Claire House and James House are two office buildings located at the corner of Bridge Street and opposite the entrance to Minchin Close, overlooking the River Mole. The site benefits from a fantastic south-facing orientation overlooking the river and the town bridge which in turn acts as a gateway to Leatherhead from the south west. The site was marketed for sale and Mole Valley District Council acquired it in 2015 as part of its then emerging strategy to transform Leatherhead town centre. The Transform Leatherhead team recognised that the Claire House and James House site formed a unique opportunity for an exciting high-quality mixed use development, with the potential to unlock an under-utilised area of natural beauty along the riverside and close to the town centre.
In 2016, the Transform Leatherhead Masterplan was formally adopted. The Masterplan identified a number of core areas for significant regeneration within the town centre. One of these areas was identified in the Masterplan as the ‘Riverside Quarter’, comprising the river frontage at the bottom of Bridge Street and the surrounding buildings including Claire House and James House.
Public consultations, market research and expert advice all played an important part in creating the Masterplan vision for Leatherhead town centre:
“Friendly vibrant and lively, Leatherhead is a modern market town where people of all ages can shop, eat, relax and have fun by the riverside”.
Approved outline planning proposal
The proposal is to demolish the existing outdated Claire House and James House office buildings and replace them with a high quality design building which respects and sits harmoniously with the existing heritage assets.
The redevelopment will provide for a mix of uses that will create a vibrant addition to Leatherhead town centre through the delivery of public realm improvements, increased commercial activity at ground floor, a riverside community facility and much needed new homes on the upper levels including affordable units.
A number of amendments have made to the submitted scheme in response to statutory consultee comments from Historic England, MVDC’s Historic Environment Officer and other interested parties.
The scale, height and layout of the proposed development has been amended in response to the comments. Most significantly the Bridge Street wing has been set back within the site and heights have been reduced.
This has resulted in a reduction in unit numbers to 35 flats, a slight increase in the number of public car park spaces and increased car parking provision for the new residents. The transport and daylight and sunlight conclusions are the same as presented in the submitted scheme.
In terms of scheme content the amendments include:
- The height of the Bridge Street wing has been reduced to 4 storeys (one part was previously 5 storeys).
- The Bridge Street wing has been pushed deeper into the site by 2.35m, further away from Bridge Street.
- The balconies on the Bridge Street elevations have been removed.
- The height of the corner part of the building has been reduced from 6 storeys to 5.
- The proposed surface treatment of the pay and display car park has changed from tarmac to brick pavers and the ticket machine is moved away from the pub.
- The proposed tree next to the Running Horse Public House has been relocated to the riverside.
- The introduction of an enhanced Riverside Heritage Trail.
These amendments have led to knock-on effects that include:
- A reduction in total unit numbers from 40 to 35 residential units;
- A reduction in affordable unit numbers from 11 to 9 (still policy compliant);
- An increase of 2 spaces in the public car park, taking the number of spaces to 26 (3 more than existing); and
- The loss of 1 residential car park space, which when taken with the reduction in unit numbers, improves the unit to car parking ratio to 0.77.
The scheme retains:
- 77.2sq m high quality retail space on the ground floor which the application asks permission to use for a café
- 96.5sq m community space on the ground floor
The public benefits of the application proposals have been summarised by the applicant as follows:
- Improvements to the overall townscape and character of the area;
- Creating a vibrant, mixed used scheme that is inviting, attractive and a high quality addition to the Riverside Quarter;
- Redevelopment of a town centre brownfield site;
- Reinforcing the site as a gateway to Leatherhead town centre with distinctive urban design solutions;
- Improving the townscape views and architectural vernacular that compliments the adjacent Conservation Area;
- Encouraging greater footfall in the area to increase greater appreciation of the listed bridge and Running Horse public house;
- Reinstating the relationship and connectivity between the site and town centre with the riverside by bringing the existing part-vacant site back into active use;
- Introducing an enhanced riverside heritage trail;
- Landscape and children’s play improvements along the river frontage;
- Providing 35 high quality apartments (including 9 affordable) within a sustainable town centre location;
- Introducing an active ground floor use in the form of a café and provision of modern community space to be operated by MVDC;
- CIL and New Homes Bonus payments to the Council; and
- Enlargement and improvements to the public pay and display car park.
For full details of the application please visit the MVDC Planning Application portal www.molevalley.gov.uk/planningsearch using reference MO/2018/1983.