Riverside Walk Update

Report on the meeting with the Mole Valley Council.
Friday 30th May 2008.

The Leatherhead Residents Association responded to concerns brought by some of its members about the Riverside Walk development plans sponsored by Leatherhead Area Partnership (LAP) on lands owned by Mole Valley District Council. In response to these concerns, eight LRA members including three committee members met with MVDC Director Richard Burrows and three of his staff to present a number of objections to the present plan. Also in attendance was Simon Cowell from the Surrey Wild Life Aid and Heather Ward of the LAP. David Blackmore, newspaper reporter from the Leatherhead Advertiser, was not permitted to join the meeting. There was no formal minute or note taker, but the MVDC Director took notes.

Council Conservation Officer Rod Shaw and Heather Ward, who led the Conservation portion of the Leatherhead Tomorrow Health Check, have liased over many months on this MVDC scheme. The plan is to widen the existing path from Leatherhead Bridge across the meadow and through the nature reserve to Thorncroft Bridge to make it the width of many country lanes in the Mole Valley. The pathway will also connect to the football field / carpark. The plan is for 715 metres of pathway 2.5 metres (8 feet) wide to be constructed along the riverside. The path will require an aggregate base 20 centimetres deep for the laying of the Fibredec and bitumen topping.

As at the time of the meeting, the Director had not visited the site due to pressures of work. One of the Leatherhead Councillors has expressed the view that the location is too intimidating to even visit and examine the issues. Another councillor did not have
a schematic drawing at the time the plan was put before the River Access group.

A good discussion took place over a two and a quarter hours chaired by the Council Director. A number of related issues were discussed, particularly on the lack of effective communication by the Council with Leatherhead residents. In particular, the detailed plans were never highlighted at the Town Centre Forum nor the Leatherhead Area Partnership meeting, nor even on the LAP website.

Each LRA member spoke on their area of expertise or of their special concern. The meeting was opened by LRA member Barry Davies, river bailiff, who gave reasons why this 8-feet wide path should not be constructed through the narrowest and most sensitive part of a nature reserve, especially during wildlife breeding season.

The MVDC director stated that the works contract has already been signed. However, neither the contract nor the project budget or specifications were available at the meeting with the LRA or at an earlier Council meeting. The MVDC Director stated that the expected cost of the project is approximately £61,000, but various figures have been stated and the budget is not clear. The Fibredec and bitumen topping will cost an estimated £21,000. A version of the budget seen earlier by an LRA committee member did not seem to include the cost for the aggregate base.

The residents do not have major objections to the path as planned from Leatherhead Bridge (150 m) and turning right across the meadow to the football car park. LRA’s only reservation is about the wisdom of mixing young children with speeding bicycles on the path. This will be a matter for the Council to resolve if there are accidents.

The residents have more objections to the section of the planned pathway through the narrow and most sensitive part of the nature reserve. Objections raised by LRA members at the meeting may be summarised as follows: –

The construction process will be lengthy and noisy. Among other problems, the construction will seriously disrupt the wildlife summer breeding season, including the swans that have just returned to the area and the kingfishers.

The planned pathway through the most sensitive part of the nature reserve is inappropriately wide and out of keeping for the narrow setting.

The original purpose of the project was to enable families and people with disabilities to have greater access to enjoy the riverway. The pathway plans, however, will facilitate cyclists to travel at fast speeds on the path, with limited visibility around trees etc, putting pedestrians at risk.

A planned large metal “kissing gate” at the Thorncroft Bridge entrance would be needed as a barrier to motorcycles and cars. This unsightly barrier, along with other artificial constructions, are planned for the section of the riverway with the most natural beauty. Moreover, similar “kissing gates” are being removed from other areas around the country because they provide less accessibility for some disabled individuals!

A 40-square metre area of meadow (including flowers, etc) would be covered with Fibredec, like the pathway.

The existing litter, beer can and bottle problem will increase.

The pathway project will create even more of a haven for the homeless from the nearby Pitstop refuge and may increase the vandalism of public property (damage to benches, fires, etc).

The construction costs and method are not transparent.

The LRA committee members attending would like to acknowledge and thank all those who signed the petition in support of their fellow residents who have given of their time to try to preserve the last part of rural Leatherhead. Over 300 people played their part in local democracy by signing the petition. Petition signing took place on the pathway, at Corbetts Bookshop, at Martin’s Newsagents, and at other locations.

In conclusion the Leatherhead Residents Association would like to place on record its thanks to Council Director Richard Burrows for his courteous reception and his expertise in gathering information at the meeting on 30th May 2008.

Proposed New No Cold Calling Area – Bookham/Fetcham/Ashtead

Proposed New No Cold Calling Area – Bookham/Fetcham/Ashtead – information from Ashtead Residents Association.

Surrey Trading Standards and Surrey Police are currently working together to look at ways of reducing the levels of distraction burglary and doorstep related crime within Surrey. With this in mind we are considering introducing a No Cold Calling Zone in the Bookham/Fetcham/Ashtead area.

No Cold Calling Zones previously established in Guildford, Maybury and Horley, have shown great reductions in this type of crime by raising residents’ awareness and empowering them to be more confident when dealing with unwanted doorstep callers.

They help to reduce the number of callers that residents receive as the zones have No Cold Calling Zone road signs erected at various entry points which act as visible deterrents to businesses. In addition, residents will receive a ‘No Cold Calling Household Pack’, which will include a door sticker for you to display and information on how to deal with uninvited
callers safely.

During the initial phase of this process we want to be able to consider all points of view about the proposed zone, and are especially interested in the views of residents and local businesses that may be affected.

Therefore we would like to take the opportunity to welcome all views, comments and opinions from members of the public on the proposed new zone.

To give us your views please contact Mr Amir Ali on amir.ali@surreycc.gov.uk or telephone him on 01372 371 775.

For information on the zones and how they work please go to the Surrey County Council website Trading Standards pages on www.surreycc.gov.uk/tradingstandards.

Please note that this public consultation will close on 15 June 2008 and after this we cannot guarantee your views will be considered when making our final evaluation.

I wonder why Leatherhead is not included in this? A question has been sent to Trading Standards.

Town Centre Parking Suggestion

One possible solution to the problems of day time parking, would be for local business to club together and lease to top floor of the Swan Centre.  Employees would then have this option open to them and would save them the hassle of trying to find a spot on the Epsom Rd or Winfield.  A similar system is used in Staines by Samsung.

Church Street

I have looked at the plans (they are available in the Help Shop) and have the following comments:

1. It will be nice to see the pavements and road surface renewed, but …
2. Accessability to the town by lorry or even large van could be impeded by the strong curve in the road around the “civic space.”
3.It is a real shame that the three established trees should have to go, that the 8 that are to be planted are all down one end and that there is no shade planned for the semi-circle in front of the theatre.
4. Are the bollards there to stop people parking on the pavement? I am not sure of their function.
5.Although the outside eating areas for the café and the restaurant will be pleasant, I am concerned that other, similar businesses in the town have been denied that luxury!
6. Finally, and no doubt a small point, but I could not understand why traffic lights were drawn on the draft plans outside Canons, as opposed to Gascoigne-Pees.
7. I would also have liked to have seen a lot more flower beds, as we have at the moment.

Council moving from democracy

Peter Seaward, chairman of Bookham Residents’ Association, has kindly given our Association to publish this copy of the letter which appeared in last week’s Leatherhead Advertiser:


The letter published in the Advertiser on December 13 from Councillor Malcolm Johnson titled “More transparency and a lot less talk” omitted to record the fact that the focus groups he refers to consisted of a total of just 18 people, according to the ABA report.

From a Mole Valley population of 80,000, this is hardly enough to justify the undemocratic changes now being enacted.

The words below are comments from John Pagella, deputy chairman of the Bookhams Residents’ Association and reflect the disappointment and disillusionment felt by our organization, and, I suggest, other similar bodies in the Leatherhead area over this whole process:

“There is a sad inevitability about the whole process.   Increasingly, our public life today is managed as a parallel world for the convenience and satisfaction of those within, with little real understanding or regard for the attitudes and day-to-day concerns of the wider population outside that it is meant to represent.

“Consultation is managed on their terms and regard for local opinion is invariably confined to accepting the views they hear when it coincides with what they intend to do, and ignoring those views for the rest of the time.

“Will forums add anything?   I rather doubt it.   

“If our elected representatives paused for a moment, they might reflect on the fact that residents’ associations locally have greater democratic legitimacy than they do.   Our membership in Bookham covers about 50% of the population.   We count our membership in thousands.   They manage to get elected on votes in the hundreds.   It would be nice to get back to the days when the former Leatherhead Council was run on non-political lines.   I can’t see it happening, I’m afraid.”

Peter Seaward,  Chairman of the Bookhams Residents’ Association, Atwood, Little Bookham.