- A whole page was devoted to the on going debate about the River Mole Project. Most of the page was taken by LRA protesting about the improvements. A small section at the end of the page was given over to MVDC to defend their position. This information was already available on the LRA Blog.
- Page 6 carried an item on plans by Unilever to temporarily use temporary town centre parking spaces. Comments from both MVDC and the LRA were given.
- Three letters were published regarding the River Mole Project.
- Two letters were published regarding the Leatherhead Leisure Centre.
The Local Development Framework (LDF) will form the core of the council’s strategy for life in MVDC for the next 20 years, so now is the time to make your views known! If you don’t then you cannot complain about it afterwards.
Thursday 5th June is your last chance to make your views known on MVDC’s Local Development Framework in person at the council’s offices at Pipbrook in Dorking.
If you can’t make it in person, you have until the 20th June to do it via the website.
I am sorry that people have been upset by the proposals that we are implementing along the river. I hope that what I say will give you some confidence that what we are doing is not going to cause the damage you fear and that the new path will fit well with its surroundings.
I will start with an explanation of why we have embarked on this project. A couple of years ago the local community undertook a consultation to examine the projects that people would like to see happen in Leatherhead. It was known as the Leatherhead Health Check. If you have access to the internet you can follow the thinking on www.leatherheadtomorrow.co.uk. One important project taken up by community representatives was the desire to improve access to the river for a range of possible users, especially disabled people. The path between the Town Bridge and the Thorncroft Bridge is promoted as a disabled friendly route, but it is far from satisfactory for this purpose.
The paths along the river are in various stages of disintegration. At the Town bridge end this is a rather horrible concrete path and there are other environmental improvements that could be done at the same time to enhance the natural qualities of the path. The middle section has all but disappeared under grass and there is no usable surface. The final section to the Thorncroft Bridge was surfaced about 10 years ago and has lasted well, but it is deteriorating and will need attention. This path was laid down at just over 2 metres wide.
The path surface we will put down will enable all users to pass along an all weather surface, winter or summer. It will be suitable for cyclists linking two off road routes to Fetcham and towards Dorking. The appearance and make up of this surface has been the subject of some discussion. Let me assure you that it is a material that will look good. The surface is largely made up of buff coloured chippings and so it will look like a smooth gravel path. The width of path will be no more that 2.2 metres, which is just a bit wider than the path that was laid to the Thorncroft Bridge . In places, where the path naturally narrows, the width will be reduced to accommodate existing features. This material is resistant to flooding and has been used along tow paths and other countryside locations. We will also replace and add seats manufactured by the Norbury Park Sawmills so that people have places where they can rest along the route. I am happy to confirm that no trees are being removed during the work.
There is natural concern about the impact on wildlife. We have, therefore, taken advice on this from the ecologist and fisheries officer at the Environment Agency, and one or two others with expertise. We also had to undergo a rigorous consent procedure for this work operated by the Environment Agency which looked at a whole range of possible impacts from water pollution, flood risk and environmental impact. This consent would not have been issued if there was serious danger of damaging wildlife habitats. Since the recent concern, we have consulted further with our colleagues at the Agency and they confirm that there is no reason not to proceed with these works from an environmental point of view. We are not excavating lower than the existing paths and we are employing a contractor who is skilled in countryside work.
We have worked with the Leatherhead and District Countryside Protection Society on this project and they are, indeed, helping to fund it. It is perfectly understandable that there is concern about this lovely area, but we feel that we are only restoring a well used path with a very good material and in doing so, other less advantaged people will be able to enjoy it too
Finally, there has been much discussion about access for the disabled at the Throncroft Bridge end. The gate with a radar key is intended for large off-road mobility vehicles. All other standard wheel chairs will be able to use the kissing gate. The wheelchair user pictured in the Dorking Advertiser will have no difficulty using the path and should, indeed find it easier.
We would welcome feedback when the work is complete. I hope they will be favourable, although it will take a season or two for the vegetation to grow up and the path to weather in. I hope you will be patient with us and understand that a great deal of thought and expertise has gone into the work.
Mole Valley District 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.
Surrey Police presented the following report (click to enlarge):
Residents at the meeting requested further information about the No Cold Calling Zone to be implemented in Bookham, Fetcham & Ashtead. Fran Davey stated that the zone would be first implemented in areas where the problem is most acute and individuals most vulnerable. It would then be implemented in Leatherhead.
Residents requested further patrols by the riverbank in light of the recent mugging.
Remember: the police cannot act unless an incident is reported.
LRA members managed to secure the editorial slot to voice concerns over the River Mole Project. The project run my MVDC plans to to build a 2.5m through the nature reserve close to Thorncroft Bridge, Leatherhead.
A number of letter to the editor on the proposed footpath were also published.
Dave Smith’s Article from this months LL:
The Leatherhead Residents Association continues to increase our number of members and as this happens improvements to our operations also continue. Our first newsletter to members has been issued and we are hoping to start work on the second ready for Summer. Web site address www.leatherheadresidents.org.uk
To become a member please complete the details at the membership form and return to us with your fee of £2 for a year or £5 for three years. We will then issue you with a membership card and further information on how you will benefit from joining.
Thank you to all who attended the St George’s Day celebrations in the town and those who signed up for membership to the LRA.
No news yet on the Town Centre Forums from MVDC and as reported last month most projects’ have been put on hold in favour of spending large sums of money on our roads. I am sure you have noticed!
Surrey County Council advise that 35 major maintenance schemes are planned for Surrey and they have a FREE email service for notification of when these will start.
You can also comment on any concerns you have with MVDC by going to http://www.molevalleyviewpoint.co.uk and letting them know, particularly about the new proposed waiting restriction schemes due to take effect in Leatherhead. They seem to be interested which is good news.
Our way of increasing membership is the very important role of Road Steward and Leatherhead has many roads. The fairly straightforward role is described below.
The network of road stewards is the main way of maintaining a high level of membership, which is vital if the Leatherhead Residents’ Association is to represent the views of the residents to such bodies such as the local council.
The duties we ask of the Road Stewards are as follows:
1. Introduce yourself as our Road Steward and collect subscriptions (we will provide letters).
2. Deliver a newsletter 2 – 3 times a year to members of the Leatherhead Residents’ Association.
3. Maintain details of members in your road(s) on the form provided.
4. Forward money collected to the Treasurer.”
If you would like to give it a go please contact
In a continuation of the discussion on Publicity, I propose the following:
A number of local traffic islands (roundabouts) are sponsored by local businesses. The LRA should also consider this also. A simple sign with the logo and the web address would suffice. Currently the M25 J9 (Chessington side) has no sponsorship.
Could the Committee officer with Highways portfolio look into this? I suspect SCC Highways would be the first port of call.
The www.greenmoleforum.org is your resource if you are interested in improving the sustainability and preserving the beauty of Mole Valley.
It provides news and information and is a hub connecting and networking local groups working towards the common aim of reducing our environmental footprint.
Do you want £12.6 million of your Council Tax Money Spent to Profit a Private Leisure Organsisation???
This is exactly what Mole Valley is Considering. Despite the fact that on November 2005 all MVDC residents were surveyed over the future of the Leatherhead Leisure Centre (LLC) and the resounding decision was to refurbish an keep the facility in house with the existing management, not privatisation!!
Not only that, but YOUR council tax money was spent on two expensive and detailed consultants reports in Nov 2002 and Dec 2006 both detailing that MVDC should set up their on leisure trust, in house.
Now MVDC are spending 12.6 million of YOUR MONEY to refurbish LLC, and then may give it to a private organisation to reap the profits and the benefits for the next 15 years.
If you feel strongly about this and would like to comment please contact your local councillor.
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