How long will the study take and what are the next steps?
Mole Valley District Council (MVDC) commissioned Arcadis in January 2019 to undertake the Leatherhead High Street Improvement Study focusing on public realm, connectivity and movement. Following the public consultation, Arcadis will provide an evidence-based final report to MVDC in August 2019 which will set out the preferred short and long term options for the High Street area.
It is proposed to seek approval of the preferred short and long term options at MVDC’s Cabinet and Surrey County Council’s (SCC) Local Committee in September 2019. The High Street area is public highway and requires approval from SCC as the Highway Authority.
The study has been undertaken for MVDC and SCC to have a deliverable scheme and accompanying robust business case in order to bid for grant capital funding.
How is the economic viability of the High Street being considered in the study?
MVDC commissioned the Local Data Company (LDC) to provide economic viability information on Leatherhead Town Centre. The LDC datasets have also been used to find similar market towns and contrast and compare these with the existing and potential future of Leatherhead.
An economic viability report is available to review here. The report concludes that there is not a strong link between, parking and vehicle accessing arrangements along High Streets, and footfall. The economic viability of a town centre is underpinned by the number and variety of factors which attract footfall, including events. A diverse range of a retail and leisure offer then retains the footfall and encourages dwell time and reduces leakage to other areas. A ‘café culture’ with public event and meeting space leads to increased stay of shoppers and visitors to the area. We are aware many existing High Street businesses in Leatherhead want to extend their licences for tables and chairs.
What are the objectives of the Study and how will these be measured?
The study objectives have been formulated from all the background information collated prior to commissioning the High Street Study. The Study has 5 objectives which are all measurable:
- Objective 1 – To promote a strong sense of place, recognising social economics providing a distinct and positive identity which respects the historic environment and character of Leatherhead.
- Objective 2- Create a design solution for the High Street that enhances and protects the economic viability of the High Street and its contribution to the local economy and the Transform Leatherhead Masterplan.
- Objective 3 – To design the public realm to address issues of highway safety and reduce opportunities for crime and anti-social behaviour within the context of good urban design principles.
- Objective 4 – To ensure that the quality of public realm provision can be sustained in the long term and through efficient and effective maintenance and management.
- Objective 5- Value the contribution of High Street businesses and champion Leatherhead High Street as a source of civic pride and local identity.
Where is the study area and why has this area been chosen?
The Study Area includes the High Street from Church Street and Bridge Street to Epsom Road and a section on Bridge Street and North Street to connect into the Leatherhead Highway Improvement Package at the junction with Bull Hill/Leret Way. Church Street was improved in 2016 and not included within the Study Area, although it is proposed that the principles of the Church Street public realm scheme will be continued along the High Street.
How does the High Street Improvement Study fit into the wider Transform Leatherhead vision?
The High Street area has always been a key focus of the Transform Leatherhead vision. The Transform Leatherhead Masterplan 2016 stated that “Leatherhead Town Centre will be reinvented, expanded and transformed to fully realise its potential as a distinctive, enterprising and highly regarded market town.” This vision includes “high quality, people-friendly streets and spaces” and that the town centre has to be “highly accessible” with “a wider range of retail, new housing, leisure and community facilities”. The town centre needs to deliver a sustainable and commercially successful mix of high street names and independent businesses.
The proposed options for the High Street in the short term work with the existing retail offering to improve the atmosphere and create a safer environment. The longer term options have been proposed in conjunction with the future redevelopment of the Swan Centre and with the increased footfall potential of the regeneration sites around Leatherhead.
The stakeholder engagement undertaken for the Masterplan in 2016, and more recently for the High Street Improvement Study, has shown that people want meeting places and event space as well as a café culture. This will give visitors and local residents more reason to want to come and spend time in Leatherhead to attract and retain footfall for the local businesses.
What data was collected along the High Street and what has this shown?
A range of surveys were undertaken within the Study Area between 28th January to 3rd February 2019. These included pedestrian counts, vehicle numbers, parking occupancy levels, cycling levels and parking and loading activity. A key summary of the data is provided.
Key summary of the data
- The peak time for pedestrian flows during a weekday is 12.30am-12.30pm which coincides with the peak parking time in the Swan Centre car park.
- Weekday pedestrian levels show the eastern end of the High Street, outside The Dukes Head, has the lowest volumes with approximately 300 two-way movements during the peak hour.
- The busiest area on the High Street during the weekday was recorded outside Greggs with around 1500 two-way pedestrian movements during the peak hour.
- Saturday pedestrian volumes are similar to weekday volumes with the peak hour being 11.30am-12.30pm.
- Sunday pedestrian peak flows were recorded between 12.30pm-1.30pm with around 950 two-way pedestrian movements on the High Street by Greggs in the peak hour and around 150 two-way pedestrian movements outside The Dukes Head.
- The highest flows on North Street are on the eastern side of the footway with approx. 770 two-way movements during the weekday peak hour, around 570 to way movements during the Saturday peak hour and 330 two-way movements on a Sunday.
- The High Street is currently open to traffic from 4.30pm-10am for servicing and delivery and 6pm-8am for parking Monday to Saturday (save that registered disabled drivers may park from 4.30pm). The vehicle counts reflect the existing accessing arrangements.
- The peak vehicle count along the High Street on a weekday was recorded at approximately 70 vehicle movements between 5pm-7pm.
- On Saturday the peak vehicle count along the High Street was approximately 80 vehicle movements between 5-6pm.
- On a Sunday when the High Street is fully open all day to traffic there were 70 vehicle movements recorded 9am-10am and a peak of 90 vehicle movements between 12pm-1pm. This declined to around 30 vehicle movements between 3pm-4pm.
Parking Turnover and Occupancy
- The weekday busiest period for parking is 7-8pm with most of the High Street relatively well used and the area with highest occupancy being at the middle and eastern ends and outside the QEF.
- The weekday vehicle turnover between 6pm-10.30pm shows that a significant proportion of vehicles stayed for less than 15 minutes which would be indicative of drop off and pick up.
- There was also a significant portion that stayed for over 1 hour towards the eastern end of the High Street which would align with the A3 evening uses.
- The busiest period the Saturday was between 8pm-9pm with the areas of highest occupancy (over 80%) being outside the Dukes Head area, by the QEF and Barclays Bank and fronting the Kings Head Alley area. The turnover has a similar pattern to a weekday with a significant proportion of vehicles staying less than 15minutes and over 1 hour.
- On a Sunday between 10am-4pm., the busiest time period is 2pm-3pm and there are higher occupancy levels at the eastern end of the High Street compared to the western end. Most of the vehicles on a Sunday parked for less than 30mins, with a significant proportion less than 15mins.
- There are very low cycling levels overall with the highest levels recorded at the western of the High Street from Church Street through to North Street.
- There is a two-way flow of around 15 cyclists in the AM peak hour by the Accessibility Ramps between 7am-8am which would be indicative of commuter cyclists.
- On a Saturday there is a two-way flow of 25 cyclists in the peak hour which is lunchtime. This would imply people are cycling into or through Leatherhead for leisure or retail.
- On a Sunday two-way flows were recorded at 30-40 in the busiest hour at 2.15pm-3.15pm, this would imply there is more leisure cycling on a Sunday given more of the retail units are closed along High Street.
Many retailers are not open on a Sunday, has this been considered in the study and assessment of the data?
We have assessed the opening hours for all the retail units along the High Street, Church Street and Bridge Street using GOAD data. Approximately half of the existing businesses are not open on a Sunday and approximately a third are closed on a Monday.
What is the justification for the removal of the accessibility ramp in the long term?
A new public event and meeting space is proposed in the long term options by the existing accessibility ramps which would be removed and regraded. This reflects the historic importance of this area where Church Street, High Street and Bridge Street connect as a “Meeting Place” and its potential to be a vibrant place that is valued by all. It is also anticipated in the long term that changes on North Street would enable footways to be widened to improve pedestrian safety and connectivity to Bridge Street from the High Street.
Many High Street businesses have to be serviced from the High Street, how has this been considered in the proposals?
We are aware that many businesses along the High Street have no alternative rear servicing. Servicing and delivery vehicles for Church Street businesses, in particular Waitrose, have to use the High Street as an exit onto Epsom Road as they cannot reverse along Church Street. The existing traffic regulation orders (TRO) allow for “No Waiting” Monday to Saturday between 8am-10am and 4.30pm-6pm which restricts parking to allow for servicing and deliveries along the High Street.
Due to the servicing and delivery constraints a fully ‘pedestrianised’ High Street is not an option. We have to consider all the requirements along the High Street and the impact on businesses within the options. In all the options specific loading bays are proposed to formalise loading arrangements within the existing “No Waiting” times so there should be limited impact on the existing servicing and delivery arrangements of the businesses.
What is a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO)?
Traffic Orders, also known as Traffic Regulation Orders (TRO) and Traffic Management Orders (TMO), are the legal instruments (under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984) by which traffic authorities implement most permanent traffic controls on their roads. They are designed to regulate, restrict or prohibit the use of a road or any part of the width of a road by vehicular traffic or pedestrians. A TRO may take effect at all times or during specific periods, and certain classes of traffic may be exempted.
What is an experimental traffic order?
Experimental orders can be a more cost effective and flexible approach (allowing e.g. for immediate feedback and minor changes) than a permanent order or a temporary order (which cannot be converted into a permanent order).
Temporary traffic regulation orders (TTRO) are used to cover temporary events such as road works or to avoid danger to the public. They can last up to 18 months and there is no right of objection. Emergency TROs can be brought into force immediately if the Council considers there to be a potential danger to road users and the public.
Why have separate loading and parking bays been proposed?
Shared loading and parking bays were investigated as part of the design process. However, assessment of other shared loading and parking bays has concluded these bays are confusing for drivers and not adhered to, or results in the bays not being used. The joint officer workshop, which was an important part of the Study, concluded that the shared bays would not be feasible on High Street.
What stakeholder engagement has been undertaken to date to shape the proposals?
We have undertaken a number of key stakeholder engagement activities in March and June 2019 which included a workshop. We invited all the businesses and residences within the Study Area, local organisations, disability groups and Councillors to obtain their views on existing issues and potential opportunities. An evaluation of all the issues and opportunities raised at the March 2019 Focus Group workshop, and also the various organisation meetings we have had, is available on the Leatherhead High Street Improvement consultation webpage www.transformleatherhead.com.
We have also had meetings with key stakeholders, for example, Seeability and the Chamber of Commerce (as the market operator) to shape the proposals based on their specific requirements.
A joint officer workshop between SCC and MVDC was held in June 2019 which was useful in shaping the proposals to consider parking enforcement, loading and parking restrictions, highway maintenance and support for the proposed public highway changes.
The Transform Leatherhead team also attended a workshop at St John’s School in June 2019 to obtain their views on the proposed options for the High Street.
During the public consultation period we will be holding two public exhibitions on Thursday 4th July 2pm-8pm at the Leatherhead Institute and Saturday 6th July 10am-4pm in the Swan Centre. We are also hosting a specific age demographic exhibition aimed at 18-35 years olds to ensure we have a wide range of views. We will also be presenting the proposed options to the Mole Valley Youth Council on 8th July.
All the public consultation feedback will be analysed and evaluated which may result in changes being undertaken to the designs, to create a preferred short and long term option.
What are the benefits and impacts of formalising or removing car parking along the High Street?
Through the public engagement and discussions with key stakeholders it has been made clear that current parking arrangements significantly obstruct the movement of pedestrians and disabled people, especially those with wheelchairs and buggies. The High Street outside of the pedestrian zone is considered unsafe and is uncomfortable for pedestrians. Many people also avoid going to the High Street outside of the pedestrian zone timings. There are no existing marked parking bays so vehicles park in a haphazard fashion wherever there is space and squeeze into areas. Vehicles also block the alleyways and business frontages.
At present car parking on the High Street is restricted to between 6pm and 8am Monday to Saturday with no parking time limit or formalised bays. There is no restriction to parking on Sunday. To create a safer and more pleasant experience along the High Street, the options propose formalise parking, to reduce obstruction for users and improve access, comfort and safety for all pedestrians.
The removal of parking also makes more space available for the introduction of planting, seating and public realm features which help to create a more pleasant pedestrian and shopping experience. Local businesses will have greater ability to use the outdoor space for seating and displays for a longer period of time which will increase activity on High Street and help to generate a better atmosphere and sense of place.
Free parking is available within nearby council car parks between 6pm-8am Monday to Saturday and on Sundays and Bank Holidays.
Can Taxis and vehicles drop people off along the High Street in the proposed options which have double yellow lines and loading blips?
When the High Street is proposed to be open to traffic between 4.30pm and 10am, vehicles can stop to drop off people even though there are double yellow lines and loading blips. Vehicles cannot park, stop for extended periods of time or wait outside of the parking or loading bay restrictions.
Where will the existing cars that park on the High Street outside of the TRO restrictions park if spaces are being reduced and formalised?
Vehicles can currently only legally park on the High Street between 6pm and 8am Monday to Saturday and all day on Sunday. This coincides with free parking in nearby council owned car parks which is available Monday to Saturday 6pm-8am and on Sundays and Bank Holidays. The parking surveys undertaken in February 2019, as part of the High Street Improvement Study, recorded 51 vehicles parked at peak levels along the High Street between 6pm and 10.30pm on a typical weekday.
The Swan Centre has 302 spaces following the recent improvement works. The daily average occupancy levels of the Swan Centre, recorded in May 2019, are 55%. Car parking surveys undertaken in June 2018, as part of the Leatherhead Traffic Modelling Study, show that after 6pm, there was 68% spare capacity in the Swan Centre, 24% spare capacity in the Church Street/Waitrose car parks and 90% spare capacity in the Station Road car park. It has been assessed that there is sufficient capacity within these car parks, when parking is free, to offset the impact of reducing or removing the High Street spaces and cater for any displaced car parking. The displaced car parking would only be in the evenings after 6pm based on existing parking restrictions along the High Street.
From the High Street, the Swan Centre car park is a 2 minute walk, Church Street Car Park a 3 minute walk and Station Road Car Park is a 5 minute walk.
It should also be noted that during the day Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and Lidl all offer refund parking schemes which also allow for ‘free’ parking options.
Why is cycling proposed to be allowed along the High Street?
Cyclists should currently adhere to the TRO restrictions and not cycle along the High Street during the pedestrian zone and also only cycle one-way as per the accessing arrangements. It is felt this is not inclusive to cyclists and does not promote the use of sustainable modes which should be encouraged. Many High Street around the UK allow pedestrians as well as cyclists and it is felt that with the formalised parking, there would still be sufficient safe space for cyclist and pedestrian movements.
The cycling surveys from Jan/Feb 2019 show cycling levels are low so by promoting cycling and proposing additional cycle spaces this would increase sustainable mode choice and reduce vehicle travel.
How much will the proposed improvement options cost and who will be funding the changes?
The proposed concept options have been costed by Arcadis and the final report will include the concept stage costs of the preferred options.
Officers included the High Street improvements as one of the schemes put forward as part of MVDC’s nomination of Leatherhead for inclusion in the Future High Streets Fund. A decision on whether that nomination will be taken forward to Stage 2 will not be known until later this summer. The next stage of this bid allows for a specific public realm scheme to be submitted which would include detailed costs.
Even if that nomination is not successful, the Improvement Study will enable MVDC or SCC to put forward schemes for inclusion in other funding opportunities as and when they come forward. These would include Coast to Capital, once it has finalised the Local Industrial Strategy, the Housing Infrastructure Fund and/or other future central government funding opportunities.