Please let us know of any other ‘historical event’ we should add to this

Please also view the links on the left of your screen


February 2003 Mrs Heather Kerswell (Chief Executive MVDC) admitted in the Leatherhead Advertiser that MVDC hadn’t communicated very well.

24th February 2003 Pixham Lane Dorking closed for 18 months. The MVDC Local Committee were intending to look again at the situation before the 18 months was up, but the closure caused massive traffic problems in the Dorking area. There was huge uproar from users and traders in Dorking. Also campaigns to ‘FREE PIXHAM LANE’ and ‘UNJAM DORKING’.

14th March 2003 First AGM of Leatherhead AHEAD in the Parish Church Hall 1st AGM, chairman's report

March 2003 BBC1 showed a programme “UK’s Worst - High Streets”. There were three judges on the panel and they were unanimous in voting for Leatherhead as THE UK’s WORST HIGH STREET. One of the judges, Mr Jon Rouse, Head of CABE said on the programme “One thing you cannot legislate against is bad taste, and this local authority has bad taste in droves. Who would invest in blue plastic lighting? Leatherhead High Street could be substantially improved if there is a will from the local authority, but at the moment it is the worst high street in Britain.”

2nd April 2003 Reply from The Auditor (Mr Andrew Bostock of KPMG) to Mr Andy Cole, a member of our committee. Andy Cole had written a detailed complaint that SCC, in managing the Phase II works to Leatherhead High Street, had not delivered value for money in the use of public funds in managing the works, and had acted without appropriate consultation with key stakeholders with regard to future plans to complete the works.

The Auditor replied “Following our discussions with officers, and a review of the relevant documentation pertaining to both the consultation on, and decision making processes implemented in respect of the Phase II works to Leatherhead High Street, we have concluded that there are no grounds on which we are minded to take action with regard to your complaint. ……..”

25th April 2003 Andy Cole wrote to the Auditor again questioning the reliability of the information provided by the Council, and giving detailed examples.

May 2003 Exhibition re MVDC proposals for the Red House Grounds and the Bull Hill depot site(both sites owned by MVDC). Leatherhead AHEAD made clear that if the Councils were interested in the well-being of Leatherhead (as they say they are) they must not consider either of these areas in isolation. Leatherhead is desperately short of parking of all types and this is the last remaining opportunity near the town centre to provide vital parking.

June 2003 Phase II Works ‘substantially complete’. The area will be open to the public during the week beginning 23rd June. Concrete wall cladding and final snagging will be carried out at a later date.

July 2003 A letter was published in the Leatherhead Advertiser from Leatherhead AHEAD making the comparison between the Phase II fiasco in Leatherhead and the closure of Pixham Lane and saying: “It is undoubtedly a fact that in the private sector, the incompetence and mismanagement displayed on both these projects would have resulted in the personnel involved being severely censured, or more probably dismissed. No evidence has yet been offered by the Councils involved that any such action has been taken in these cases.”

July 2003 Pixham Lane Dorking re-opened

July 2003 Mr Peter Stait (the Town Centre Manager) issued a press release quoting Mr Jon Rouse of CABE as saying that the town centre was transformed from a year ago. “There used to be twenty seven empty properties down there, now there are just three. There are flowers everywhere, the lighting’s improved, the pavement’s improved… it’s a completely different place.”

In mvnews (the official magazine of MVDC) the Council used the same press release and stated “A recent Radio 4 interview reported that Leatherhead town centre has been completely transformed over the last year with improved lighting and pavements, a vastly reduced number of empty properties and attractive floral displays. It is certainly looking a lot more lively and this trend looks set to continue.”

However, as CABE
have confirmed to us, this press release certainly did not tell the whole story. Leatherhead AHEAD checked with Mr Jon Rouse of CABE and he wrote back saying his comments had been heavily edited:

“Thanks for your letter of 21 July, following my comments on BBC1 and Radio 4.

A lesson of this particular episode is don’t believe everything you read in or hear on media. In both cases, my comments were heavily edited, so that they reflected extreme positions. The reality is that Leatherhead’s High Street was never the worst street in Britain; it was the worst of those that the BBC chose to show on that evening. Similarly, while it is true the High Street has improved significantly since last year, there is still an awful lot to be done. We have recently visited Leatherhead and have conveyed to the council all the different elements that we are still concerned about:

What I am certain of is that there is no point trading any more blows within the media. Any further progress will be achieved through partnership, and we therefore encourage LeatherheadAhead to work closely with the council to achieve further improvements as resources become available.

I think the best approach now is to adopt some individual projects, such as the area outside the theatre or the route from the station to the town centre and really work on some substantial improvements in the environment.”

See also BBC/CABE link on the left of your screen

October 2003 Phase II works “substantially complete” but snagging delayed until 2004 when the Christmas trading period was over.

December 2003 Leatherhead AHEAD Chairman Paula Sabine and Press Officer Wendy Reid met SCC Executive Councillor Helyn Clack (Transport) and SCC Councillor Bob McKinley to show them there were safety aspects of the ramps which needed attention. Document given that day to Cllrs Helyn Clack & Bob McKinley re safety aspects

December 2003 People are still signing our petition. We have 4,500 signatures.

next: 2004

last updated 5 May 2004