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Chapter 10

Leatherhead town centre

INTRODUCTION

10.1 The vision for Leatherhead town centre is one of an attractive modest-sized multi-purpose centre that those living and working in the town, and the surrounding area, look to as a focus for their local shopping, business, entertainment and cultural needs.

10.2 In the 1980s the town centre experienced extensive change. Now there is a need to adjust and refine those changes to suit current and likely future public demands. This will include protecting the role and function of the town centre, improving accessibility and convenience, introducing a greater diversity of uses and enhancing the physical fabric. The town centre strategy provides the framework for the policies set out in this Chapter, and also other shopping and employment policies elsewhere in the Local Plan.

10.3 The future success of the town centre will depend upon an integrated approach to planning and transport issues. Consequently the strategy set out below includes highways and shopping proposals and policies.

STRATEGY

Traffic

10.4 Town centre accessibility and traffic circulation is to be improved as follows:

  • The opening up of the High Street to all vehicles one-way eastbound only in the late afternoons, evenings and on Sundays. This is designed to encourage more activity in the town centre at the end of the day. Service vehicles and the disabled already have access before 10.30 a.m. For the major part of the shopping day the High Street will remain pedestrian only, with the environmental benefits that brings.

  • A phased improvement of the one-way gyratory traffic system with initially two-way traffic between North Street and Leret Way and subsequently also the main part of Bull Hill to the north.

Car Parking

10.5 Shoppers' parking is to be given the highest priority in the provision and management of on and off-street car parking so as to enhance the attractiveness and competitiveness of the shopping centre. This may be at the expense of public long-stay car parking for commuters. This recognises the need to discourage the use of cars for journeys to work, and encourage the use of public transport and also reflects competing land use priorities. The following specific measures are proposed:

  • Additional surface shoppers' parking is to be sought as close as possible to the heart of the shopping centre and where necessary and feasible physical improvements are to be made to existing shoppers' car parks to make them easier and more pleasant to use.

  • Additional Saturday shoppers' parking is to be sought in larger town centre office developments.

  • The scope to redevelop the Randalls Road car park will be examined as part of a study of the Red House Grounds Area. Spare existing and potential future parking capacity exists at the railway station to meet rail-based travel needs.

Shopping

10.6 The Council is firmly committed to protecting and enhancing the vitality and viability of the town centre as a convenience and household goods shopping centre for the local community:

  • No further out-of-centre large new foodstores or retail warehouses are to be permitted that would undermine the above objective.

  • New retail development and investment is directed to the town centre. In particular,

    - the Fairfield/Cornhill site is allocated for a new retail store or cinema;

    - the adaptation and redevelopment of suitable shopping centre buildings for larger, more modern retail stores is to be encouraged;

    - the role of the street market is to be encouraged.

Diversity of Town Centre Uses

10.7 A greater diversity of uses will both attract more people to the town centre who may also do shopping, and result in a more lively centre out of shopping hours. The Plan gives encouragement to the introduction of more restaurants, cafés, entertainment facilities and housing by:

  • Lifting previous controls resisting the loss of shops in certain streets.

  • Encouraging mixed-use schemes.

  • Encouraging the provision of a new hotel on the Bull Hotel site, failing which considering as part of a study of the Red House Grounds area the scope to include a new hotel or leisure uses.

  • Encouraging the development of a multi-screen cinema.

  • The suitable provision of small-scale offices where there are no other priority use needs.

  • Encouragement of further dwellings, in mixed-use redevelopment schemes over existing shops, and in the conversion of buildings.

Environmental Enhancement

10.8 The Council will seek to enhance the character and appearance of the town centre by:

  • Continuing with the resurfacing and environmental enhancement of the High Street and Church Street in a way that instills a greater feeling of quality and distinctiveness in Leatherhead.

  • The more stringent control of shopfront and fascia design to create greater townscape interest and quality. External shop illumination will normally be permitted, but internally illuminated advertisements will be resisted.

  • Implementation of a properly designed and co-ordinated property lighting scheme to add warmth, interest and drama to the townscape after dark. Improvement of street and car park lighting levels.

  • Insistence upon a high quality of design for new buildings.

ROLE OF LEATHERHEAD TOWN CENTRE

10.9 Leatherhead town centre fulfils the valuable role of being the focus of many activities that together provide the essential identity and cohesion for the communities it serves. Whilst Ashtead, Fetcham and Bookham each have their own local centres, the range, choice and scale of shops, services, entertainment and other facilities are greater in Leatherhead and need to be protected in the community interest. They are collected together in a location that is the most accessible to public transport. A successful town centre with the services, facilities and focus it provides makes a significant contribution to the quality of life of the local communities.

10.10 The continued and evolving role of town centres is under threat from developments which seek to locate outside town centres. It is one of the purposes of the policy below to prevent such developments which would have a detrimental effect on Leatherhead town centre.

10.11 The Council established in 1994 a Town Centre Forum for Leatherhead in order to bring together those principally involved in, or with a particularly strong interest in, the town centre to achieve a more holistic approach. The Council recognises that it takes both the private and public sectors together with the voluntary sector, to produce and implement a concerted strategy to improve facilities in Leatherhead town centre. The Forum consequently develops and formalises the forging of a partnership between the Council and Surrey County Council, the Chamber of Commerce, retailers, business interests as well as local amenity and community bodies.

10.12 Additionally the Council in partnership with business interests, appointed a Town Centre Manager in 1996. The person is a point of contact, and co-ordinator between businesses, the public, statutory undertakers, the Council and Surrey County Council concerning the management, promotion and improvement of the town centre.

10.13 The planning policies and proposals of this Plan take into account the recommendations of the Civic Trust Regeneration Unit in their report to the Council published in January 1997.

POLICY NOT SAVED

POLICY LTC1 - ROLE OF LEATHERHEAD TOWN CENTRE

The role of Leatherhead town centre as the primary district location for shopping, social, cultural and community and commercial facilities will be promoted and proposals which would detract significantly from that role will not be permitted.

TRAFFIC

10.14 The town centre traffic system has been criticised for being too circuitous, taking motorists away from the shopping centre, for giving poor accessibility to shoppers car parks particularly from the Fetcham and Bookham direction and because of peak time congestion. Changes to the road system have been studied by the County Council in consultation with the District Council. Public consultation on options for handling the traffic were carried out in 1994 and 1995. However no clear preference on the options emerged.

10.15 Since the public consultation some improvement to traffic flows on the gyratory traffic system followed the improvement in 1998 of the Randalls Road and Station Road junction.

10.16 To improve the accessibility to Leret Way and the Swan Centre multi-storey car park from the Fetcham and Bookham direction and reduce some of the traffic on the gyratory system, highway works are proposed in the short distance between North Street and Leret Way to allow for two-way traffic. Traffic from the Fetcham and Bookham direction will then be able to use the more direct route of Bridge Street and North Street to Leret Way thereby avoiding the circuitous route of Waterway Road, Station Road, Randalls Road and Bull Hill.

10.17 In the longer term, not necessarily in the Plan period, it is intended to carry out works in Bull Hill and its junction with Randalls Road and Kingston Road to allow for two-way traffic between that junction and Leret Way. This will provide a more direct route from North Street and Leret Way to Kingston Road, avoiding much of the gyratory traffic system with consequent relief to those other parts of the gyratory system.

10.18 On another part of the gyratory traffic system at the Waterway Road/Station Road junction, land for minor junction improvements and facilities for cyclists has been safeguarded in the planning permission for the adjacent Post Office Sorting Office redevelopment scheme.

10.19 The Deposit Version of the Local Plan included a proposal for a low key, one-way traffic calmed northbound road link between Church Street and North Street. That scheme was abandoned in 1998 as it was concluded its usefulness was questionable and did not outweigh the conflict it would bring between pedestrians and vehicles within the shopping centre.

10.20 Proposals arising from the Leatherhead Movement Study have been incorporated in the Surrey Local Transport Plan. Beyond the proposals listed in Policy LTC2 they will not have any land use implications but are aimed at enhancing the attractiveness of buses and use of cycles as alternatives to the car. The land use policies of this Local Plan, including Policy LTC3 on car parking are consistent with the strategy and policies emerging from the Movement Study.

POLICY LTC2 - TOWN CENTRE HIGHWAY SCHEMES
The following highway schemes are proposed to be implemented:
  1. the opening up of the High Street to all vehicles one-way only in the late afternoons, evenings and Sundays with a continuation of the present access to service vehicles and disabled people before 10.30 am;
  2. the introduction of two-way traffic between North Street and Leret Way;
  3. the introduction of two-way traffic in Bull Hill between Leret Way and Randalls Road; and
  4. the improvement of the Waterway Road and Station Road junction.

10.21 It is the County and District Councils' view that the improvements described in 2, 3 and 4 of Policy LTC2 are required and should be safeguarded.

CAR PARKING

10.22 Town centre car parking takes two forms; short stay shoppers' parking and long stay parking for the business community. The relative priorities between the provision of shoppers' and long-stay parking can be varied by changes to the management of the car parks. For the success of the town centre the highest priority must be to provide for the demands of shoppers. Planning Policy Guidance Note 13 - Transport, emphasises the desirability of limiting parking for those working in town centres in order to encourage more journeys to work by public transport.

10.23 The physical fabric of the town centre and the competing demands for valuable space severely limits the scope to provide additional well- located car parking. Nevertheless the policies and proposals of this Plan together with the appropriate management of car parking will improve parking for shoppers and other visitors to the town centre within the limits of these constraints.

Improved Short-term Car Parking Facilities

10.24 Improvements to the multi-storey car park were carried out in 2000 to make it more attractive to use.

10.25 The provision of further shoppers' surface car parking will be investigated and if close to the shops and the financial circumstances allow, will be a high priority of the Council. The need for this form of shoppers' car parking is such that it may be necessary to override other planning aims. Further, the Council will seek, in larger office and commercial schemes, practical arrangements for the use of the on-site car parking spaces by weekend shoppers. There is also scope to improve the layout and appearance and ease of use of some of the car parks.

10.26 In order to give the public clearer information on the capacity and location of public car parks the Council will promote a comprehensive system of directional and capacity signage of public car parks.

Long-stay Car Parking

10.27 Public long-stay car parking in the town centre is not planned to be increased. This is consistent with national planning policy guidelines (PPG 13) for reducing the reliance on the private car for journey to work trips. The town centre is well-located in relation to rail and bus transport routes. However, an appropriate balance needs to be struck.

10.28 The existing Randalls Road long-stay car park of 162 spaces has in the past been occupied almost entirely by rail travellers. With the opening of a second station car park providing an additional 94 parking spaces and spare capacity in the main station car park combined with discouraging the use of car travel to work, development needs for other purposes may outweigh its continued use as a long-stay car park. (See Policy LTC7).

10.29 The County Council's current car parking standards are set out in 'A Parking Strategy for Surrey', which was published in November 1999 as interim Supplementary Planning Guidance. To encourage the changes of use to residential purposes and the development of small unit new housing on restricted town centre sites, the parking standards may be relaxed. In the case of business and industrial development, the parking provision should not exceed the maximum standards set out in 'A Parking Strategy for Surrey' to discourage car travel to work. Also, where appropriate, shared usage of the spaces by the public at weekends will be sought to enhance shoppers' parking provision.

POLICY LTC3 - CAR PARKING IN LEATHERHEAD TOWN CENTRE
In the provision and management of public car parking the priority will be to meet the demands of shoppers' parking rather than long-stay parking for the business community.
  1. Public town centre car parking will be improved by the following measures:
    1. Where a need is identified additional shoppers' surface car parking close to the shops will be provided, subject to the finance being available. The loss of shoppers' car parking to other uses will not normally be permitted.
    2. Further internal improvements in the Swan Centre multi-storey car park.
  2. In applying the Council's current parking standards to business and industrial development, including changes of use, account will be taken of:
    1. the developer's own requirements, subject to road safety and/or traffic management implications, and
    2. the accessibility of the location to means of transport other than the private car, and
    3. the possibility of commuted payments being made to assist in public transport provision, and
    4. the practicability of arrangements for the use of on-site car parking spaces by weekend shoppers.

SHOPPING

10.30 Policies relating to new foodstore provision, retail warehousing and to small scale extensions and redevelopments of existing shops are set out in Chapter 8 of this Plan.

DIVERSITY OF TOWN CENTRE USES

Encouraging Mixed-use Schemes

10.31 Although it is most important for Leatherhead to retain a vibrant and sufficient critical mass of shops there may now be an excess of shop premises that do not meet more modern retailer or public demands. The Local Plan responds to this by providing suitable opportunities for larger shops in any redevelopment of the Cornhill office site, or on land between 28-48 High Street. The Council agreed in 1999 to a redevelopment of the Cornhill site that included large new shops.

10.32 The Bull Hotel is the only hotel in Leatherhead but is very small with limited facilities. Local businesses have emphasised the urgent need for a new hotel and associated facilities in the town. It is important therefore to retain the Bull Hotel site in an hotel use. Indeed the Council considers that the redevelopment of the Bull Hotel is the most suitable site for a new hotel. Any proposals involving its redevelopment should therefore be restricted primarily to that use. Proposals for another use would be contrary to Policy REC20 and are likely to be resisted by the Council. (See also the section in this Chapter on the Red House Grounds Area.)

10.33 There appears to be scope for an appreciable increase in the number of dwellings in the town centre. Policy LTC10 strongly encourages this and its supporting text explains the advantages. The advantages of well-designed housing schemes may override the case for the retention of shops in certain parts of the town centre.

POLICY LTC4 - ENCOURAGING MIXED-USE SCHEMES
Outside the Prime Shopping Area (Zone 1) as defined in Policy LTC5 and identified on the Proposals Map, the adaptation or redevelopment of existing buildings will be encouraged to provide mixed uses including housing, restaurants, cafés, entertainment facilities, and community uses, provided:
  1. there are no significant problems of unneighbourliness;
  2. the proposal accords with Policy LTC5 and does not result in an excessive concentration of ground floor non-retail uses in any one section of shopping street frontage, that would undermine the retail vitality of the surrounding area.

Non-Retail Units

10.34 In the past the approach has been to preclude the introduction of any further non-retail units in the Prime Shopping Area (Zone 1). At the same time greater flexibility has been applied to the introduction of non-retail units in the secondary shopping areas. The underlying reasoning for this approach is that a shopping centre the size of Leatherhead needs to retain a strong core of retail floorspace in the heart of the centre in order to attract shoppers through its convenience of use, efficiency and quality of shopping.

10.35 This principle still remains valid. However, the Plan proposes to allow greater flexibility, first by enlarging the secondary shopping area where the requirements governing the introduction of non-retail units are not so stringent as in the Prime Shopping Area. Secondly by allowing the introduction of cafés and restaurants in the Prime Shopping Area or exceptionally other uses which have overriding community benefits.

10.36 The greater flexibility in this Plan towards the introduction of non-retail units recognises that the Prime Shopping Area of Leatherhead has, in reality, contracted and that suitable non-retail uses can attract people to the centre as part of linked trips. This approach is endorsed in Government planning advice (Planning Policy Guidance Note 6 - Town Centres and Retail Developments). The revised prime shopping area is proposed to cover Swan Court, the central stretch of the High Street and the northern extremity of Church Street.

10.37 The introduction of cafés and restaurants into the Prime Shopping Area can add vitality and interest especially in the evenings and if there is scope for sitting outside in a pedestrianised area. The same cannot be said for premises for financial and professional services (Class A2 of the Town and Country Planning Use Classes Order 1987), but they can attract large numbers of customers, who may also visit other shops. The premises are visually uninteresting to the shopper and they tend to dilute the appeal of a centre for the shopper. The Council wishes to guard against the harmful effects Class A2 uses can have. Therefore the first criterion in Policy LTC5 will be applied more strictly in the case of proposals for Class A2 uses than Class A3 uses (Food and drink).

10.38 There may be a community use that is best located in the shopping centre because it may itself draw more people to the centre and be of overriding community benefit. However, all the above will be exceptions to the Policy which otherwise will ensure that the established retail frontages in the Prime Shopping Area are not diluted.

10.39 Careful control of non-retail units is also needed in the secondary shopping areas to ensure that an undue concentration of such uses in any particular stretch is avoided. If these locations are to continue to provide premises for the smaller specialist shops which help to reinforce the shopping role of Leatherhead town centre, then a pool of such shops needs to be precluded from a change to higher rental or value uses.

POLICY LTC5 - NON-RETAIL UNITS
Proposals involving the loss of any ground floor shops (Class A1) to use for professional and financial services (Class A2) and/or food and drink (Class A3) will only be permitted in the Prime Shopping Area (Zone 1) of Leatherhead town centre, as identified on the Proposals Map, provided that:
  1. they would not result in a concentration of such uses, either in a part of or across the primary area as a whole, that would be harmful to the centre's vitality and viability as a district shopping centre;
  2. they would not otherwise have an unacceptable impact on the character, appearance or amenities of the area;
  3. they would not result, individually or cumulatively with existing premises, in nuisance and/or disturbance to neighbouring residents or in conditions prejudicial to road safety.
Developments involving a change to other uses will only be permitted if the new use would have overriding community benefits.
The Prime Shopping Area (Zone 1) comprises:
Swan Court 1-51 High Street
2-28 High Street
2 and 4 North Street
2-8 Church Street
1-3 Church Street
(north side)
(south side)
(east side)
(west side)
(east side)
Elsewhere in the shopping centre development involving Class A2 or Class A3 use will be permitted provided the following criteria are met:
  1. the proposal will not result in an excessive concentration or length of non-retail uses in any one section of street frontage that contains shops, to an extent that would be harmful to the retail function of that part of the centre;
  2. proposals for food and drink use (Class A3) will not be permitted where they would result in undue environmental nuisances of smell or activities affecting neighbouring properties or encourage parking in locations which would be detrimental to highway safety.

10.40 The expansion of an existing non-retail unit that displaces a neighbouring shop in the Prime Shopping Area will only very exceptionally be acceptable if there are no practical alternatives such as extensions to the rear, use of upper floors, or relocation and provided the improved facility makes a positive contribution to the shopping centre.

10.41 Outside the Prime Shopping Area the Policy is deliberately not prescriptive in terms of defining the maximum percentage of non-retail units along a given frontage, in terms of unit numbers or frontage distance, or the maximum number of non-retail units that can be clustered together. The circumstances of each case need to be considered against the overall intentions of the Policy, the location, the width of shop frontage concerned, and the effect upon the retail character of the street. However, rarely will the clustering of any more than two non-retail units be acceptable. Any endeavours the owner has made to let the premises as a shop and the availability of suitable vacant A2 or A3 uses elsewhere will be considered. At the same time consideration will also be given to the existing shop vacancy rate in the town, the realistic likelihood of the premises being occupied as a shop and the need to achieve interest and activity in the Prime Shopping Area.

10.42 While the specific use applied for may not be damaging in itself, the subsequent ability to change to certain other more damaging uses without the need for planning permission may justify in particular circumstances, the imposition of a planning condition restricting the proposed use within financial and professional services (Class A2) or food and drink (Class A3).

Loss of Non-Retail Uses Within Leatherhead Shopping Streets

10.43 Policy LTC5 provides for a sufficient and justified diversity of uses appropriate to the shopping streets. However, the Council does not consider other non-retail uses such as general offices are appropriate to shopping frontages. If Class A2 and Class A3 uses are allowed to be displaced by other uses which do not have to be located in shopping streets, the subsequent possible need for the replacement of those Class A2 and Class A3 uses may be seen as a reason for further losses of shops.

POLICY LTC6 - LOSS OF NON-RETAIL UNITS IN LEATHERHEAD SHOPPING STREETS
In Leatherhead shopping streets the loss of any ground floor units used for financial and professional services (Class A2) or food and drink (Class A3) to any use other than a shop or residential will not normally be permitted.
The change of use from premises for financial and professional services (Class A2) to food and drink (Class A3) may be acceptable provided no significant problems of neighbourliness or parking would result.

Red House Grounds Area

10.44 This area lies between Station Road, the railway embankment, Randalls Road and Bull Hill. It comprises the Red House Grounds themselves and a maintenance depot and area used for open storage. It also includes a former hard tennis court, the Red House annexe building, Red House Cottage and the Station Road and Randalls Road public car parks. All the land is in Council ownership and the main buildings and yard are surplus to the Council's requirements.

10.45 It is considered that there would be major benefits in replanning the Red House Grounds Area in a way that would be beneficial to the town centre in economic and environmental terms. The Council will therefore undertake a detailed study as to how this could be achieved.

10.46 In this regard, subject to more detailed study, there may be scope to replace the Randalls Road car park which had mainly been used by rail travellers, taking into account the level of use of the railway station car park.

10.47 Local businesses have emphasised the importance of a new hotel and associated facilities in Leatherhead. As set out in para.

10.32, the Council considers that the redevelopment of the Bull Hotel is the most suitable site for a new town centre hotel and any redevelopment of the site should be restricted primarily to that use. If a new hotel is not achieved on that site, or any other site in the locality, the Red House Grounds Area appears to offer the most suitable alternative. It is close to the town centre and the railway station and near the local business community. The Government's Planning Policy Guidance Note 6 - Town Centre and Retail Developments, advises that uses which attract a lot of people should preferably be located in town centres. Edge-of-centre followed by out-of-centre sites should only be contemplated if no town centre sites are available.

POLICY NOT SAVED
POLICY LTC7 - RED HOUSE GROUNDS AREA
The Council will progress a detailed study of the Red House Grounds Area to propose a comprehensive plan for the development and rearrangement of uses. This will include investigation of the scope for an hotel or leisure uses, retention of some public car parking, an improved public open space of similar size and the provision of cycle and pedestrian routes. If an hotel or suitable leisure uses cannot be achieved on this site, or the need for them is satisfied locally elsewhere, the Council will promote the site as an improved public open space and for uses which will benefit Leatherhead.

10.48 The detailed study referred to in the above Policy will include the following:

  • an assessment of open space provision in the Leatherhead area;

  • the feasibility of improvement and expansion of the Red House Grounds public open space without other development;

  • the impact of the loss of the Randalls Road car park;

  • the possible impact of development on local residents; an assessment of other possible locations for an hotel.

Cinema Development

10.49 Entertainment in Leatherhead was largely provided by the Thorndike Theatre until its closure in 1997. Although not the same, there would be significant entertainment benefits to the local communities from the provision of a cinema. The most sustainable location is the town centre, which would most closely accord with Government planning advice, by being the most accessible to public transport and other facilities which could be combined in one visit. Its presence would help revitalise and give evening life to the town centre. Policy LTC9 allocates the redevelopment of the Cornhill site for a multi-screen cinema. An out-of-town centre location will be resisted.

POLICY NOT SAVED
POLICY LTC8 - CINEMA DEVELOPMENT
Proposals for multi-screen cinema development will only be permitted in or on the edge of the town centre.

Business Development

10.50 The business development policies are set out in Chapter 7 of this Plan. Policy E7 deals specifically with business development in Dorking and Leatherhead town centres. In Leatherhead the presence of a significant number of business users in and around the town centre assists in supporting its vitality and viability. However, a balance has to be struck between these advantages and concern for the protection of the character of the town centre and the impact of peak hour car travel on surrounding roads. In recent years, business development in Leatherhead has been substantial. Much further business use development is inappropriate. So far as Leatherhead town centre is concerned, business development is defined as encompassing offices and premises for research and development.

Redevelopment of Fairfield/Cornhill Site, Leret Way, Leatherhead

10.51 Cornhill Insurance offices and car park on the Fairfield site occupy a key town centre location that is ripe for redevelopment. It runs from Leret Way to the High Street and Swan Centre and is adjacent to the multi-storey car park. The site has under-performed for this location and its frontage to Leret Way is poor. The whole site was identified by the Civic Trust Regeneration Unit and in this Plan as presenting an important opportunity to assist in the revitalisation of Leatherhead.

10.52 As any new retail development should be met in the retail centre of Leatherhead the site is allocated for a large new retail store or multi-screen cinema which may possibly incorporate some retail or associated development. The site has considerable presence onto Leret Way where there is scope to improve its appearance and character and make the presence of the shopping centre more evident from the town centre traffic circulatory system.

10.53 Any redevelopment must respect the scale, character and views of the adjoining Conservation Area and also preserve the setting of Listed Buildings in Gravel Hill.

POLICY NOT SAVED
POLICY LTC9 - REDEVELOPMENT OF FAIRFIELD/CORNHILL SITE, LERET WAY, LEATHERHEAD
The Fairfield/Cornhill site is allocated primarily for a new retail store development or alternatively, primarily for a multi-screen cinema. Other mixed uses within such a scheme would be acceptable including residential, offices or leisure.

Housing

10.54 Houses and flats give life and variety to town centres and can assist in security after dark. Some people, especially the elderly and young, like the convenience of a town centre home. Consequently, this Plan actively encourages the retention and provision of further town centre houses which make a valuable contribution to the range of dwellings available in the housing stock. Indeed Policy LTC4 encourages mixed-use schemes, to include housing. Existing residential accommodation needs to be retained against the commercial pressures for changes to other uses.

10.55 Some accommodation over shops is not used to its best advantage and where this is identified the Council approaches owners to promote a residential use. In an area of relatively high house prices, this form of accommodation which is often rented, assists in providing much-needed lower-cost housing particularly for younger people out at work during the day. The Council will consequently encourage owners to use floors above shops for residential use, possibly for their own staff. Property owners with vacant accommodation over shops or indeed elsewhere in the town centre, may wish to contact the Council for information, including possible grants, on the "Living Over The Shop" project.

10.56 Policy HSG1 resists the loss of any existing residential accommodation throughout the District. This Policy will be particularly rigorously applied in Leatherhead town centre even when due to the location and size of the dwelling its amenities may be considered substandard. However in the interests of securing much-needed, conveniently located, shoppers' surface car parking an exception to this Policy may be justified.

POLICY LTC10 - ADDITIONAL TOWN CENTRE HOUSING
Further residential accommodation in Leatherhead town centre will be strongly encouraged particularly in the conversion of accommodation over shops and in mixed-use developments.

TOWN CENTRE ENHANCEMENTS

10.57 The enhancement and resurfacing of the pedestrianised High Street was commenced in 1999 as a first phase of a wider and longer-term project to upgrade the shopping streets, and also, in so doing, attract private investment in the centre. The District and County Council plan to extend and complete the project into Church Street.

10.58 Associated with the project is a tree planting and lighting scheme. Special consideration will be given to the needs of disabled people especially as many of the residents of the SeeAbility (Royal School for the Blind) and from other institutions in the area frequent these shopping streets.

10.59 The main approaches to the town centre are proposed to be marked by well-designed welcoming gateway features, probably in metalwork, to give the visitor a positive first impression. The railway bridges at Guildford Road and Randalls Road offer suitable such opportunities and the appearance of both are to be upgraded as part of planning benefits associated with neighbouring office schemes. Gateway signage on a similar theme is intended to be repeated on the other main approaches.

POLICY NOT SAVED

POLICY LTC11 - THE HIGH STREET AND CHURCH STREET ENHANCEMENT AND RESURFACING SCHEME

The Council in association with Surrey County Council will promote a resurfacing scheme for the High Street with a more attractive traditional design and materials and allowing for a traffic-calmed one-way road link from Church Street through to North Street.

Improving the Appearance of Existing Buildings

10.60 More attractive buildings may encourage greater use of the centre and in turn further investment and improved facilities. Therefore in addition to enhancing the pedestrianised streets the Council will seek to upgrade the appearance of Leatherhead town centre by offering enhancement grants and through the control of new developments. There are relatively few unattractive buildings which are likely to require substantial refurbishment over the Plan period. However, where they do exist their redevelopment or sensitive facelift will be encouraged.

10.61 The character and appearance of the shopping streets outside the Swan Centre is marred by a number of ugly, often standardised shopfronts and garish fascias. Policy ENV38 indicates the Council will take discontinuance action against advertisement displays that are sufficiently harmful to the amenity of the Conservation Area. Such action will only be taken after discussion with the Town Centre Forum, and where efforts to secure changes through agreement have been unsuccessful.

10.62 Scope exists to present a better frontage to the town centre from Leret Way. The multi-storey car park could be improved incorporating better pedestrian access to the Swan Centre. A part of the main supermarket adjoins Leret Way and might also offer scope for a higher profile frontage.

10.63 A properly designed illumination scheme can add warmth, interest and drama to the townscape after dark. With such a scheme the more interesting buildings, architectural features and even trees can be emphasised. The Council intends to explore the implementation of such a scheme with property owners and through the Town Centre Forum. The enhancement works to the High Street and Church Street are intended to include enhanced levels of street lighting.

POLICY LTC12 - IMPROVING THE APPEARANCE OF EXISTING BUILDINGS
The Council will take the following action to seek the improvement of the appearance of the buildings in Leatherhead town centre:
  1. offer advice on the improvement of the appearance of buildings and in selected areas to be agreed, approach owners and offer grants for agreed facelift schemes including those involving shopfronts and fascias;
  2. negotiate the removal and more sensitive replacement of advertisements and shop fascias that damage the character of the Conservation Area and where agreement cannot be reached for their substitution by more sensitive replacements, take discontinuance action in accordance with Policy ENV38;
  3. encourage the redevelopment of unattractive buildings. Where redevelopment of such buildings is impractical, any proposals to extend their life, including changes of use, will be assessed against any associated proposals to improve their appearance;
  4. provide a co-ordinated and properly designed lighting scheme for existing buildings of townscape merit.

Design of New Buildings

10.64 Leatherhead town centre has been subject to much new development. In any redevelopments beyond current commitments the opportunity will be taken to reinforce the character of Leatherhead. If reproduction designs are adopted they must be faithful in their detailing and not be superficial. Modern designs may be acceptable but they will need to be sensitively executed, courteous to their surroundings and well proportioned. Any larger-scale redevelopments that arise should be subdivided into a number of smaller components or uses in order to reflect the physical fabric and townscape of Leatherhead.

POLICY LTC13 - DESIGN OF NEW BUILDINGS
The design of new buildings will be required to reinforce the character of Leatherhead town centre through:
  1. respect for the bulk, proportions and character of the surrounding development;
  2. where applicable, reflection of the architectural proportions of any attractive traditional neighbouring buildings, the incorporation of well-designed detailing, and normally the use of natural external building materials.
The need for the retention and, if necessary, the restoration of any buildings or other features which by association, design or use have a significance for the local community, will also be considered in proposals involving redevelopment.

The River Mole

10.65 The River Mole is an asset to the town centre and one of its main attributes is the tranquillity and relatively unspoilt nature of the islands to the south of Leatherhead Bridge. The absence of any public access to the islands assists in the preservation of the wildlife and appearance of this area. Nevertheless, it can be appreciated from the footpaths to Mansion Gardens and the longer route on the other side of the bank leading down to Thorncroft Manor and beyond. It lies within a Site of Nature Conservation Importance and the Council has no plans to open up greater public accessibility to the islands but to retain them as natural and as quiet as possible.



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