Leatherhead AHEAD: Leatherhead Phase 2 Works - Review Report
reply from SCC Chief Executive Mr Paul Coen to paper from Leatherhead AHEAD, 6 March 2004

29 March 2004

Dear Mrs Sabine

Leatherhead Phase Two Works - Review Report
Thank you for the report produced by your group. My colleague the Local Transportation Director for Mole Valley, Roger Archer-Reeves has gone through it and made some commentary against the items that you have raised. I attach a copy of his thoughts.

He would be happy to meet with you at a mutually agreeable time and date to go through it with you.

I do not hold with your view that the scheme "fails to achieve any of its principal declared objectives" I know from discussion with Members and colleagues that there is an ongoing debate between your organisation and others over this project, but it is worth noting that CABE have expressed praise for the changes to Leatherhead High Street since the unfortunate television programme and also my understanding is that nearly all the shops are now fully occupied and that there is a new town centre manager doing excellent work.

Yours sincerely
Paul Coen Chief Executive

Response to paper from Leatherhead AHEAD dated 6 March 2004
[editor's note: the layout has been adapted to work better on screen: the text is as in the reply]

Section from Report: Page 2 Environmental Implications
The quote made is not from the report quoted (16 February 2000), the Environmental Implications are item 12 not 16 and read as follows:
"The Environmental Enhancement Scheme incorporates high quality materials with creative design concepts and will significantly improve the physical environment. The design is particularly aimed at breaking down barriers and opening up accessibility for all".

Section from Report: Page 3 The Reality - Consultation
If Leather AHEAD refer to the report dated 16 February 2000, item 5, "Extensive consultation on the scheme proposals had taken place with local interest groups, including the Leatherhead Town Centre Forum and the Mole Valley Access Group".

The exhibition was open from the 21 October to the 30 October, this included two Saturdays so that members of the public who live in Leatherhead or the associated towns could visit outside of the normal working week.

The key is that over 1000 people visited the exhibition of which the negative comments in writing were no more than three dozen.

The exhibition was purely about Phase Two works, and for this process a scale model was constructed and acted as the centre piece.

It is unfair and unreasonable to say in the paragraph starting "When, two years" - the community of Leatherhead had every opportunity to visit a well run and published exhibition, it could not have been a surprise to anyone as there had been a Phase One to this project.

This report by Leatherhead AHEAD glimpses over the wider public meeting arranged by Surrey County Council on the 19 June and the use made of an impartial facilitator Professor John Whitelegg. Professor Whitelegg was commissioned to and did undertake a series of consultations with a range of local interest groups and key stakeholders, he then assimilated the background material and chaired the meeting on the 19 June. It would not be unreasonable to say the only group who then and still are articulate against the Phase Two Project is Leatherhead AHEAD.

The report from Professor Whitelegg had various recommendations for all parties, there were eight. One of the
recommendations was specifically for Leatherhead AHEAD:
"Leatherhead AHEAD is an energetic and dynamic group. It has all the ingredients needed to launch a new campaign designed to persuade residents to spend more money in the High Street. This would be in partnership with shops, Councils and businesses but does represent an excellent opportunity to apply real skills to the fundamental problems of Leatherhead." The reason for this recommendation being:
"Unless more local residents take on the responsibilities of defending their own High Street by spending more money in its own shops it will be lost. It is not enough to demand that someone else does something. The answer to Leatherhead's problems is very much in the hands of Leatherhead's citizens."

Section from Report: Pg3 Onwards - The Scheme
It is true that there were considerable and unexpected delays at the commencement of the contract due to underground services. It would be absolutely wrong to imply that the site was at any time unsafe etc.

The remarks regarding the gradient of the ramp are factually inaccurate. The gradient of the ramp is 1 in 20 minimum. The gradient of the road prior to the works beginning was 1 in 11.

It is again factually inaccurate to ay that the water feature element of the ramp was abandoned because it was "not technically feasible", the report said:
- The water feature has not proved popular with some members of the public and traders in the town.
- There are concerns that the water feature will become a target for vandalism and be difficult to maintain to a high standard once the works are complete
- There is a concern that the complex internal network of pipes will prove difficult to maintain

None of the reasons given mentioned that it was "not technically feasible".

The change to the project was not "fundamental", the change was the removal of the water element from the ramped feature.

It is again factually inaccurate to say imply that no consultation took place about the changes to the ramped feature. There were two meetings with local interest groups: one in Surrey County Council Office AO1 and another at The Theatre in Leatherhead. At both meetings Leatherhead AHEAD members were invited and came along. The range of invitees included all the local interest groups and representatives from the traders and churches etc. The only group at both meetings who voiced objections to the new proposals were Leatherhead AHEAD.

The issue of the energy supply to the new Travel Lodge has been discussed at some length, the following letter sent to the Dorking Advertiser picks up an all the issues:

Dear Editor
Mr Howarth letter last week ref: Travel Lodge
It is unusual in the extreme for me as a local government officer to put pen to paper in this way to a newspaper letter section, on this occasion I think that it is beneficial for all that the facts are presented to the wider community and not let misinformed views appear as being right.

Surrey County council along with Mole Valley District Council have been working together with Allied London to minimise disruption to the town of Leatherhead, but also and please do not forget this, to bring in a TravelLodge and other units. The Local Mole Valley Transportation Office of Surrey County has been talking with Allied London for approximately two years to attempt to synchronise the activities of bath organisations. With much regret it was not possible in the end to achieve this, largely due to the commercial pressures at work with this development.

Surrey County Council as the Highway Authority does not have the powers to stop the supply of energy etc to a customer, in this case the TravelLodge. Clearly the development requires: water, gas, electricity and communications etc. If agreement could have been reached earlier then it would have been possible to have had ducts laid in the road for communications and electricity, but not for gas or water. Even if the ducts had been laid for communications and electricity it still would have required two excavations at each end of the ducts to connect into the mains and the building etc. Up to approximately four weeks ago it was still not known by Allied London precisely the energy level required for the development and where precisely in the building it was required; I mention this to show that some basic criteria has only been recently established. Those readers in the development industry will know that this is not uncommon.

With regard to the housing development to the back of the TravelLodge development, the developer clearly wishes to maximise his development site. It is highly unlikely that any energy supplier (statutory undertaker) would be willing to lay services to a development that goes through another, without either an easement, or the services being on Public Highway. The energy suppliers always have a concern with regards to access of those services for repair and maintenance, clearly if services go through private land, or land where access for construction plant is difficult they are less than happy. In reality they will not supply. I must stress here that we are talking about the suppliers side of the meter.

In Mr Howarth's letter he says that the County Council should have insisted that Allied London do what he would like. The County Council does not have powers to insist. In many ways at present the County Council as the Highway Authority in its dealings with Statutory Undertakers is the weak partner. The County Council operates through it's limited powers as laid down in the New Road & Street Works Act 1991. This act is likely to be partially swept aside with the current Traffic Bill going through parliament, but at present the Highway Authority cannot insist.

I trust the above is of help and is clear. On a personal note I am very grateful to Peter Stait the last Town Centre Manager whose hard work has brought about a Town Centre that no longer has empty shops and would appear to be an the edge of a new renaissance, at least I hope so.

Yours sincerely
Roger E Archer-Reeves

Section from Report: Items 9 and 10
It is worth putting in context here the rationale for a feature at the end of the High Street:
- The Civic Trust Regeneration Unit (CTRU) produced a report in 1997 entitled "Leatherhead Town Centre - Regeneration Strategy and Action Plan" which laid down a vision for the future of the town. This vision included revamping the High Street, creating new focal points for the town and improving access for pedestrians, particularly those with disabilities.
- The CTRU report identified the cross roads of High Street, Church Street, Bridge Street and North Street as the logical focal paint for the town centre. It also recommended that a piece of public art be erected in this space.

Those recommendations have now been achieved.

No Surrey officers took part in the survey undertaken by Leatherhead AHEAD, nor were they invited so to do, the survey methodology etc is not known to us; it is therefore very difficult to pass comments upon its findings etc.

The Disability Group has not been in contact with the Local Transport Office over a report regarding safety.

The report from Leatherhead AHEAD says style is a "personal , subjective appreciation" and then goes on to make those sort of remarks.

Section from Report: Financial Implications
The figure quoted by Leatherhead AHEAD of 715,000 is the tender sum, the figure that has been in the public domain for some time is 750,000 for the total contract costs. Until the final account etc is resolved it is not right to have figures in the public domain while the contractor and the client are attempting to resolve issues.

Section from Report: Environmental Implications
The remarks in this section are largely comments based upon a personal view. To date there have not been many claims from members of the public claiming they have fallen on or off the steps etc. It is worth noting that the original feature installed when the cross roads were closed to traffic, did have a history of accidents, and this was a driver for the feature.

Section from Report: Conclusion
1. The water feature was not abandoned as it was technically unworkable.
2. There was no promise within this project of other retail outlets etc. However the town does have a new health club and a travel lodge along with a Argos is coming.
3. The ramped feature is not more dangerous.