Moving our town forward together
P.O. Box 240, Leatherhead, Surrey KT22 8YQ Phone: 01372 378604
email: leatherheadahead@aol.com

click for the reply from Mr Callum Findlay, 19 July

Paula Sabine writes: In my last correspondence with Mr Paul Coen, Chief Executive of Surrey County Council, relating to the Phase 2 works, I suggested that he came to Leatherhead to see things for himself. 

Mr Callum Findlay, Surrey County Council Head of Transportation, wrote back and offered to meet with me in Leatherhead.  This meeting took place last Friday afternoon, 9th July, 2-4pm, when he was accompanied by Mr Roger Archer-Reeves, Local Transportation Director. I was joined by Mr Mike Lewis of Leatherehead AHEAD and Mr John Howarth, President of the Leatherhead Chamber of Commerce. We are grateful to Mr Findlay and Mr Archer-Reeves for the opportunity this provided for us to show them what we were concerned about and to talk frankly to them about the issues that concern us and many people in the town. 

The Notes below were given to Mr Findlay at the end of the meeting - it summarises all the points I made as we walked around the town:

Notes for meeting - 9 July 2004, 2-4pm walking around Leatherhead

As my letter to Paul Coen said, I would correct SCC’s understanding that all is now well in Leatherhead – the Leatherhead Town Centre Forum has set up various working groups with the aim of e.g. correcting the lack of parking spaces, poor signage and improving the environment. These working groups would not need to exist unless SCC and MVDC were failing to return Leatherhead to the thriving town it used to be.

The situation is, to put it bluntly, that Surrey County Council have ‘screwed up’ over the Phase 2 works and owe it to the people of Leatherhead to make amends. For example, there are some remedies to some of the problems in Leatherhead that could be instigated if Surrey County Council had a will to do it.

People need to able to drive through Leatherhead, at least part of the time, to be able to see what the town has to offer. Leatherhead has greatly improved over the last 12 months, but the town must have convenience and access to ensure the shops/businesses stay.

The Phase 2 works
This was a 6 month project that took 22 months, and we are still waiting to know the final cost. Judging by the state of the paving, we assume that there is a legal battle between SCC and the developers.

There are safety issues, as highlighted in my document to Cllr Helyn Clack, SCC Executive for Transportation, back in November 2003. Why are there steps on a ramp for the disabled in the first place? I understand that Seeability has already written a letter to Roger Archer-Reeves regarding safety issues in the centre of Leatherhead. The Disability Action group have commissioned a report regarding safety which was sent to Roger Archer-Reeves back in August 2003.

We, and others, were told that the walls of the ramp would be 6 inches above the ground – the resulting structure blocks the view of the High Street from North Street, re-inforcing the ‘fortress Leatherhead’ image.

Although we are advocating safety improvements to the ramps, we still believe the Phase II works to be a gross misuse of public money, and ideally we would like to see the whole structure removed.

The new Phase 2 paving is disgraceful – it is dirty and stained; slabs are chipped and loose; silver tape has been put on some of the slabs by Nat West Bank, which seemed to serve no purpose and which has now come off leaving its backing and contributing to the poor state of the paving. It was well known by SCC that the Phase 2 area would be used by traffic coming into the High Street part time, not to mention vans/lorries driving in to unload for the shops, so there is no excuse for the paving not to be capable of taking traffic.

High Street/Crossroads
As has been stated many times before, Leatherhead has a parking problem, particularly a shortage of ‘stop and shop’ spaces (i.e. max waiting time of 30 minutes) and long term spaces. Leatherhead needs to provide parking spaces for very short term parking to allow busy people to pop into a shop without all the hassle of going to a car park - if there is not sufficient parking like this in Leatherhead, people will shop in Ashtead, Fetcham, Bookham and Cobham where they can park on the street. Long term spaces are particularly needed for workers in Leatherhead and visitors to the Theatre (when they hold conferences) and to the Travelodge hotel.

The opening of the Travelodge, although a welcome addition to the town, is causing chaos (see article in this week’s Leatherhead Advertiser). The planning application for a hotel at that site assumed that the hotel users would be using the Swan Centre car park – the application actually states that the use of the Swan Centre car park would not affect parking in Leatherhead as users of the hotel would only be parking there in the evening. However, the Swan Centre car park is not allowing overnight parking! Consequently we have a situation where the nearest car park to the hotel is nearly empty in the evenings unless the Theatre is busy.

Travelodge users are therefore parking in the High Street and on the corner by Abbey National/Ramp and in Church Street, as well as using the Church Street car park. Cars parked have already been in conflict with the street markets trying to set up early in the morning. Cars are parked blocking the emergency access by the side of the ramp.

The one-way blue arrow signs at the entrance of the Church Street access into the High Street seem to be rather small, and people don’t notice them – consequently strangers to Leatherhead have been seen driving down to Abbey National and then turning round and going back the wrong way. Should there be re-inforcing ‘blue arrows’ on the corner by Argos and again further up the High Street?

Argos is also a welcome addition to the town. However, vans and lorries unloading outside the new Argos shop have apparently blocked the entire High Street as the driver(s) have not realised normal traffic is allowed in the High Street after 4.30pm and before 10.00am. Argos will attract more shoppers into the town – where are they going to park? Heavy goods bought will need to be collected from outside the shop, as they cannot be carried to a car park – where are these cars going to stop in the High Street if the road is already blocked by users of the Travelodge?

The available on-street parking in the High Street should be available for people who want to pop quickly into one of the shops or use one of the restaurants, not be clogged up by Travelodge guests.

Corner by Abbey National - the new Phase 2 paving at the corner where the High Street meets Church Street has the same paving, and as there is no proper demarcation, there is no indication where cars and pedestrians should be.

While lights have been put into the paving, presumably to mark where cars should drive, these will not be obvious to car drivers, especially in daylight or on a Summer’s night. The rest of the High Street and Church Street have cobbles marking the area for driving - why weren’t the cobbles continued around the corner? Consequently the ‘corner’ is dangerous as it is, and some form of demarcation must be put in - I have already suggested that a few black wrought iron posts around the corner would be sufficient - and the ‘partially sighted’ can be trained to know they are there. Parking takes place on both sides of the corner leading to loss of visibility for drivers, and subsequently danger for pedestrians.

Parking in the High Street - when the high street is open to traffic before 10.00am and after 4.30pm, there are a great number of cars that park there. It seems that the difference in paving means that cars should park on the dark cobbled area, but there are no signs stating this and nothing to stop parking on the paving stones which are presumably meant to be the pavement. The parking areas in the High Street need to be clearly defined.

In the short term some of the very wide sections of paving need to be defined for parking. In the longer term the High Street layout should be organised to allow clearly defined parking all the way down the right hand side (where the dark cobbles are now), as it is in Bookham, and in Kingsbridge in Devon (a narrow high street which is also one-way) - this will give more on-street parking which is desperately needed.

Leret Way
I understand from Bruce Andrews, former Manager of the Swan Centre, that he has discussed parking bays being installed on Leret Way. Indeed this was a recommendation put forward by the Civic Trust back in January 1997. Subsequent mention of this recommendation has fallen on deaf ears!

Area outside the Theatre
This area is again another example where more on-street parking could be made available. There are areas of paving (keeping the tree) which could easily be taken away to create more parking spaces. Some of the parallel parking outside Caesars restaurant could be ‘nose-in’ parking to create more spaces, although I realise that it needs to be parallel parking by the traffic lights.

The raised flower beds could be significantly reduced (again keeping any trees and keeping the seating areas outside the Theatre). The gateway can be moved down to create more parking spaces. Presumably there is no necessity to dig down to a great depth, as there will be an existing road underneath, and therefore only some resurfacing will be necessary.

Pinch point in North Street
This pinch point was originally created to help people cross the road to get to the Post Office. However, approximately 2 months after it was installed, the Post Office moved to the other side of the road. Since then, more than 5 years, the narrowing of the road has caused traffic problems particularly with buses. Removal of the pinch point can only help the traffic flow in North Street. A crossing, like the one in Bookham at their crossroads, could be installed - i.e. raised paving/ramp, a bollard in the middle of the road/ramp, with no zigzag lines therefore needed – which would help pedestrians and probably allow the creation of more parking spaces.

Link between Church Street car park and the Mansion House car park
A link between these two car parks has been suggested in the past. The parking on the left hand side of the Church Street car park is not easy and is cramped. The Mansion House car park is owned by SCC, and more spaces could be incorporated with the re-arrangement of some of the vegetation.

A link between the two would open up and improve the parking in the Church Street car park and enable more spaces to be created overall. Allowing some of the Church Street car park traffic to exit through the Mansion House car park, would presumably improve the traffic flow outside the Theatre.

The current alleyway that goes down the side of the Church Street car park, could presumably be marked out in the car park, without impinging on the number of car parking spaces.

Double Yellow Lines
As previously stated, Leatherhead needs as much on-street parking as possible. I understand that there are statutory requirements (or are they advisory/discretionary?) regarding how far round a corner double yellow lines should be painted – however some of the recent lines on the corners in Leatherhead seem to ‘go round the corner’, and some of them ‘go round the corner and travel down the road’ taking away some of the previous available on-street parking. If examples are given by the Town Centre Forum Working Group, will SCC listen and act on their suggestions?

The Future
Professor John Whitelegg said in his report commissioned by MVDC back in May 2002, “Local residents do have genuinely held beliefs that their views have not been taken into account and that the local authorities have acted in a high handed manner. This has produced a serious breakdown in trust and confidence between citizens, councillors and officers”, and “If any individual resident or organisation has strong views which are not fully incorporated into detailed scheme design then they should be contacted and told the reason.”

So far SCC have displayed a breath-taking arrogance towards most suggestions put forward to improve Leatherhead. Indeed, Leatherhead AHEAD were promised over 2 years ago, that we would be allowed to see the new traffic modelling system set up to show how best the traffic flows would work around Leatherhead, so we can make suggestions and understand why some ideas would not be possible. The Leatherhead Town Centre Forum parking and environment working groups are both producing ideas - please listen to them!

I would also strongly suggest that any works being carried out in regard to the question of demarcation between pedestrians and vehicles outside the Abbey National, and any other scheme to improve the parking and traffic in the High Street and outside the Theatre, is put before all the members of the Leatherhead Town Centre Forum before any action is agreed.

It would seem that after the completion of both the Phase 1 and Phase 2 works, and now the chaos surrounding the Travelodge hotel, there are few people in Leatherhead who have any faith in the Councils’ ability to put sensible solutions to Leatherhead’s problems.

Paula Sabine, Leatherhead AHEAD 9 July 2004


Reply from Mr Callum Findlay, 19 July

Dear Mrs Sabine

Leatherhead Phase 2 Works - Review Report

It was a real pleasure to meet with yourself, Mike and John last Friday. Both Roger and I believe we had a purposeful exchange of ideas. May I also thank you for the excellent briefing note you handed to me.

At the end of the meeting, I believe there was clarity around a way forward. Whilst fully recognising your concerns over the scheme you made it clear that you did not want any more civils type work in the High Street within a reasonable period of time so as to create a period of stability. The one exception was that you believed vehicles required better delineation of the 'highway' on the Abbey corner. We agreed this point.

We also discussed the overall cost of the scheme and I confirm that when Roger has completed his negotiations with the constructors, the final cost of the scheme will be in the public domain. However I know that Roger has on numerous occasions indicated to you that he still believes the overall outcome cost will fall within the 750,000 estimate.

Like many of these issues, communication is the key. I believe our exchange of views was extremely helpful and I know that Roger will be discussing the issues raised with his Local Committee Chairman to hopefully agree a way forward.

Thank you Paula, Mike and John for giving up your time to meet with me.

Yours sincerely
Callum Findlay
Head of Transportation
[Surrey County Council]
cc John Howarth, Chairman of Leatherhead & District Chamber of Commerce
Mike Lewis, Leatherhead Ahead
Roger Archer-Reeves, Local Transportation Director, Mole Valley

page last updated 21 Jul 2004