Council focusing on Leatherhead over Dorking as retail centre as there are ‘more opportunities’

June 13, 2018
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Leatherhead is the focus of investment because it has more business opportunities than Dorking at the moment according to the deputy leader of Mole Valley District Council (MVDC).

It was announced on May 17 that MVDC had invested £1.1 million into purchasing two high street shops with the long-term aim of securing a “high profile anchor store” for the site.

The investment is part of its Transform Leatherhead initiative, which has so far cost more than £5.5 million and is expected to total £35 million by the 2025/26 financial year.

The project includes residential, retail and infrastructure developments throughout the town.

Deputy leader of MVDC, cllr Charles Yarwood, has said that the fact the council now owns a significant amount of retail property in Leatherhead gives them more business opportunities than they have in Dorking.

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He said: “With the council owning the Swan Centre we have more got more opportunities at the moment to invest in Leatherhead than in Dorking to invest, where St Martin’s Walk is privately run.

“We can do more than in Dorking and we are going for it.”

He said the council will support the Dorking BID (Business Improvement District) to help revive the fortunes of Dorking, which has seen a string of recent shop closures.

Cllr Yarwood said: “There is a rivalry between the two and if people aren’t going to Dorking because they’re shopping in Leatherhead, we can deal with that but it’s why people are going out of the district that we need to look at.

“We already own the Swan Centre so this [the purchase of two more shops] will consolidate our position and give us a key position in the High Street by the Swan Centre where we have the long-term goal of it having a high profile anchor store.”

The Transform Leatherhead project will change the face of the town

The Transform Leatherhead project will change the face of the town

The two purchased stores, numbers 21 and 23 High Street, currently house a branch of Halifax and a barbers, and form a crucial part of redeveloping the town centre according to Cllr Yarwood.

He has said that the intention is to combine the two units and refurbish them in order to create one larger store. Number 21 cost the council £471,462 while number 23 cost £729,778.

The shops are the latest planned improvements as part of Transform Leatherhead, including the Clare House and James House project to convert them into a mixed use development of 50 flats and a ground floor restaurant/café.

Councillor Charles Yarwood
(Image: Mole Valley District Council)

Elsewhere a new plaza at the junction of North Street and Bull Hill is slated to start construction sometime in 2022.

Cllr Yarwood, the ward member for Charlwood, didn’t state what type of store he would like to see as the anchor but admitted the focus was on daytime footfall while admitting that their biggest challenge for Leatherhead was the amount of parking spaces.

He added: “Footfall is going up in the evening but down during the day so getting the mix right is really important.

“Parking is the biggest challenge and one way we are looking at making the Swan Centre better. We need to make sure we don’t get the same sort of shops and a right variety.

“More people are shopping online so going into town is more about the experience than ever before. People look online before going anywhere and we feel an anchor store can push that and hopefully those people will then wander into other smaller independent stores which don’t have an online presence as well.”

Article source: https://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/surrey-news/council-focussing-leatherhead-over-dorking-14694755


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