Moving our town forward together
P.O. Box 240, Leatherhead, Surrey KT22 8YQ Phone: 01372 378604
24 February 2004
Letter to Mr Paul Coen, Chief Executive, Surrey County Council
Dear Mr Coen
Completion of Phase 2 works - Review
Leatherhead AHEAD, along with other groups, residents and shoppers in Leatherhead are relieved that the works at the crossroads in Leatherhead have at last been completed. As accountability should be an important part of Council Officers and Councillors responsibilities, it seems reasonable to factually evaluate this particular project in more detail.
Despite considerable local opposition the works commenced end of March 2002 with a scheduled completion date of some 6 months later. However, the works actually took 20 months, an overrun of 14 months, which has caused great inconvenience and disruption to all living in and carrying out business in the Town.
The original scheme, involving the installation of a water feature, was not completed as apparently it was not technically feasible. This brings into question the project management for this scheme, highlighted recently by the announcement that further disruption will take place in the High Street.
Consultation on the revised Phase 2 scheme was explicitly refused. Instead the plans were shown to specific residents on a this is what we are doing attitude.
The net result is a ramp and structure which is potentially hazardous, is not being used by the disabled nor mothers/fathers with prams nor the elderly carrying heavy loads, and has created a barrier which makes access to and the visibility of the High Street even more restrictive.
The original cost of the Phase 2 works, which included the provision of the water feature, was given as £650,000, later amended to be £715,409 (including £100,000 from MVDC and £114,000 from SCC), and then £750,000. It is a reasonable assumption that the overrun of a project by 14 months, would result in a larger expenditure.
Leatherhead AHEAD opposed the Phase 2 works because they did not address the main problems influencing the prosperity of this much loved town, namely access and parking. Our view and that of our many supporters has not changed in that regard.
We have been told repeatedly that the bulk of the monies employed on the Phase 2 works are Section 106 money (Developers contributions), which had to be spent on these works. However, at an Environment Committee meeting, Section 106 money was re-allocated for the use of Town Centre Management. Presumably, therefore the Phase 2 Section 106 money (at least £500,000), together with the money from MVDC and SCC, could have been redeployed to address the problems of access and parking as well as providing help for the disabled to access the High Street from Bridge St/North St.
We welcome the new retail and service outlets that have opened in the town, but want to ensure that they stay.
In the immediate future the prime responsibility of the Councils must be to ensure urgently that the new ramp structure is safe, and an independent inspection and report by Health and Safety experts, must be carried out.
At a time when Council Tax is seen to be escalating at an alarming rate (almost 20% in the year 2003/4) we call upon Surrey County Council to disclose the final auditable cost of the phase 2 works, broken down into detailed cost elements.
I look forward to hearing from you.
cc Leatherhead Advertiser, Surrey Advertiser, Heather Kerswell (MVDC), Roger Archer-Reeves (SCC), Mole Valley Local Committee members, MVDC Leatherhead Councillors.
Leatherhead Ahead - 24 February 2004