design development.
After hearing John Percy and Andrew Ward's ideas for a rooftop vineyard in Leatherhead, I'd like to continue on this eco/sustainable scheme with an idea that would make Leatherhead look more enticing. I propose a 'living wall' is installed at the back of Leatherhead Theatre with its fly tower. Currently it is an eyesore when approaching the town from Epsom Road, not only is a living wall an anti-pollutant, it would be pleasing to the eye. Leatherhead could become Surrey's first Green Town!
A: Thank you; we will pass your comments and these ideas on to both the Leatherhead Theatre and their Landlord.
Q: Why is transformation of Swan Centre going to take 5 years? Seems unreasonably long for a relatively smallish infrastructure project.
A: The Swan Centre Vision will be transformative, and by its nature, this is time consuming. A partner will need to be appointed who will then need to develop the designs further before applying for planning consent, which is likely to take around 2 years.
Being a town-centre location, the site is constrained and construction will be complex, and will need to be phased to keep the Centre operational. As a result, the construction process is anticipated to last in the region of two years.
We are keen, however, for immediate improvement and have already completed short-term works to improve the car park and toilets and have further works in the pipeline. Keep up to date with the short-term refurbishment here››
Q: When the Swan Centre stairs are being reconfigured is it safe for the lifts to be the only way to get up and down? In a fire the advice is not to use the lifts.
A: The new lifts are being installed now ahead of the works to the stairs so they should be more reliable. The contractor is carrying out a full risk assessment and working with the Centre Management team to ensure compliance with all statutory obligations including fire safety.
Q: Where are the signs to say no cycling in the swan centre? - too many bikes in with vulnerable people.
A: Thank you for drawing this to our attention. We will follow this up.
Q: Can you add more information about the travel options for Bookham, Fetcham and Ashtead please?
A: Phase three of the proposed wider sustainable transport strategy includes reviewing and improving the infrastructure and provision to Bookham, Fetcham and Ashtead. This would include considering continuing the existing shared cycle/footway into Leatherhead and Ashtead town centres. We propose as part of phase three to review existing connections and assess what current travel patterns are - e.g. why people travel to/from Leatherhead to the nearby towns and villages, then asses what improvements to sustainable infrastructure and travel offers would be viable; this may include cycling, walking, public transport. Delivery is likely to require third party funding.
Q: Waterways Rd Bridge is very narrow - too narrow for a cycle lane. It is very vulnerable in event of accident or repair needs. What are your proposals for safeguarding and improving this asset?
A: Maintenance is the responsibility of SCC as the highways authority. Proposals for improving this asset for the purposes of increasing cycling connectivity would fall within phase 3 of the wider sustainable transport strategy.
Q: When is the High St and Bridge St being joined into one road again? As it is - impossible to make retail better.
A: The options for the High Street, and the results of the transport survey and data modelling will inform the proposals for the High Street and movement in and around Leatherhead. We are currently targeting public information sharing and consultation events in July.
Q: Any news on the bid by or to network rail for rail station accessibility?
We received several question cards on the Leatherhead Theatre asking overall two key questions:
Q: Why build another cinema, where is the evidence Leatherhead can support it?
What can you do to support the Theatre?
A: Cushman & Wakefield advise that a greater variety of uses to the Swan Centre, including leisure, is essential for Leatherhead to prosper as a local destination. MVDC commissioned additional research to understand more about the population within a 10 and 20 minute drive-time of Leatherhead to understand the likely available customers for a new cinema, taking in to account the existing cinemas, including Leatherhead Theatre and Dorking Halls. This analysis indicated that there is significant un-met demand, which is currently met by cinemas outside the district. Using British Film Industry and Cinema Office data, this indicated that there is capacity for 5-6 screens, assuming 200 seats per screen. This analysis is supported by a number of cinema operators who have expressed interest in opening a cinema in Leatherhead. The cinema offers vary greatly between the different operators, and there is a trend towards smaller screens offering a more informal environment. A new cinema in Leatherhead is likely to attract more visitors, and this would create a wider economic benefit to the advantage of all businesses in the town.
MVDC does not provide financial support to Leatherhead Theatre as it is not owned or operated by MVDC, unlike Dorking Halls. However, we are in regular dialogue with the freehold owner to discuss Transform Leatherhead and to signpost third party funding opportunities. We are monitoring funding opportunities such as the latest round of Historic England grant funding (Heritage Action Zones) due to be launched this summer, to identify opportunities for investment in the theatre.
Q: Are there plans to encourage a better mix of restaurants into Leatherhead to further promote it as a destination town sooner than later? And also to support demand for when the cinema opens. The current offering just feels a bit tired and aimed at an older generation (with the exception of the odd one restaurant/cafe). Great to see a modern, new and independent coffee shop about to open in the town at the weekend. This is what we need.
A: The advice is that bringing in a cinema and new hotel will attract a better mix of food and beverage operators in to Leatherhead. We would welcome more modern, new and independent offers in to Leatherhead.
Q: Has the team thought about exploring markets in London to learn from them? For example, Herne Hill market on every Sunday is an excellent example of a thriving market in the community and attracting people outside of Herne Hill into the area.
A: The current market in Leatherhead is operated by the Leatherhead and District Chamber of Commerce, and we are working with them to understand options for developing a viable and sustainable market offer for Leatherhead. We have met with two market operators, one from London, and one from Sussex, to inform that thinking.
Q: Need a reason to visit Leatherhead that is different to other local towns. Vintage markets? Antique markets?
A: We agree. Our positioning statement states, 'Friendly, vibrant and lively, Leatherhead is a modern market town where people of all ages can shop, eat, relax and have fun by the riverside.' It is important to create an offer that is unique to Leatherhead. The ideas include the rooftop vineyard garden and more market space for local produce. We have also had some excellent suggestions relating to Leatherhead's musical, drama, cultural and philanthropic history, and would welcome more suggestions.
Q: I live in Belmont road, which is terrible for parking anyway. Where is the traffic going to go, when the Riverside development is being built? (which I think is too high in the first place.)
A: Should planning permission be granted for Claire House and James House, a condition of the planning consent would be a construction traffic management plan. This would include a review of construction impacts from the site and on the wider road network. A planning application for temporary change of use for temporary public car parking at the disused tennis courts adjacent to the entrance to the Leatherhead Leisure Centre has been submitted, which would help mitigate the impact of closing the Bridge Street pay and display car park during the construction period.
Q: In light of the conclusions regarding the flood alleviation scheme, how is this going it impact on the plans for the redevelopment of the Riverside area?
A: The Environment Agency have established a temporary defence deployment plan to protect homes and properties in the area Minchin Close - Emlyn Lane from river flooding. The Environment Agency have been fully consulted on the proposed redevelopment of Claire House and James House and phase 1 of the Riverside Park and are not objecting to the application.
Q: What is the possibility of opening up the river banks so people can walk from Leatherhead through to the space and beyond? I appreciate part of this does go through the crematorium but the area is underused and appreciated.
A: Where the land is not in public ownership or does not benefit from public rights of way, any increase in public access would need the agreement of the landowner. We will explore this as we consider ideas for the creation of the Riverside Park and connectivity with the wider Leatherhead area.
Q: When discussing a USP for Leatherhead no mention was made of the Riverside. A rejuvenated riverside with dining/amenities should be an integral part of the USP of Leatherhead including the High St are and the Swan Centre. Please do not separate the Riverside from the Town Centre.
A: The Riverside Quarter is a key area in Transform Leatherhead's vision for the future. Our positioning statement states, 'Friendly, vibrant and lively, Leatherhead is a modern market town where people of all ages can shop, eat, relax and have fun by the riverside.'
The Riverside is considered one of three key linked Quarters within Transform Leatherhead's Masterplan and our vision states that 'High quality, people-friendly streets and spaces will combine to link the riverside, railway station, business and residential areas and the wider Mole Valley into the heart of the town centre.'
Q: Where is the money coming from? Including interest.
What percentage of funding will have to be raised by private funding (developers) and what percentage by MVDC?
A: When the Transform Leatherhead Masterplan was approved in July 2016, a fund of £1 million was established for activities such as feasibility, viability, design and planning. This was from MVDC's existing revenue reserves. The revenue reserve has not been created through borrowing. Details are set out in the 'Funds Flow Forecast' - click here to download››
The funding of each project is being considered on a case-by-case basis. Private funding is likely to be raised by a combination of land sales and development agreements. MVDC's objective is to reduce its financial risk whilst retaining an element of control in the delivery. Opportunities for further grant funding continue to be explored.
Q: Is it possible for the Council to stop buy to lets? This would relieve the pressure for 1st time buyers.
A: Where MVDC is the landlord of residential units, it is possible to prohibit letting; where MVDC is not the direct landlord, this is harder to manage and enforce.
Q: Why are the forums not advertised/leafleted to the general population of Leatherhead?
A: Every Transform Leatherhead Forum is advertised through a number of channels but we always welcome suggestions of new places to promote, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have suggestions.
Here is a list of our current channels:
Q: There are lots of charities based in this area - surely we could harness their 'people' experience, need for affordable housing, events expertise, local networks etc. in enhancing the Transform program? How are you reaching out to them?
A: MVDC has commissioned Prosper Communities CIC to conduct a "Listening Project" to update our links within the community, and to reach out to Charities operating in Mole Valley. Prosper Communities will report to MVDC at the end of April 2019.
We work closely with our colleagues in other teams within MVDC with existing third sector relationships and would welcome contact from local charities who would like to work with us.
Q: As part of the masterplan are there plans to develop an environmental and/or sunlight guidance to provide assurance to the residents that we will not be surrounded by tall buildings and wind tunnels as a result of development.
A: All proposals will be subject to the usual planning application process and will need to comply with all appropriate planning requirements including those relating to daylight, sunlight and environmental impact. As part of any planning application process, there will be a formal public consultation, giving residents the opportunity to identify specific concerns.
Q: Having seen a town square on Bull Hill on a map a while ago but not since: Is there to be a square; if so where and how will it be integrated?
A: We haven't yet begun detailed planning for Bull Hill, as it was key to first establish the Masterplan for the Swan Centre and understand the options for the road system in Leatherhead town centre. However, public open space and creating connections between the retail/leisure quarter (High Street, Church Street, North Street, Bridge Street), Bull Hill and the Station will be key to our vision.
Q: With all the new houses being built in Leatherhead, when are we getting another doctors surgery? It is almost impossible to get an appointment.
A: MVDC imposes a charge called Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL). This is applicable for all planning applications providing additional housing and is used to raise funds for infrastructure needs in the area to support growth including community health and general practice facilities. For more information about CIL, please visit our website here >>.
Q: Will there be room in the re-vamped Swan Centre or the Bull Hill development for a Doctor's surgery?
This would provide a much needed medical resource for a growing population in Leatherhead and would have the additional advantage of bringing people in the centre of Leatherhead.
A: Many thanks for your suggestion. The Masterplan for the Swan Centre doesn't currently envisage a doctors' surgery as it is more focused on retail, food and beverage, employment, leisure and residential uses. Detailed planning for Bull Hill is yet to commence (see below), but we will include this as part of our thinking as to what uses Bull Hill could accommodate.
Watch the live forum and Q & A with CEO of Coast to Capital Jonathan Sharrock, MVDC Councillor Simon Edge, Cabinet Member for Prosperity, the Transform Leatherhead Team, Surrey County Council (SCC) Cabinet Lead Member for Place, Councillor Colin Kemp and SCC Local Highways Services Manager, Richard Bolton,from 17th October 2018 here:
Watch the live forum and Q & A with the Transform Leatherhead Team, Environment Agency and retail consultants Cushman & Wakefield from 24th May 2018 here: